President Joe Biden is set to give his first address to a joint session of Congress tonight, April 28, 2021.
Due to the pandemic, the chamber will actually have a fairly small crowd. So it won’t be as packed as usual, like with the last State of the Union last year – before the pandemic really hit the US. Not to mention the fact that security will be heightened after the attacks on the US Capitol on January 6. Considering the entire government is inside the Capitol for this speech. Aside from the “designated survivor”, which is a continuity of government protocol where one cabinet member is not present and hid away in a bunker in case something happens to the Capitol.
The speech is expected to touch on a number of different priorities. This includes the pandemic of course, which has been the biggest issue that Biden’s Administration has been working on since taking office in January. As well as immigration and tax reform. And in the recent days, we’ve heard a lot more about tax reform and how Biden is thinking about raising taxes on corporations and capital gains.
How do I watch Biden’s Joint Address to Congress?
President Biden’s first joint address to Congress will be streaming basically everywhere.
All of the major news networks will be airing it. That includes CNN, FOX, NBC, ABC, PBS and C-SPAN. The White House is also going to be streaming the event on its YouTube, Facebook and Twitter pages. As usual, the Twitter stream will show on-screen commentary from Administration officials and cabinet members. So Twitter users are able to stay in the conversation with what’s happening.
YouTube will also air the speech from all of the major news networks, in addition to The White House. So if you have a news network that you prefer to watch, you can still do that on YouTube. Or you can stay neutral with The White House or C-SPAN.
When does it start?
The Joint Address to Congress will begin at 9PM EDT. Of course, many news networks will start their coverage earlier, talking about what they expect to hear from Biden in tonight’s speech and such.
As usual, the speech is expected to last about 60 to 90 minutes. Though it might be shorter this time around as there are less people there to clap and put in more pauses for the clapping. Which seems to take up about half of the allotted time these days.
Why is it a joint address and not the State of the Union?
Because this is Biden’s first year in office, he cannot do a State of the Union Address. Instead, the first year, the same address is known as a joint address to Congress.
It’s essentially the same thing, as the US House of Representatives, Senate, and the Supreme Court Justices will all be present (though that might be a bit different this year with the pandemic, and a lighter crowd). But a bit later in the year. As the State of the Union is typically done in January or February. And here we are with Biden’s first joint address happening at the end of April. Just a couple of days before he marks 100 days in office.
What will Biden talk about?
President Biden will talk about a bit of everything. He’ll of course talk about what he has accomplished as he approaches 100 days in office. And then talk about his vision moving forward.
Biden will likely tout the number of COVID-19 vaccines that have already been administered, and give some updates on the fight against the pandemic. He’ll also talk about tax reform, infrastructure, and more.
In the past, presidents have used their first joint address to focus on the US economy. And Biden is likely to do that as well, as the economy is starting to come back after the pandemic.
White House press secretary, Jen Psaki said last week that Biden will lay out a new $1.5 trillion spending and tax proposal called the “American Families Plan.”
Who’s delivering the republican response?
Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina will be delivering the republican response to Biden’s address tonight. And this will happen immediately after the president’s speech.
This is quite common, and is part of a State of the Union address. Where the president will talk for about an hour and a half. Then the opposing party will have someone respond to that speech immediately after. Generally, their speech is much shorter. Around 10 minutes or so.
Scott is the only black republican senator, and many believe that he will be a potential presidential contender in 2024. He has also been a leading voice in the party on race and criminal justice reform. In announcing that Senator Scott would be giving the response tonight, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said “Senator Tim Scott is not just one of the strongest leaders in our Senate Republican Conference. He is one of the most inspiring and unifying leaders in our nation.”
Who will be attending?
As mentioned before, security for this joint address to Congress is going to be elevated. Particularly after the January 6 attacks on the US Capitol. In fact, acting Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman has said that extremists have expressed a desire to attack the US Capitol complex during Biden’s address.
Additionally, the audience inside the chamber will be very limited, with social distancing guidelines in place, due to the pandemic. There will be around 200 attendees in the chamber.
In the past, there has been close to 1,600 people at the address. As each member of Congress was able to bring a guest, as well as the President and First Lady bringing a number of guests. This year, there are no guests that will be allowed into the address. While most Supreme Court Justices and Cabinet members do also attend, there will be a limited number in the chamber.
History will also be made tonight, as the House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi and Vice President, Kamala Harris will be sitting behind President Biden. Marking the first time in history that there are two women sitting on the dais behind the President.