- Biden plans to reference both the January 6 riot and the historic tableau behind him during his remarks
When President Joe Biden delivers his first address to Congress on Wednesday, two of the past year’s ground-shaking events will be hard to ignore.
The room where he’ll deliver it is exactly where a riot of would-be insurrectionists tried to prevent him from becoming president. And for the first time in history, a pair of women will be seated on the rostrum — and both will be wearing face masks. When the President enters the House chamber to the shouted introduction from the House Sergeant at Arms, he will also be wearing a mask before removing it to speak.
Biden plans to reference both the January 6 riot and the historic tableau behind him during his remarks, according to people familiar with his speech preparations, a nod to the weighty environment in which he will make the highly symbolic yearly address for the first time. Before he speaks, he’ll meet with Capitol staff who weathered the insurrection attempt.
Biden has been working with his speechwriters and senior aides for weeks on remarks that will both acknowledge the unusual circumstances of his address — only 200 people will be allowed in the room, compared to a normal crowd of more than 1,000 — while still capturing the sweeping agenda he has sought to enact over his first 100 days in office.
The biggest challenge facing Biden and his speechwriters in the final days before his remarks was paring down the address, one official said.
The ongoing pandemic, impossible to ignore in the drastically altered setting, will constitute a major portion of Biden’s speech, officials say. His principal 100 day milestone, getting 200 million vaccine shots in American arms, has been achieved. And on Tuesday he announced an easing of mask guidelines after saying he would ask Americans to wear them for 100 days.
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The heart of Biden’s speech is expected to be a formal unveiling of the second part of his jobs and infrastructure plan, which includes new spending on child care, family leave and education paid for by a tax hike on the wealthy.
People familiar with the speech describe a unifying message akin to Biden’s promises at the outset of his presidency to bring the country together — a message likely to cause scoffs among Republicans, who have felt left out after Biden pushed through his initial legislative agenda without them.