In his first address to a joint session of Congress Wednesday night, President Joe Biden called for the country to turn “crisis into opportunity,” and outlined his new $1.8 trillion plan for families, children and students.
The president summarized his first 100 days in office, touching on vaccination efforts and his American Rescue Plan, and called for the need for economic growth to compete with China.
“We all know life can knock us down, but in America, we never, ever stay down,” he said. “Americans always get up. Today, that’s what we’re doing. America is rising anew, choosing hope over fear, truth over lies and light over darkness.”
The commander-in-chief listed key legislation he has put forward since coming into office and called on Congress to act on it, from the American Jobs Plan and American Families Plan to raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour to lowering prescription drug costs and deductibles for working families.
The American Families Plan includes $1 trillion for education and child care over 10 years and $800 billion in tax credits aimed at middle- and low-income families. In addition, the plan includes $200 billion for free, universal preschool and $109 billion for free community college regardless of income for two years.
The plan would be funded by raising the top marginal tax rate for the wealthiest Americans to 39.6% from its current 37%, according to national media reports.
“It’s time for corporate America and the wealthiest, the 1%, to just begin to pay their fair share,” President Biden said.
He also mentioned the need to continue defending America’s interests to other countries, such as standing up to unfair trade practices and human rights abuses, and encouraged Congress to pass his immigration legislation.
Furthermore, he called on Congress to enact policing reform, gun control legislation, the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021, the John Lewis Voting Rights Act and more.
“It’s never been a good bet to bet against America, and it still isn’t,” President Biden said. “… After 100 days of rescue and renewal, America’s ready for a takeoff, in my view.”
Following the president’s address, U.S. Rep. Salud Carbajal, D-Santa Barbara, held a virtual press conference to share his reaction to the president’s address. He referred to the address as “a very positive, robust speech with a very robust vision.”
“I appreciated that he was nonpartisan,” Rep. Carbajal said. “He talked about working together, both Republicans and Democrats, working toward the betterment of our country and the betterment of all the residents of our country.
“Not once did he divide us, not once did he do anything to put anyone down. He appealed to the best of us Americans how we can and should work together in a bipartisan fashion to do what’s best for our country.”
The congressman praised both the American Jobs Plan and the American Families Plan, saying that the families plan is a “once in a generation opportunity to address many of the inequalities and disparities that have come to grow in our country.”
“We’re doing everything possible to continue to address climate change, bring about gun safety laws and to address the broken immigration system,” he said, adding that the speech is going to be “followed with legislation in every regard.”
Rep. Carbajal also allowed his two guests he selected for the event, Dr. Van Do-Reynoso, Santa Barbara County public health director, and Dr. Penny Borenstein, San Luis Obispo County public health director, to provide their reactions to the president’s speech and discuss how the federal government has impacted the Central Coast.
“I was profoundly touched by his address and on so many levels — as a mom of a college-aged child who is thinking about college, as a wife, as an Asian-American woman,” Dr. Do-Reynoso said. “His vision and his commitment to address disparities and inequities has restored my hopes and dreams for our family, for our community and for our country.”
The public health director pointed out that the $5.2 million the county received from the federal government made vaccinating local, hard-to-reach and vulnerable populations, such as farm workers and homeless individuals, possible. In addition, she said federal funding has allowed the county to offer free COVID-19 testing, implement capital improvements to the health centers and maintain the health and pay of the health care workforce to continue to serve Santa Barbara County.
“The Santa Barbara County Public Health Department continues to work with health care providers and community partners to ensure vaccines are widely available through the county in every community,” Dr. Do-Reynoso said. “We appreciate our federal, state and local public officials in their leadership and strategic investment in public health.”