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CNN Live Event/Special
President Biden Delivered His First Address To Congress; Biden Put A Lot On The Table; Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) Delivered A Rebuttal Speech. Aired 10-11p ET
Aired April 28, 2021 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And I need to -- I need not tell anyone this, but gun violence has become an epidemic in America. The flag at the White House was still flying at half-mast for the eight victims of the mass shooting in Georgia, when 10 more lives were taken in a mass shooting in Colorado. And in the week in between those two events, 250 other Americans were shot dead in the streets of America -- 250 shot dead.
I know how hard it is to make progress on this issue. In the '90s, we passed universal background checks, a ban on assault weapons and high- capacity magazines that hold a hundred rounds, that can be fired off in seconds. We beat the NRA.
Mass shootings and gun violence declined. Check out the report over 10 years. But in the early 2000s, the law expired. And we've seen daily bloodshed since. I'm not saying if the law continued, we wouldn't see bloodshed.
More than two weeks ago in the Rose Garden, surrounded by some of the bravest people I know, the survivors and families who lost loved ones to gun violence, I laid out several of the Department of Justice actions that are being taken to impact on this epidemic. One of them is banning so-called ghost guns.
These are homemade guns built from a kit that includes directions on how to finish the firearm. The parts have no serial numbers. So they show up at crime scenes. And they can't be traced.
The buyers of these ghost gun kits aren't required to pass any background checks. Anyone from a criminal or terrorist could buy this kit and within 30 minutes have a weapon that's lethal. But no more. And I'll do everything in my power to protect the American people from this epidemic of gun violence. But it's time for Congress to act as well.
I don't want to become confrontational. We need more Senate Republicans to join the overwhelming majority of Democratic colleagues and close the loopholes required in background check purchases of guns. We need a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. And don't tell me it can't be done. We did it before and it worked.
Talk to most responsible gun owners and hunters. They'll tell you there's no possible justification for having a hundred rounds in a weapon. What, do you think the deer are wearing Kevlar vests? I'll tell you, there are too many people today who are able to buy a gun but shouldn't be able to buy a gun.
These kinds of reasonable reforms have overwhelming support from the American people including many gun owners. The country supports reforms and Congress should act. This shouldn't be a red or blue issue.
And no amendment to the Constitution is absolute. You can't yell fire in a crowded theater. From the very beginning there were certain guns, weapons that could not be owned by Americans. Certain people could not own those weapons ever. We're not changing the Constitution.
We're being reasonable. I think this is not a Democrat or Republican issue. I think it's an American issue. And here's what else we can do. Immigration has always been essential to America. Let's end our exhausting war over immigration. For more than 30 years, politicians have talked about immigration reform and we've done nothing about it. It's time to fix it.
One day one of my presidency, I kept my commitments on a comprehensive immigration bill for the United States Congress. If you believe we need to secure the border, pass it because it has a lot of money for high tech border security. If you believe in a pathway to citizenship, pass it, for we're letting a million undocumented folks, the vast majority are (ph) here overstaying visas, pass it.
If you actually want to solve a problem, I've sent a bill, take a close look at it. We also have to get at the root problem of why people are fleeing, particularly to our southern border from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. The violence, the corruption, the gangs and the political instability, hunger, hurricanes, earthquakes, natural disasters.
When I was president -- my president -- when I was Vice President, the President asked me to focus on providing help needed to address the root causes of migration.
And to help keep people in their own countries instead of being forced to leave. The plan was working but the last administration decided it was not
worth it. I'm restoring the program and ask Vice President Harris to lead our diplomatic effort to take care of this. I have absolute confidence she'll get the job done.
BIDEN: Look, if you don't like my plan, let's at least pass what we all agree on. Congress needs to pass legislation this year to finally secure protection for DREAMers. The young people who've only known America as their home.
BIDEN: And permanent protection for immigrants who are here on temporary protective status who came from countries beset by manmade and natural made violence and disaster.
BIDEN: As well as the populated cities of the farm workers who put food on our tables. Look --
BIDEN: -- immigrants have done so much for America during this pandemic and throughout our history. Our country supports immigration reform, we should act. Let's argue over it. Let's debate it but let's act. And if we truly want to restore, to solve America we need to protect the sacred right to vote. Most people--
BIDEN: More people voted in the last presidential election than any time in American history in the middle of the worst pandemic ever. It should be celebrated. Instead, it's being attacked. Congress should pass H.R.1 and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act and send it to my desk right away.
BIDEN: The country supports it and Congress should act now.
BIDEN: Look, in conclusion, as we gather here tonight, the image of a violent mob assaulting this Capitol, desecrating our democracy remain vivid in all our minds. Lives were put at risk, many of your lives.
Lives were lost. Extraordinary courage was summoned. The insurrection was an existential crisis, a test on whether our democracy could survive and it did but the struggle is far from over.
The question of whether a democracy will long endure is both ancient and urgent, as old as our Republic. Still vital today. Can our democracy deliver on its promise that all of us created equal in the image of God had a chance to lead lives of dignity, respect, and possibility?
Can our democracy deliver the most -- the most pressing needs of our people? Can our democracy overcome the lies, anger, hate and fears that have pulled us a part? America's adversaries, the autocrats of the world are betting we can't and I promise you they're betting we can't.
They believe we're too full of anger and division and rage. They look of the images of the mob that assaulted the Capitol as proof that the sun is setting on democracy but they're wrong. You know it. I know it. But we have to prove them wrong.
We have to prove democracy still works. That our government still works and we can deliver for our people. In our first 100 days together, we've acted to restore people's faith in democracy delivered.
We're vaccinating the nation. We're creating hundreds of thousands of new jobs. We're delivering real results to people. They can see it, feel it in their own lives.
Opening doors of opportunity, guaranteeing some more fairness and justice, that's the essence of America. That's democracy in action. Our Constitution opens with the words as trite as it sounds, "we, the people." Well, it's time to remember that we the people are the government, you and I not some force in a distance capital. Not some powerful force we have no control over.
It's us. It's we the people. In another era when our democracy was tested, Franklin Roosevelt reminded us, in America we do our part. We all do our part. That's all I'm asking that we do our part, all of us. If we do that, we will meet the center challenge and the age by proving that democracy is durable and strong.
Autocrats will not win the future. We will. America will and the future belongs to America.
So I stand here tonight before you in a new and vital hour of life and democracy of our nation and I can say with absolute confidence I have never been more confident or optimistic about America -- not because I am president but because of what's happening with the American people.
We've stared into the abyss of insurrection and autocracy, pandemic and pain, and we the people did not flinch. At the very moment our adversaries were certain we'd pull apart and fail, we came together; we united. With light and hope, we summoned a new strength, new resolve to position us to win the competition of the 21st century, on our way to a union more perfect, more prosperous and more just, as one people, one nation and one America.
Folks, as I told every world leader I've ever met with over the years, it's never, ever, ever been a good bet to bet against America. And it still isn't.
We're the United States of America.
There is not a single thing, nothing beyond our capacity. We can do whatever we set our mind to, if we do it together. So, let's begin to get together.
God bless you all, and may God protect our troops. Thank you for your patience.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST (voice over): There it is, the first speech to a joint session of Congress by President Biden, about one hour and five minutes. He campaigned as a bipartisan deal maker, and he is proceeding to set out his agenda, perhaps the most ambitious progressive agenda since LBJ or even Franklin Roosevelt, who he invoked this evening.
I think it was the one Democratic president he mentioned tonight in his speech, Franklin Roosevelt, proposing up to $6 trillion in new spending for infrastructure, investments in America, more social safety net programs. He says are needed to update the American experiment for a man who as a senator, largely seemed to focus on crime and foreign policy.
Biden's speech was focused very much on bread and butter economic issues, laying out dense detailed plans when it comes to community college, and child care, paid family and medical leave. It was a speech telling the American people what he wants to do.
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: And he had a few points tonight laid out a roadmap for what cooperation could look like on a lot of those issues.
I noted, at one particular point when he talked about his infrastructure plan and he talked about wanting everything to be made in America. That's the type of line that in most of these joint addresses will get applause, but even in this audience it got bipartisan applause from both Republicans and Democrats.
But he did it in other areas too, on education, on immigration. Basically saying, let's just do what we can agree on. The message tonight, was here is how we can move forward even on the things that we don't, you know, fully agree on 100 percent.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: And setting the stage and getting in front of, the debate that we are going to have over how to pay for any of this giant proposal, if you add up it as up to about $6 trillion dollars, that is proposed so far that the COVID plan wasn't paid for, but things that he wants to do will have to be at least in some part, and the notion of taxes saying that it is not about the middle class.
It is just about the wealthiest Americans, you know, the top 1 percent even a portion of that 1 percent paying your fair share, which we heard so much on the Democratic campaign trail, was really interesting. Because he knows that this is going to be one of the big fights.
TAPPER: And when we talk about paying for it, and how are we going to pay for it, it's important to note that one of his first stops as he came down to the floor of the House, was to talk to Bernie Sanders, the chairman of the Senate budget committee and Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut who is chair of the House appropriations committee. Those are the two people who will figure out how to pay for all of these ambitious programs. Anderson?
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Jake, thanks very much. Gloria Borger, we heard a lot, a shout out to Mitch McConnell during the speech.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.
COOPER: Clearly, a lot of sort of public talk of bipartisanship or patriotism reaching out.
BORGER: I think what we saw was a president who wasn't looking to get into some kind of gladiatorial fights with Republicans. And he said to them, you know, I'm sure that you know this. You are working on a criminal justice reform and I appreciate that. And if we don't agree on everything, let's just try and get these things done.
And I think what he was doing was sort of, making the case to the American public that this has been bad, as he said we have stared into an abyss of insurrection in autocracy. This has been bad but we can make this better. And that's what these kinds of speeches are supposed to do. But he did really reach out because I think he feels that the American people need to know their system works. Or can work.
COOPER: We should point out that there were more than a dozen members who had objected in the room, Republicans who objected to the Electoral College on January 6th, so a number of members of Congress who were in that abyss.
DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. There were places where he never personally challenged anyone in the room. There were places where he took them on, that was one of them on the tax cut of 2017. He was a very clear. He thought that was a completely wrong- headed idea. That's the centerpiece of those years, and many Republicans feel invested in that.
Anderson, I would say this was a brilliant speech for the first 40 minutes when he was really making the case for his economic program. And my guess is that it really connected with a lot of Americans. Not just Democrats but Republicans as well because he's spoken a colloquial way, hooked up with their experience.
He then went to, you know, very important issues that were important to various constituents within the Democratic Party. But it had that hazard that states of the union have, of becoming kind of listee. And then he picked it up at the end and close in a very strong way. But in terms of making the case for his big program, I think he had a good night.
VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I agree, it was really beautiful. I mean, it was beautiful. He is developing a kind of positive populism. You know, he talked about vaccines, he says, because of the vaccines, cafeteria workers and bus drivers and schools -- school teachers can get back to work and help our kids. Then he said rescue checks, he says a single mom didn't have to be evicted.
I mean, so he is selling big, big policy. But it is so personal and so intimate. And his voice, that kind of grandfatherly whispery voice and the fact that it actually wasn't a big raucous crowd let that intimacy really land. And I thought there were parts that were just beautiful. I haven't seen him do that well, maybe ever. It was really beautiful.
COOPER: He makes about as he made a tough target for the former president during the campaign, he makes a tough target for Republicans.
EVAN OSNOS, BIDEN BIOGRAPHER: He really does, what he tries to do is to sort of take some of the oxygen away from the easy attacks on him. He is not going after people personally. He's not going in a direct way. What was striking about it was, he is talking about some pretty controversial issues. He's talking about gun reform, he's talking about immigration, he's talking about reforming police conduct.
You know, really some of the most fundamental issues that we face in this country. And he situates it in this larger context. He says look, this is about us winning the future, competing as a country together. That is, in a sense, that's the -- that's the rhetorical move, is to frame this as something that's bigger than any of us, it's about the country.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: It's interesting, you know, John King, what, 36 years he spent in the Senate, 8 years as vice president. He has been in that House chamber for these kinds of events on many occasions. This is his first speech to a joint session of Congress as president.
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think just that moment is worth reflecting on, Wolf. Whatever you think of Joe Biden whether you support his politics, whether they support his agenda, you have to admire his personal resilience over the years. You're right. He served nearly four decades in the United States Senate. For most of them, he thought he should be that guy. He had presidential ambitions as a young man, he ran three times for president. Now, he is that guy.
And as you can see, he is enjoying this moment as he leaves. I've spent a lot of time with Bernie Sanders, his former Senate colleague, his former campaign rival. But talking, he had an arm clutch with Republican Senate Rob Portman who is retiring and leaving.
If there is to be any bipartisanship and be skeptical, but if there is to be, it would be somebody like a Senator Portman who knows Joe Biden well, who disagrees with him on many issues, but has a working relationship with him. So, you see here and those are vice president the history tonight too.
The president is enjoying the moment right now. Now comes the hard part, selling all of this. And in that, I thought the speech was very carefully and very smartly crafted in a political way. Where he is proposing, Wolf, a dramatic expansion of the federal government, in education, in child care, in economics and in so much more, but he doesn't use the political revolution language of Bernie Sanders to do it. And he took time to give Republicans credit for the $1,400 stimulus checks.
So, he says it in a way that makes him appear much more in the middle of American politics than the program would be if you cast it in traditional terms. And part of the Biden White House bet, is that the country is way out is America.
That the American people have relied on the government during the pandemic, they've washed and have been desperate for government help and they are willing to extend a little bit more at least.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And that's what was so fascinating about the way that he is trying to sell this plan. You hear them battling in.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), UNITED STATES SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: The joint session of the two councils now dissolves.
COLLINS: Pelosi closing it out, Biden is still in the chamber saying his goodbyes. As he asks to many lawmakers, you can see his service there standing next to him as he is making his way out.
But back to how he was selling these plans, that was really a massive part of the speech. You know, he talked about other priorities, he talked about what he has done, selling it was one of his biggest priorities.
But I thought it was interesting the way he wrapped health care, education, climate change, all of this with one word, jobs. And he repeated it several times to really hammer that point home. And I think that's an order to move on the Republican criticism of his infrastructure plan and what he is calling human infrastructure.
And I think that was a way that he used to do that, framing these policies as a way to create jobs rather than these other solutions, these other ways that you've ever -- that you've heard Democrats traditionally talk about this in the past.
BLITZER: Yes, he is getting ready to walk out of the House chamber right there. You see him walking out, John, once he walks out what is about a five-minute break before we hear from the Republican response.
KING: And that is Senator Tim Scott, Republican of South Carolina, also the point person for the Republicans right now on an issue the president has spent considerable time talking about. Police reform, again, we are looking in this new Washington. The Biden economic agenda is not going to have much Republican support.
Is it possible that the president said, can we please pass this and reach this compromise by the anniversary of George Floyd's death, which is next month in late May, of course. Senator Tim Scott, we'll talk about that tonight.
He is also trying to get the Republican message, that what you are getting from the Biden administration is socialism. He is likely to use that word. But that it is big government, that he believes that it is more government than America wants. Which is why the president has spent so much time tonight trying to talk about yes, I want to raise taxes but I want to raise taxes on a very small percentage of wealthy Americans who have done incredibly well and who can pay their fair share.
And the president again, for the interest rhetoric, I'm not trying to punish anyone I'm all for millionaires and billionaires, I just think it's time for you to pay your fair share. Let's compete, we need that money to compete. Those companies that will pay a little bit more in taxes will benefit from the infrastructure and investment that goes into.
So, a very smartly crafted politically tonight. He's going to hit the road tomorrow, a little bit of normalcy too. The president is going to hit the road. That's been a long time, traditionally, the president gives a speech, the president hits the road. We will see the president in Georgia and then in Pennsylvania in the next few days.
COLLINS: And one quick thing that I did notice while he was speaking, and as he made his way into the chamber, is he did try to make these overtures to Republicans. He called out Senator Shelley Moore Capito for a counter proposal that she has put out there as a response to a proposal that he has put out.
He fist bump Liz Cheney. You saw him making and gave even Senator Mitch McConnell a shout out during his remarks. You saw him taking those small steps. I heard David Axelrod saying, you know, he didn't target any Republicans specifically, but he did call out some in a favorable way.
BLITZER: And he did, you know, Jake, go through virtually every major issue of the day including national security issues with China and Russia. He spoke about white supremacists now being the number one domestic terrorist threat to the homeland.
TAPPER: That's right. He did, Wolf. And also, I think one of the things that you can tell even though he was laying out the agenda items that he thinks are important, such as immigration reform, Dana, or policing reform, or further regulations on ownership of guns.
The heft of his speech was about the economic proposals he is making. The social safety net, expansions, the infrastructure, spending. That is where he sees his legacy. If Congress wants to do policing reform, if Congress wants to immigration reform, if Congress wants to do gun control, he is there, he is supportive. But he is looking at how can the United States win at the 21st century.
TAPPER: Defeat China, defeat autocracies. How can democracy win in this very messy age? How can the very messy system of government, democracy, thrive?
BASH: That's exactly right. And our colleague Kevin Liptak noted that not only did the president invoke China and Xi several times. Some of the times he said that it was ad lib. So, you can tell that that is very much on the president's mind. And the way that he framed a country like China, was very much appealing to something that is very American, competition.
We can't fight amongst ourselves when we have to beat them. That is -- that is kind of an age-old thing to do for the American people, to get people going and united, you know -- already we are seeing, you know, the push back against everything that the president talked about from Republicans saying that it is radical, and it's big government and it's back.
He is owning that. Not the radical part, but the fact that government can work for people. And the question is, whether or not he is betting on something that's going to be fruitful.
PHILLIP: And he is also rebutting a big Republican argument. I mean, remember, Republicans wanted to run against Joe Biden by saying that he was beholden to China. And Biden is turning that idea on its head in the speech by saying, in order for us to be competitive on the global stage and to beat China in particular, we have to make these investments.
He said at one point, the rest of the world isn't waiting for us and doing nothing is not an option. That's how he sees this next era for the United States. And his aides have been very clear, they believe the coronavirus pandemic has created an opening for them to be able to make some of these big and Republicans would say, radical changes to the economy, to the social and safety net and the fabric of this country.
TAPPER: Yes, the most progressive agenda since FDR or LBJ. I think it's fair to say. Now, we are going to go to the Republican response to President Biden's address. It's delivered by Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina. He is a rising star in the GOP, he brings a unique voice to his party as the only Black Republican in the Senate, speaking tonight from Capitol Hill.
SEN. TIM SCOTT (R-SC): Good evening. I'm Senator Tim Scott from the great state of South Carolina.
We just heard President Biden's first address to Congress. Our president seems like a good man, his speech was full of good words. But President Biden promised you a specific kind of leadership, he promised to unite a nation to lower the temperature, to govern for all Americans no matter how we voted.
This was the pitch. You just heard it again.
But our nation is starving for more than empty platitudes. We need policies and progress that brings us closer together. But three months in, the actions of the president and his party are pulling us further and further apart.
I won't waste your time with finger-pointing or partisan bickering. You can get that on TV anytime you want.
I want to have an honest conversation about common sense and common ground, about this feeling that our nation is sliding off its shared foundation and how we move forward together.
Growing up, I never dreamed I would be standing here tonight. When I was a kid, my parents divorced. My mother, my brother and I moved in with my grandparents, three of us sharing one bedroom.
I was disillusioned and angry. And I nearly fell out of school. But I was blessed. First, with a praying mom -- and let me say this to the single mothers out there who are working their tails off, working hard, trying to make the ends meet, wondering if it's worth it, you can bet it is. God bless your amazing effort on the heart of your kids.
I was also blessed by a Chick-fil-A operator, John Moniz. And finally, with a string of opportunities that are only possible here in America.
This past year, I've watched COVID attack every rung of the ladder that helped me up. So many families have lost parents and grandparents too early. So many small businesses have gone under. Becoming a Christian transformed my life. But for months, too many churches were shut down.
Most of all, I'm saddened that millions of kids have lost a year of learning when they could not afford to lose a single day. Locking vulnerable kids out of the classroom is locking adults out of their future.
Our public schools should have reopened months ago. Other countries did. Private and religious schools did.
Science has shown for months that schools are safe. But too often, powerful grown-ups set science aside and kids like me were left behind. The clearest case I've seen for school choice in our lifetimes because we know that education is the closest thing to magic in America.
Last year, under Republican leadership, we passed five bipartisan COVID packages. Congress supported our schools, our hospitals, saved our economy, and funded Operation Warp Speed delivering vaccines in record time.
All five bills got 90 -- 90 votes in the Senate. Common sense found common ground.
In February, Republicans told President Biden we wanted to keep working together to finish this fight.
But Democrats wanted to go it alone. They spent almost $2 trillion on a partisan bill that the White House bragged was the most liberal bill in American history. [22:30:07]
Only one percent went to vaccinations, no requirement to reopen schools promptly. COVID brought Congress together five times. This administration pushed us apart. Another issue should -- that should unite us is infrastructure.
Republicans support everything you think of when you think of infrastructure. Roads, bridges, ports, airports, waterways, high-speed broadband, we're in for all of that. But again, Democrats want a partisan wish list.
They won't even build bridges to build bridges. Less than six percent of the president's plan goes to roads and bridges. It's a liberal wish list of big government waste plus the biggest job-killing tax hikes in a generation.
Experts say, when all is said and done, it would lower wages of the average American worker and shrink our economy. Tonight, we also heard about a so-called family plan, even more taxing, even more spending to put Washington even more in the middle of your life from the cradle to college.
The beauty of the American dream is that families get to define it for themselves. We should be expanding opportunities and options for all families, not throwing money at certain issues because Democrats think they know best. Infrastructure spending that shrinks our economy is not common sense.
Weakening our southern borders and creating a crisis is not compassionate. The president is also abandoning principles he's held for decades. Now he says, your tax dollars should fund abortions. He's laying ground work to pack the Supreme Court. This is not common ground.
Nowhere do we need common ground more desperately than in our discussions of race. I have experienced the pain of discrimination. I know what it feels like to be pulled over for no reason, to be followed around the store while I'm shopping. I remember every morning at the kitchen table, my grandfather would open the newspaper and read it, I thought.
But later I realized, he had never learned to read it. He just wanted to set the right example. I've also experienced a different kind of intolerance. I get called "Uncle Tom" and the "N" word by progressives, by liberals. Just last week, a national newspaper suggested my family's poverty was actually privilege because a relative owned land generations before my time.
Believe me, I know first hand our healing is not finished. In 2015, after the shooting of Walter Scott, I wrote a bill to fund body cameras. Last year, after the deaths of Breona Taylor and George Floyd, I built an even bigger police reform proposal.
But my Democratic colleagues blocked it. I extended an olive branch. I offered amendments. But Democrats used a filibuster to block the debate from even happening. My friends across the aisle seemed to want the issue more than they wanted a solution.
But I'm still working. I'm hopeful that this will be different. When America comes together, we've made tremendous progress. But powerful forces want to pull us apart. One hundred years ago, kids in classrooms were taught the color of their skin was their most important characteristic.
And if they looked a certain way, they were inferior. Today, kids are being taught that the color of their skin defines them again. And if they look a certain way, they're an oppressor. From colleges to corporations to our culture, people are making money and gaining power by pretending we haven't made any progress at all, by doubling down on the divisions we've worked so hard to heal.
You know this stuff is wrong. Hear me clearly. America is not a racist country. It's backwards to fight discrimination with different types of discrimination. And it's wrong to try to use our painful past to dishonestly shut down debates in the present.
I'm an African-American who's voted in the south my entire life. I take voting rights personally. Republicans support making it easier to vote and harder to cheat and so do the voters.
Big majorities of Americans support early voting and big majorities support voter ID including African-Americans and Hispanics.
Common sense makes common ground.
But today, this conversation has collapsed.
The state of Georgia passed a law that expands early voting, preserves no excuse mail-in voting, and despite what the president claimed, did not reduce Election Day hours. But if you actually read this law, it's mainstream. It will be easier to vote early in Georgia than in Democrat-run New York.
But the left doesn't want you to know that. They want people virtue signaling, by yelling about a law they haven't even read.
Fact checkers have called out the White House from the statements.
The president absurdly claims that this is worse than Jim Crow.
What is going on here?
I'll tell you -- a Washington power grab. This misplaced outrage is supposed to justify Democrats' new sweeping bill that would take over elections for all 50 states. It would send public funds to political campaigns you disagree with and make the bipartisan Federal Elections Commission partisan.
This is not about civil rights or our racial past. It's about rigging elections in the future. And no, the same filibuster that President Obama and President Biden
praised when they were senators, the same filibuster that the Democrats used to kill my police reform bill last year has not suddenly become a racist relic just because the shoe is now on the other foot.
Race is not a political weapon to sell every issue the way one side wants. It's far too important.
This should be a joyful springtime for our nation. This administration inherited a tide that had already turned. The coronavirus is on the run.
Thanks to Operation Warp Speed and the Trump administration, our country is flooded with safe and effective vaccines. Thanks to our bipartisan work last year, job openings are rebounding.
So why do we feel so divided, anxious?
A nation with so much cause for hope should not feel so heavy laden. A president who promised to bring us together should not be pushing agendas that tear us apart.
The American family deserves better. And we know what better looks like.
Just before COVID, we had the most inclusive economy in my lifetime. The lowest unemployment rates ever recorded for African-Americans, Hispanics and Asians and a 70-year low nearly for women.
Wages for -- hear me -- wages were growing faster at the bottom than at the top. The bottom 25 percent saw their wages go up faster than the top 25 percent. That happened because Republicans focused on expanding opportunity for all Americans.
In addition to that, we passed opportunity zones, criminal justice reform and permanent funding for historically black colleges and universities for the first time ever. We fought the drug epidemic, rebuilt our military, and cut taxes for working families and single moms like the one that raised me.
Our best future will not come from Washington schemes or socialist dreams. It will come from you, the American people.
Black, Hispanic, White and Asian, Republican and Democrat, brave police officers in black neighborhoods, we are not adversaries. We are family. We are all in this together. And we get to live in the greatest country on Earth, the country where my grandfather in his 94 years saw his family go from cotton to Congress in one lifetime.
So I am more than hopeful, I am confident that our finest hour has yet to come. Original sin is never the end of the story. Not in our souls and not for our nation. The real story is always redemption.
I am standing here because my mom has prayed me through some really tough times. I believe our nation has succeeded the same way because generations of Americans in their own ways have asked for grace and God has supplied it.
So, I will close with the words from a worship song that really helped me through this past year of COVID. The music is new but the words draw from scripture. But the words draw from scripture.
May the Lord bless you and keep you, make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you. May His presence go before you and behind you, and beside you, and you're weeping and you're rejoicing. He is for you. May his favor be upon our nation for a thousand generations and your family and your children, and their children. Good night and God bless the United States.
TAPPER: South Carolina Republican Senator Tim Scott with the Republican response to President Biden's speech, you heard there. An inspiring and hopeful, and at times even religious message from the man perceived to be a rising star in his party.
And Abby, you know, one of the things that's remarkable about both Biden and Scott in their addresses is both of them I think have a very natural way of suggesting that they are bipartisan, and they want to work across the aisle while both of them are really rather partisan.
PHILLIP: This was an extraordinary partisan speech for Tim Scott, especially I thought on the issue of, you know, policing, which is something that he is actively right now working with Democrats on. He really strongly criticized Democrats on the issue in a way that I thought was surprising given that he apparently finds it worthwhile to actually work with them right now to get something done.
So, in some ways, this speech kind of read to me or sounded to me like what any other generic Republican would say in this particular moment. But Tim Scott who is trying to have a slightly different brand, it didn't -- it didn't really seem to fit for him. And that's the part I think was a little bit disjointed for me with the speech.
BASH: Yes, I know you -- I was thinking the same thing that he is in the midst of by all accounts, pretty successful bipartisan talks on policing. So, it was surprising to hear that. Obviously, Tim Scott is, you're talking about his brand. I mean, he has a unique voice in the Republican Party. He is the only Black Republican in the United States Senate.
And talking about the Democrats attacking these voting restrictions that are being passed across the country and the states as Jim Crow, worse than Jim Crow and fighting back against that kind of rhetoric. It was interesting, but it's actually, it's not necessarily true that --
PHILLIP: It's not true.
BASH: It's not true.
BASH: It's flat out not true that states like Georgia are not making it more difficult for people to vote. And you know, by and large, those are people of color in those states, that have been able to vote more easily or were in 2020.
TAPPER: Anderson, back to you.
COOPER: Yes, let's check in with our team. Van, what do you think of Tim Scott?
JONES: Look, I think there were smart to put Tim Scott up there. You know, he is sort of the Biden of his party and that, you know, he comes across, warm, authentic. He tells stories, that kind of stuff. The problem isn't the messenger, the messenger was great. But the message was nonsense. Somehow, we forgot to notice that Biden is dividing the country? I mean that doesn't make any sense.
You know, he accelerated all the division in the country, that's what he wants to talk about is coming from one side, that doesn't make any sense. But he lost a lot of African-Americans by the tens of millions when he said America is not a racist nation.
Look, you can say that we're getting better, you can say that we've come a long way. But when we look at these numbers, when we look at the statistics it is very clear that this country is still struggling with racism, we still have racism showing up in almost every institution. So, I thought he did himself a disservice by jumping, you know, that shark unnecessarily.
That said, there's a reason they put him up. He's the best they've got. He can give that message, he can talk about, he can try to polish up all the Republican nonsense without the sharp edges. Better than the rest of them. What's amazing to me is how different he sounds from all the other Republicans.
JONES: And so, again, it's almost a tell --
JONES: -- that the rest of the party is in such bad shape that you've got to put him up there.
BORGER: Where was Donald trump?
AXELROD: He does -- he does -- he did touch a lot of those really big touchdowns for conservatives, you know, flaying the experts, flaying Washington, invoking socialism.
I thought he probably scored some points with a lot of people on the school issue, there are a lot of parents in this country who are frustrated that schools didn't open more quickly.
But on your point, your first point, he did say at the original sin is not the end of our story. So, he is acknowledging this history, even has he is making this proclamation that racism is not American. This is part of our story. And what people are saying is we need to confront it, and we need to understand it. So, he conflict -- you know, he conflicted with himself.
BORGER: What also struck me was that this was not a message that was a Donald trump message, at all. He was not speaking to the base of the party except in one area where he was refusing to give Joe Biden any credit on COVID-19. He said, the tide had already turned on COVID-19 when Biden became president. And of course, everybody understands that Operation Warp Speed happened under Joe Biden but getting vaccines into arms was a Biden operation.
COOPER: You know, Evan, just in terms of the terms that the difficulty that the Republicans have kind of pinning Joe Biden as a socialist or whatever it may be, has he -- I mean, as you see his evolution as a politician, does that surprise you, his ability to kind of be a difficult target in this case?
OSNOS: Well, you know what struck me about it actually, there was a through here. If you go back and you look at one of the Democratic responses that Joe Biden gave actually in 1983. He talks about what he called two cornerstone American rights, fairness and opportunity. And what I heard tonight in the Joe Biden's speech was a lot a talk of fairness and a lot of -- some talk about opportunity.
What you just heard in the Tim Scott response, was a lot of talk of opportunity, not a lot of talk of fairness. And I think in some ways, it misses something that is changing in the American electorate, particularly among the young people, you know.
COOPER: This is how I know you are a biographer of Joe Biden, that you went back and listened to a Biden response to a speech in 1983.
OSNOS: More gripping than you might think. This is Saturday night.
JONES: Look, I mean, one of the good things about having a Tim Scott in the mix is that he is -- he is reaching out and he is working to get something done on the policing staff. And it does take some courage, I mean, I just want to give him his credit. He is running for reelection soon, he could get primaried if he goes, you know, too far in the liberal direction.
So, he does have the integrity to say look, I know the policing is a problem. I personally have dealt with it. I want to work on that. I think, you know, Democrats should applaud that. And you know, I just think that some of the other things that he is trying to polish up, it's clear that Republicans are attacking voting rights.
They are not passing a bunch of bills to try to make voting easier. I think his genius is worthy of a better cause, than trying to defend some of the stuff that his party is doing.
COOPER: Just in terms of what President Biden was talking about, you know, he talked about the border, he talked about immigration and DREAMers. He did not talk about a number of, you know, Republicans and even, Mark Kelly a Democrat has been criticizing him tonight for not deal -- talking about the issues on the border and the crisis with so many people coming across in the past few months.
AXELROD: Yes, this obviously has been the biggest problem that has crept up in his first hundred days that continues to be a festering sore for him. And I think he hope that the discussion of immigration reform would signify his serious -- well, he did talk about assigning the vice president --
AXELROD: -- to try and resolve some of the issues that are leading to the crisis. So, he didn't -- he didn't completely -- he didn't offer a solution --
COOPER: Solution. Right.
AXELROD: -- particularly tonight, but you know, again, I mean, just getting back to his speech. I really, you know, in some ways I regret that he had to touch all of those bases. Because if it had just been about these economic issues that he is pushing, it would've been, I think more powerful. Not that those issues, the other issues are not vitally important to people. But the essence of the speech was an economic speech. So, it was a state of the union speech attached to an economic speech.
BORGER: Well, these things always tend to be laundry lists, as you know from being in the White House. It kind of gets passed around.
BORGER: And from agency to agency.
AXELROD: It's awful.
BORGER: It is awful. At the beginning, I think and the end was really what Biden wanted to talk about, which was that democracy is at stake. And I think the issue that I have with Scott and with Republicans right now, is yes, Biden is proposing all of these and all the spending. And he's trying to figure out a way to pay for it.
But the Republicans have no credibility on paying for things right now. If only they had paid for things during the last four years. So, when they, when, you know, they say biggest tax increase, et cetera, et cetera.
Well, they had one. And it cost the government what, $2 trillion or whatever. So, where is the credibility from Republicans on talking about Biden spending? OSNOS: Also, the truth is, these have been popular programs.
OSNOS: I mean, the reality is, the polling data is clear, that the relief plan is very popular. And you didn't hear an answer tonight in Tim Scott's speech. To say, here's what we're going to do.
AXELROD: Well, you did. They are not offering an alternative to these problems, but what he basically saying is that this is a Washington power grab, more Washington in your lives. I mean, this is classic Republican dogma.
AXELROD: So, in that sense, you know, I disagree with one thing you said, Gloria. I do think he was talking to the base. I mean, he was doing it in, you know, he was coming out in his own way.
AXELROD: But the basic themes were the themes that gin up the Republican engine.
BORGER: But not the Trump -- not the Trumpiest part of the base, I think. Because he could have been more forceful if he were --
JONES: I'll tell you about --
BORGER: -- he could've attacked Biden more. And he said, you know, he seems like a pretty good guy.
AXELROD: Well, actually, what he said was he seems like.
BORGER: He seems like it. Right.
AXELROD: He left open the question of whether he is.
BORGER: Right. But it shows you how difficult it is to attack Biden --
AXELROD: Well, there is no --
BORGER: -- personally which Donald Trump had trouble doing.
JONES: And part of what I loved about what Biden did was, he take an issue, every issue when he was in that mode, that first -- like when you are talking about, that first sort of half of the speech. Every mode he would come back and he would make it human. So, when you are talking about the climate issue, he starts talking about IBEW (Ph) workers getting out there and fixing the grid.
I mean, even climate, you know, which can be such a lofty thing, he never talked about parts per million and polar bears or whatever. He's talking about people making America better. And I think that that, you know, it's a positive populism. I think also what was important about what he did, and you mentioned earlier, Evan, is he is trying to give us something to come together for. You know, to win the future.
It is -- he is not joking. He is not making this up. People around the world are beginning to look to China as the model. Because China, they are not building bridges, they're building cities. They are building cities and we sometimes can't literally can't get a bridge built.
And so, I thought when he was talks about let's compete, let's win, and let's prove that we can do this that raises the sites for everybody. And I thought that was important.
OSNOS: One of the things he returns to over and over again is he identifies the systemic failures, structural failures, that essentially depart from the story we tell ourselves about this country. He says, why is it that women -- two million women had dropped out of the workforce during COVID? That is something that makes every Americans -- I mean, that doesn't make any sense. There's got to be fixed for that.
And he does it also when it comes to questions of racial injustice, he does it when it comes to questions of why is it that we don't have elder care, why don't we have systems?
OSNOS: And he sort of, poses the question and forces us and I think particularly younger voters, but younger Americans look at the current disposition and they say, well why is it this way?
BORGER: Why is it.
OSNOS: It doesn't have to be this way?
AXELROD: Well --
OSNOS: And the answers of the past --
AXELROD: Well, you know, we talk about Roosevelt, and leaving the policy aside. One of Roosevelt's greatest powers was the fireside chat. Which were not big orations, they were conversations with the American people. Biden's speeches are like Roosevelt's fireside chats.
And on your point, on climate change, he ad lib a line.
AXELROD: He was talking about people who feel left behind and forgotten in the economy that's rapidly changing. He said, so many of my friends who I grew up with are frightened, they feel like they are being left behind. He recognizes -- I mean, when we had these discussions about climate change too often people moralize about the existential crisis, which is real. Without recognizing that the change, away from the old economy in the old energy, is an existential crisis for people who have made their living doing that work --
BORGER: And that's what Biden is --
AXELROD: -- all the time. And he really touched on that there.
BORGER: That is where he is so good, though. Because he personalizes everything. I have friends who were worried. He talks about where he grew up all the time. And tonight, he talked about a blue-collar blueprint to build America. And that's where Biden came from and that's where he talks about. And he said doing nothing is not an option.
And I think what Joe Biden is telling people, look, you want no government, what did no government get you? It got us to where we are and this is an opportunity now for us to take a turn. And again, I think he's been emboldened by COVID in a way.
JONES: Can I add one thing?
JONES: That idea that he had about having a DARPA for health --
BORGER: Yes --
JONES: That was -- I mean, you now have everybody in the country realizes there is something with our health care system. And Bernie Sanders has made it possible for people to talk about -- Biden said health care is a right, that's a Bernie Sanders line.
AXELROD: One thing Bernie must be really excited about was he did say that Medicare should negotiate with the pharmaceutical companies. This is a big debate going into the speech, would he say or would he not? Because this has been, as he said, an issue for years. But no one has acted on it.
What he is saying is, yes, we should move forward and negotiate drug prices with Medicare which will, I mean, bring all prescription drug prices down. It is something the pharma deeply opposes.
COOPER: Yes, let's go back to Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Anderson, thanks very much.
You know, John, after the president went through all of the problems facing the U.S., all of the solutions that he has in mind. He did end his speech with a very optimistic note, saying it's never ever been a good bet -- never ever been a good bet to bet against America. And it still isn't. We are the United States of America. There is nothing, nothing beyond our capacity, nothing we can't do if we do it together.
KING: And it is a bipartisan tradition for presidents to use this idea. Ronald Reagan talked about this a lot. Bill Clinton back in the 90s when he was trying to sell the Democratic Party on NAFTA, in a global trade and unions were worried. Compete and win. You try to play to the American sense of patriotism.
China is out there. Putin is out there. We must compete and win. We must not be afraid. That is part of Joe Biden's DNA, the optimism. And some of the points that New York group was making earlier, Joe Biden said that he was going to be a transitional president. That was to answer questions about his own age, questions about his place in the Democratic Party, was he from the past of the Democratic Party, not part of the younger more diverse Democratic Party.
But what you heard tonight was a president who wants to be a transformational president. That was not a transitional speech, that was a let's transform the government's role in the American economy. And the stubborn Irish of Biden, I find it personally compelling sometimes an interesting in that so many Democrats have told him to give up on the blue-collar voters. They are trump voters, they're gone. The Democratic party has lost them.
But in the park Gloria and David were just talking about, when he was talking about climate change, you know, you feel left behind and forgotten in an economy that's rapidly changing. Let me speak directly to you. And he talked about how a lot of these jobs he wants you to be part it. You can be a high school graduate, you don't need to have gone to college.
He is consistently stubborn, even though his win voters of color, cities, the suburbs and women. That is the Biden coalition. He just won't quit. It's Joe Biden from Scranton. And again, you don't have to agree with him, you don't have to like him but he is stubborn and resilient.
COLLINS: And I think also that populist sense that you see, you know, throughout his speech, that is something that is not just new to him. That has existed within Joe Biden for a while now. It's something often that when you read biographies of him, it was something that was really there when he was considering a run, when he was still vice president of course. He didn't ultimately pursue that, and I think you still see it tonight.
And that is really what he has used as this hook from where he went when he was on the campaign trail saying that, he wasn't going to have revolution. People wanted results, not revolution. Of course, we've seen how much that has changed when we get to the speech tonight and how much he does want to transform the role of government and people's lives.
But when you talk to officials in the White House around the president, they say that's because a pandemic and the economic disaster that followed changed his mind on that. And also, I think that there is a different opening, and it's not this conventional criticism that Republicans can use saying, it's big government and they want to expand these federal programs and do this.
Voters and Americans who just lived a life through this pandemic and a lot of them lost their jobs, or could not pay their rent or could not pay for their children to go to the doctor. You know, that scared them, I think. And you saw how fragile a lot of people's economic stability really is.
So, I think the White House sees that as an opening to get this through. And that is why they are trying to make the case in that way tonight. And so, this, what you saw tonight is really what you are going to hear from President Biden for the next few months as they try to get this through.
One thing that I thought was interesting as we talk about bipartisanship and what this is going to look like. He said, I wanted to lay out before the Congress my plan before we got into the deep discussions. Saying, that he is open to hear what they have to say.
It will be interesting to see how this does ultimately end up, but he did say he wanted to outline this before they actually nailed down the details to see what Republicans have to say. And of course, a lot of this moderate Democrats too.
BLITZER: He clearly felt at home in that chamber.
KING: He is at home in that chamber, although not in that specific spot. And there is some history there. I mean, Joe Biden, you know, again, 37 years in the Senate, four decades, thinking he should be the person delivering the state of the union address or this is not officially a state of the union address to address the American people standing there.
And again, let's not forget the history of tonight with the female vice president and female speaker of the House. That's never happened before. And that is a big deal, that is an optic for the country and also for the world. But I do think, look, this is a competition of ideas, it's also a competition of politics, we are sitting here at the end of April 2021 but everybody in this town, and this is what America gets annoyed about Washington. They're already thinking about the midterm elections.
And you had, Kaitlan made a very important point there, Joe Biden is trying to say, look, I told you I was going to reverse this vaccine rollout. We were going to get vaccine shots in arms, I did it. I told you my rescue plan would help with the economy, I did it. Now, trust me as I want to do more. He is trying to get the American people to buy him. OK, the first 100 days work, let's try -- let's continue this approach.
Senator Scott was trying to pull that back, he was trying to say no, no, no, we did some of the stimulus back in the trump administration.