WASHINGTON — WASHINGTON -- President Joe Biden used his address to Congress Wednesday to pitch his American Jobs Plan and a new $1.8 trillion American Families Plan that invests in families, children and the education system.
Biden proposed spending billions of dollars on education funding. Some of that will be used to provide free preschool for all three- and four-year-old children. He also wants to make two years of community college free.
"When you add 2 free years of community college, you start to change the dynamic," Biden told Congress.
Referencing the career of his wife, first lady Dr. Jill Biden, who teaches at community college, he said she often says something that has stuck with him.
"If I've heard it once, I've heard it a million times. 'Joe, any country that out-educates us, out-competes us.'"
In addition, the plan includes $225 billion for a national paid family and medical leave program that would offer some support for three months of maternity/paternity leave, illness, rehabilitation and other emergencies.
The sweeping proposal is meant as the second prong to push the country forward, alongside the American Jobs Plan, which focuses on boosting employment, transportation infrastructure and U.S. innovation.
Biden called the jobs plan a "blue-collar blueprint to build America."
"Jobs, for updating our roads, railways," Biden said, then talked about how the plan also provides opportunities to replace outdated water pipes across the country to provide clean water to Americans.
He said "nearly 90% of the infrastructure jobs created in the American Jobs Plan don’t require a college degree."
Biden is proposing to pay for the plans by hiking taxes on high-income households, those making $400,000 a year or more.
"It's time for the wealthiest 1% of America to pay their fair share," Biden said
Biden said it's time for "corporate America to pay their fair share" for programs that those businesses and their employees will benefit from.
"I’m not looking to punish anybody. But I will not add an additional tax burden to the middle class of this country. They're already paying enough."
In addition to detailing the jobs and families plans, Biden talked about providing increased funding for the National Institutes of Health and medical research.
"Let's end cancer as we know it. It's within our power. It's within our power to do it."
He also called on Congress to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, urging the Senate to pass it by the first anniversary of Floyd's death on May 25.
Biden urged Congress to pass the Equality Act that would add protections for LGBTQ people to civil rights laws.
"To all the transgender Americans watching at home – especially the young people who are so brave – I want you to know your president has your back."
The president ended his speech talking about unity.
“There is not a single thing, nothing, nothing beyond our capacity. We can do whatever we set our minds to it as long as we do it together.”
Wednesday night included a few “firsts” even before Biden started talking. It was the first time the leader of the Senate and leader of the House are both women.
Vice President Kamala Harris and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi sat behind Biden during the speech, as people in those roles traditionally do, and was the first time two women sat behind the president during their annual address.
Biden remarked on this right off the top of his remarks.
"Madame Speaker, Madame Vice President," Biden looking at Harris and Pelosi. "No president has ever said those words. It's about time!"
In keeping with COVID-19 safety procedures, only 200 people will attend the address. This means only the chief justice of the Supreme Court is attending and only a few cabinet members. Because of this, the White House said there is no “need” to have a designated survivor because some cabinet members “will be watching from their offices or home.”
Selecting a person who is in the line of succession to the presidency to remain at a secure location during large joint events and speeches was a practice started in the 1950s when there were concerns a nuclear attack or catastrophe could kill the president and others gathered in one location.