Biden Speech: Harris and Pelosi Make History, Trans Youth Shout-Out and 5 Other Big Moments
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In President Joe Biden’s first address to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday he championed democracy but also touted a host of progressive issues such as gun reform, corporate taxes and fighting white supremacy. He also presided over some history-making moments — including a certain cell phone that went off.
See below for the six most memorable moments from Biden’s address.
1. Kamala Harris and Nancy Pelosi make history
For the first time in U.S. history, two women stood behind the president during a joint session of Congress as Vice President and speaker of the House.
“Madam Speaker, Madam Vice President. No president has ever said those words from this podium. No president has ever said those words, and it’s about time,” President Biden said at the beginning of his address.
2. Biden directly addresses transgender Americans and promises: “Your president has your back”
In a rare move for a president, Biden declared his wholehearted support for transgender Americans — and specifically trans kids — while urging passage of the 2021 Equality Act.
“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,” Biden said.
Worth noting: First Lady Jill Biden also invited transgender teen Stella Keating, who testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee this week to oppose an anti-trans bills, as a virtual guest of the Biden family at Wednesday’s address.
President Obama was the first president to mention transgender Americans in his 2015 State of the Union address, but Biden’s promise was much more direct.
3. Biden calls for gun reform: “We’re not changing the Constitution”
Biden made a plea for Republicans to support Democrats in their efforts to pass gun reform to save more lives.
“We’re not changing the Constitution. We’re being reasonable,” Biden said. “I don’t think it’s a Democrat or Republican issue. It’s an American issue.”
4. Biden says Capitol insurrection was an “existential crisis”
The president reflected on the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol and descried it as an “existential crisis” and a “test” for the survival of democracy.
“The insurrection was an existential crisis, a test of whether our democracy could survive,” he said. “And it did, but the struggle is far from over. The question of whether our democracy will endure is both ancient and urgent.”
5. Police reform should happen by the anniversary of George Floyd’s death, Biden says
Biden urged Congress to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act by May 25, which would be the one-year anniversary of Floyd’s murder.
“Now’s our opportunity to make some real progress. The vast majority of men and women wearing a uniform and a badge serve our communities and they serve them honorably. I know them. I know they want to help meet this moment as well,” Biden said. “We have to come together to rebuild trust between law enforcement and the people they serve, to root out systemic racism in our justice system and enact police reform in George Floyd’s name.”
“We need to get together to come to a consensus. But let’s get it done next month, by the first anniversary of George Floyd’s death, he continued. “The country supports this reform. Congress should act.”
6. “White supremacy is terrorism”
Biden condemned white supremacy as terrorism and said the country could not “ignore” the threat it posed to the U.S.
“We have to remain vigilant against the threats to the United States, wherever they come from,” Biden said. “And we won’t ignore what our intelligence agencies have determined to be the most lethal terrorist threat to the homeland today. White supremacy is terrorism. We’re not going to ignore that either.”
7. Ok, Seriously, Who Didn’t Turn Off Their Phone?
Someone forgot to turn off their phone — or at least put it on vibrate! — during Biden’s address. The ringer, or alarm, went off while the president was discussing his tax plans for the upper-class. No evidence yet from which side of the aisle it emanated. Oops.
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