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CNN Live Event/Special
Members Of Cabinet Arrives; Biden Being Introduced To Joint Session Of Congress. Aired 9-10p ET
Aired March 01, 2022 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think the White House believes this can be not a mission accomplishment moment but a reset for the country when it comes to COVID, and moving to next phase of this Presidency.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: AND YOU CAN SEE IT visually, Jake, you've been talking about the fact that there are a lot of people wearing blue wearing gold, the colors of the Ukrainian flag. And you're seeing Republicans on the GOP side of the aisle, holding Ukrainian flags.
So there already is even before we hear the President in what the White House hopes will be a unifying moment, not just for America, but for Vladimir Putin to see and people around the world to see you're already seeing the symbolism of it.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: There's a Linda Thomas-Greenfield, she is the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, somebody whose face you may have seen a lot more in the last two or three weeks. Dana, you just interviewed her on Sunday on State of the Union.
And, Evan, you know, it's interesting because Joe Biden, as a Senator, as a vice president, as a candidate, and as a president, he has talked a lot about democracies versus autocracies. He's talked a lot about that recently, because of his fears of the United States being pulled in the direction of an autocracy.
But here we have a, you know, a full throated full-fledged autocracy, Russia, and a Dictator Vladimir Putin that he is confronting.
EVAN OSNOS, AUTHOR, "JOE BIDEN: THE LIFE, THE RUN, AND WHAT MATTERS NOW": It is. I mean, it's an extraordinarily vivid demonstration of something that I think until now has been a bit abstract for people they understand this is sort of hovering over geopolitics.
But here we have in the most dramatic and brutal fashion, a demonstration of this contest of ideas, this contest of systems, which really goes back not just the last two years, but really all the way back to 2014 when Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine at the time, and interestingly enough, if you go back, what about - what Biden was saying, then was that what happens to Ukraine is going to be is going to set the tone for what happens in Europe in the future.
There was something about that that was, I think, probably sounds truer to us today than we appreciate it at the time.
PHILLIP: And Jake, he was concerned about the march potentially of authoritarianism in the U.S., but he was also saying in his inaugural speech, and also in his first address to Congress last year, that he was worried that a divided America would lose the war in a battle between democracy and autocracy.
And he's giving a speech to try tonight to try to unite the country around its values around him in a moment of war. And it's a real challenge, because we are as divided now as we were a year ago or as we were two years ago, and it's more difficult now.
I think there was a time Dana, you were saying earlier about the post sort of 9/11 world in which George W. Bush was giving his State of the Union speech. This is not that kind of time. It's a different era for President Biden.
TAPPER: There's a Retiring Justice Stephen Breyer, who President Biden has just officially nominated a judge to replace him. And that is, you know, he is hoping one of the big achievements that he will have this year.
You know, one of the things that people in the intelligence community will say is that Vladimir Putin has had two goals, two major goals when it comes to things that take place outside Russia and territory he wants to claim as Russia one is to divide NATO.
And the other is to divide the United States. He has failed to divide NATO in recent weeks. In fact, he's brought us closer together, and it's been in years and years. But the Russians did a lot to divide the American people in 2016. That was, in fact, Evan, one of Russia's goals more so, than electing one candidate over another was to sow discord.
OSNOS: Absolutely, I mean, that the power of unity and disunity as a fact of geopolitics is something we don't talk enough about. And as we know, Biden hung a portrait of FDR on his office wall at the Oval Office, one of FDR's comments in his State of the Union in 1941, is that our unity is our strength.
And that really is sort of in the back of how Biden thinks about how we project our vulnerability and our strength to the rest of the world?
TAPPER: It's funny, because he said almost that exact same thing when earlier today, President Biden when he had his lunch, for anchors, and the one thing that we were allowed to repeat that he said on the record, was that the strength of the alliance against Putin was the unity. That's what gave it the strength.
OSNOS: You know I was going to say that really runs through everything of how he thinks about foreign policy and domestic policy.
BASH: And Abby, you were saying, this is so different from post 9/11. And there's no question about that for a million reasons. But one thing that I will say is that just kind of bringing the threads of what you were both talking about together, especially Jake saying that what Russia with Vladimir Putin in particular has been so - trying so hard to do is to sow discord in America.
And he's been successful in a lot of ways is that what he did with NATO you might see a moment of tonight which is unity around opposition to Vladimir Putin.
TAPPER: This is General William Walker the House Sergeant at Arms. He is going to make -- let's just listen in.
GEN. WILLIAM WALKER (RET.), HOUSE SERGEANT AT ARMS: --of the United States.
TAPPER: This is followed the Senate Sergeant at Arms Cannon Gibson, and there's the President. Let's listen in to see if we can hear any of the comments. Those are Democrats on the side of the aisle that President Biden is talking to right now.
He did say hello to a couple of Republicans on the other side. We saw Kevin Brady; I believe is his name from Texas. He will be he will be the Chairman of Ways and Means if right, it's always apparent, but then also Mike McCall, who would be theoretically if the Republicans win in the fall the Chairman of the House Foreign Relations Committee, an important ally for him to have there.
He is saying that saying hello to Brian saying hello to Elena Kagan. There's the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Mark Milley really quite a striking sight that so few individuals in the chamber are wearing masks and this mask rule in the House was just lifted, one might suspect for this very moment Dana not to be skeptic.
BASH: And while it was just lifted in D.C. today as well.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): Members of Congress, I have the high privilege and distinct honor of presenting to you the President of the United States.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Thank you, thank you. Thank you. Thank you all very much. Thank you all very, very much please. Thank you so much Madam Speaker, Madam Vice President, our First Lady and Second Gentlemen, members of Congress in the cabinet Justice of the Supreme Court, my fellow Americans.
Last year COVID-19 kept us apart. This year we're finally together again. Tonight we meet is Democrats, Republicans and Independents, but most importantly, as Americans, with the duty to one another, to America, to the American people to the Constitution, and an unwavering resolve that freedom will always triumph over tyranny.
Six days ago, Russia's Vladimir Putin sought to shake the very foundations of the free world, thinking he could make it bend to his menacing ways. But he badly miscalculated. He thought he could roll into Ukraine and the world would roll over instead he met with wall of strength he never anticipated or imagined. He met Ukrainian people. (APPLAUSE)
And (ph) President Zelensky, to every Ukrainian their fearlessness, their courage, their determination literally inspires the world. Groups of citizens blocking tanks with their bodies. Everyone from students, to retirees, to teachers turned soldiers defending their homeland.
And in this struggle, President Zelensky said in his speech to the European Parliament, light will win over darkness. Ukrainian Ambassador to the United States is here tonight sitting with the First Lady. Let's each of us, if you're able to stand, stand and send an unmistakable signal to the world, to Ukraine.
Thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
She's bright, she's strong, she's resolved.
Yes. We, the United States of America stand with the Ukrainian people. Throughout our history we've learned this lesson. When dictators do not pay a price for their aggression, they cause more chaos, they keep moving, and the cost - the threats to America, and to the world keeps rising.
That's why the NATO Alliance was created, to secure peace and stability in Europe after World War II. The United States is a member, along with 29 other nations. It matters. American diplomacy matters. American resolve matters.
Putin's latest attack on Ukraine was premeditated and totally unprovoked. He rejected repeated, repeated efforts at diplomacy. He thought the West and NATO wouldn't respond. He thought he could divide us at home, in this chamber, in this nation. He thought he could divide us in Europe as well. But Putin was wrong.
We are ready. We are united, and that's what we did, we stayed united. We prepared extensively and carefully. We spent months building coalitions of other freedom loving nations in Europe and the Americas to the Asian and African continents to confront Putin.
Like many of you, I spent countless hours unifying European allies. We shared with the world in advance what we knew Putin was planning, and precisely how we would try to falsify and justify his aggression.
We countered Russia's lies with the truth, and now - now that he's acted the Free World is holding him accountable, along with 27 members of the European Union including France, Germany, Italy - as well as countries like the United Kingdom, Canada, Japan, Korea, Australia, New Zealand - and many others, even Switzerland are inflicting pain on Russia and supporting the people of Ukraine. Putin is now isolated from the world more than he has ever been.
...together along with our allies we are right now enforcing powerful economic sanctions. We're cutting of Russia's largest banks an international financial system, preventing Russia's central bank from defending the Russian Ruble, making Putin's $630 billion war fund worthless. We're choking Russia's access...
...we're choking Russia's access to technology that will sap its economic strength and weaken it's military for years to come. Tonight, I say to the Russian oligarchs and the corrupt leaders who built billions of dollars off this violent regime, no more.
The United States...
I mean it. The United States Department of Justice is assembling a dedicated task force to go after the crimes of the Russian oligarchs. We're joining with European allies to find and seize their yachts, their luxury apartments, their private jets.
We're coming for you, ill-begotten gains, and tonight I'm announcing that we will join our allies in closing off American air space to all Russian flights, further isolating Russia and adding additional squeeze on their economy.
He has no idea what's coming. The ruble has already lost 30 percent of its value. The Russian stock market has lost 40 percent of its value, and trading remains suspended. The Russian economy is reeling, and Putin alone is the one to blame. Together with our allies we're providing support to the Ukrainians in their fight for freedom; military assistance, economic assistance, humanitarian assistance. We're giving more than a billion dollars of direct assistance to Ukraine, and we'll continue to aid Ukrainian people as they defend their country and help ease their suffering.
But let me be clear our forces are not engaged and will not engage in the conflict with Russian forces in Ukraine. Our forces are not going to Europe to fight in Ukraine but to defend our NATO allies in the event that Putin decides to keep moving west. For that purpose we have mobilized American ground forces, air squadrons, ship deployments to protect NATO countries, including Poland, Romania, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia.
And as I've made crystal clear the United States and our allies will defend every inch of territory that is NATO territory with the full force of our collective power. Every single inch.
And we're clear-eyed. Ukrainians are fighting back with pure courage. The next few days, weeks, and months will be hard on them. Putin has unleashed violence and chaos, but while he may make gains on the battle field he'll pay a continuing high price over the long run. And a pound of Ukrainian people, proud, proud people, pound-for-pound ready to fight with every inch of energy (ph) they have. They've known 30 years of independence, have repeatedly shown that they will not tolerate anyone who tries to take their country backwards.
To all Americans I'll be honest with you as I always promised I would be, a Russian dictator invading a foreign country has costs around the world, and I'm taking robust action to make sure the pain of our sanctions is targeted at Russian economy and that we use every tool at our disposal to protect American businesses and consumers. Tonight, I can announce the United States has worked with 30 other countries to release 60 million barrels of oil from reserves around the world. America will lead that effort.
Releasing 30 million barrels of our own strategic petroleum reserve, and we stand ready to do more if necessary united with our allies. These steps will help to blunt gas prices here at home, but I know news about what's happening can seem alarming to all Americans. But I want you to know we're going to be OK. We're going to be OK. When the history of this era is written Putin's war in Ukraine will have left Russia weaker and the rest of the world stronger.
While it shouldn't...
And while it shouldn't have taking (ph) - and while shouldn't have taken (ph) something so terrible for people around the world to see what's at stake, now everyone sees it clearly. We see the unity among leaders of nations, a more unified Europe, a more unified west. We see unity among the people who are gathering in cities and large crowds around the world, even in Russia, to demonstrate their support for the people of Ukraine. And the battle between democracies and autocracies, democracies are rising to the moment and the world is clearly choosing the side of peace and security.
This is the real test, and it's going to take time. So let us continue to draw inspiration from the iron will of the Ukrainian people. To our fellow Ukrainian Americans who forged a deep bond that connects our two nations, we stand with you. We stand with you.
Put may circle Kiev with tanks but he'll never gain the hearts and souls of the Ukrainian (ph) people.
He'll never - he'll never extinguish their love of freedom, and he will never, never weaken the resolve of the free world.
We meet tonight in an America that has lived through two of the hardest years this nation has ever faced. The pandemic has been punishing, and so many families are living paycheck-to-paycheck, struggling to keep up with the rising cost of food, gas, housing, and so much more.
I understand like many of you did. My dad had to leave his home in Scranton, Pennsylvania to find work. So like many of you, I grew up in a family when the price of food went up it was felt throughout the family. It had an impact. That was one of the first things I did as president was fight to pass the American Rescue Plan because people were hurting. We needed to act, and we did.
Few pieces of legislation have done more at a critical moment in our history to lift us out of a crisis. It fueled our efforts to vaccinate that nation and combat COVID-19, delivered immediate economic relief to tens of millions of Americans. It helped put food on the table. Remember those long lines of cars waiting for hours just to get a box of food put in their trunk. It cut the cost of healthcare insurance, and as my dad used to say gave the people just a little bit of breathing room.
Unlike the $2 trillion tax cut passed in the previous administration that benefited the top 1% of Americans, the American Rescue Plan - the American Rescue Plan helped working people and left no one behind.
Folks, and it worked.
It worked and created jobs, lots of jobs. In fact, our economy created over 6.5 million new jobs just last year.
More jobs in one year than ever before in the history of the United States of America. The economy grew at a rate of 5.7 last year, the strongest growth rate in 40 years and the first step in bringing fundamental change to our economy that hasn't worked for working people in this nation for too long.
For the past 40 years we were told the tax break for those at the top and benefits would trickle down and everyone would know - would benefit, but that trickledown theory led to a weaker economic growth, lower wages, bigger deficits, and a winding gap between the top and everyone else in nearly a century.
Look, Vice President Harris and I ran for office, and I realize we had fundamental disagreements on this, but ran for office with a new economic vision for America. Invest in America. Educate Americans. Grow the workforce. Build the economy from the bottom up in the middle out, not from the top down because we know...
... because we know...
... because we know when the middle class grows - when the middle- class gross, the poor have a way up and the wealthy do very well. America used to have the best roads, bridges, and airports on Earth, and now our infrastructure is ranked 13th in the world. We won't be able to compete for the jobs of the 21st century if we don't fix it. That's why it was so important to pass the bipartisan infrastructure law, and I thank my Republican friends who joined...
... to invest and rebuild America, the single biggest investment in history. It was a bipartisan effort, and I want to thank the members of both parties who worked to make it happen. We're done talking about infrastructure weeks. We're now talking about an infrastructure decade.
And look, it's going to - it's going to transform America, to put us in a path to win the economic competition of the 21st century that we face with the rest of the world, particularly China.
I told Xi Jinping, it's never been a good bet to bet against the American people. We'll create good jobs for millions of Americans, modernizing roads, airports, ports, waterways, all across America. And we'll do it to withstand the devastating infects of climate change and promote environmental justice.
We'll build a national network of 500,000 electric vehicle charging stations. Begin to replace the poisonous led pipes so every child, every American has clean water to drink at home and at school.
(APPLAUSE) We're going to provide -- provide affordable high-speed internet for every American, rural, suburban, urban and tribal communities. Four thousand projects have already been announced. Many of you have announced them in your districts. And tonight, I'm announcing that this year we will start fixing over 65,000 miles of highway and 1,500 bridges in disrepair.
And folks, when we use taxpayer's dollars to rebuild America, we're going to do it by buying American.
Buy America products, support American jobs. The Federal Government spends about $600 billion a year to keep this country safe and secure. There's been a law on the books for almost a century to make sure taxpayer's dollars support American jobs and businesses.
Every administration, Democrat and Republican, says they'll do it. But, we're actually -- we're actually doing it. We'll buy America, to make sure every -- everything, from the deck of an aircraft carrier to the steel on highway guardrails is made in America from beginning to end, all of it. All of it.
But, folks, to compete for the jobs of the future we also need a level playing field with China and other competitors. That's why it's so important to pass the bipartisan Innovation Act sitting in Congress that will make record investments in emerging technologies and American manufacturing.
We used to invest almost 2 percent of our GDP in research and development. We don't now. Can't (ph) China is.
Let me give you one example why it's so important to pass. If you travel 20 miles east of Columbus, Ohio, you'll find 1,000 empty acres of land. It won't look like much, but if you stop and look closely, you'll see a field of dreams. The ground in which America's future will be built.
That's where Intel, the American company that helped build Silicone Valley is going to build a $20 billion semiconductor mega site. Up to eight state-of-the-art factories in one place, 10,000 new jobs. And in those factories the average about $135 -- $135,000 a year.
Some of the most sophisticated manufacturing in the world to make computer chips the size of a fingertip. The power of the world in everyday lives, from smartphones, technology that is the internet, technology is yet to be invented. But, that's just the beginning.
Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger, who's here tonight. I don't know where Pat is. Pat, there you go. Pat, stand up.
(APPLAUSE) Pat --
Pat came to see me and he told me they're ready to increase their investment from $20 billion to $100 billion. That would be the biggest investment in manufacturing in American history and all they're waiting for is for you to pass this bill. So, let's not wait any longer. Send it to my desk, I'll sign it. And we'll really take off in a big way.
And, folks, Intel is not alone. There's something happening in America. Just look around and you'll see an amazing story. The rebirth of pride that comes from stamping products Made in America, the revitalization of American manufacturing. Companies are choosing to build new factories here, when just a few years ago they would have gone overseas. That's what's happening.
Ford is investing $11 billion in electric vehicles, creating 11,000 jobs across the country. GM is making the largest investment in its history, $7 billion to build electric vehicles, creating 4,000 jobs in Michigan. All told, 369,000 new manufacturing jobs were created in America last year alone.
And, folks, powered by people I've met like JoJo Burgess from generations of union steelworkers in Pittsburgh, who's here tonight. Where are you JoJo? There you go. Thanks, buddy.
As Ohio -- as Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown says --
-- as Sherrod Brown says, it's time to bury the label Rust Belt. It's time to see the what used to be called Rust Belt become the -- the home of -- of a significant resurgence of manufacturing.
And with all the bright spots in our economy, record job growth, higher wages, too many families are struggling to keep up with their bills. Inflation is robbing them of gains they thought otherwise they would be able to feel. I get it.
That's why my top priority is getting prices under control. Look, our economy roared back faster than almost anyone predicted. But the pandemic meant that businesses had a hard time hiring enough people because of the pandemic to keep up production in their factories.
If you didn't have people making those beams that went into buildings because they were out, the factory was closed. The panic also disrupted the global supply chain. Factories closed. When that happens, it takes longer to make goods and get them to the warehouses, to the stores and prices go up.
Look at cars last year, one-third of all the inflation was because of automobile sales. There weren't enough semiconductors to make all the cars that people wanted to buy. And guess what? Prices of automobiles went way up. Especially used vehicles as well.
And so, we have a choice. One way to fight inflation is to drive down wages and make Americans poor. I think I have a better idea to fight inflation. Lower your costs, not your wages.
And, folks, that means make more cars and semiconductors in America. More infrastructure and innovation in America. More goods moving faster and cheaper in America. More jobs where you can earn a good living in America, instead of relying on foreign supply chains let's make it in America.
Look, economists --
(CROWD CHANTING - USA)
Economists call this increasing the productivity capacity of our economy. I call it building a better America.
My plan to fight inflation will lower your costs and lower the deficit. Seventeen Nobel Laureates in economics said my plan will ease long-term inflationary pressures. Top business leaders and I believe most Americans support the plan.
And here's the plan. First, cut the cost of prescription drugs.
We pay more --
-- for the same drug produced by the same company in America than any other country in the world. Just look at insulin. One in 10 Americans has diabetes. In Virginia, I met a 13-year-old boy, the handsome young man standing up there, Joshua Davis.
He and his dad both have Type I diabetes, which means they need insulin every single day. Insulin costs about $10 a vial to make. That's what it costs the pharmaceutical company. But drug companies charge families like Joshua and his dad up to 30 times that amount. I spoke with Joshua's mom.
Imagine what it's like to look at your child who needs insulin to stay healthy, and have no idea how in god's name you're going to be able to pay for it.
What it does to your family, but what it does to your dignity. Your ability to look your child in the eye. To be the parent you expect yourself to be. I really mean it, think about that - that's what I think about. You know, yesterday - Joshua's here tonight, but yesterday was his birthday. Happy Birthday, buddy, by the way.
For Joshua and 200,000 other young people with Type I Diabetes let's cap the cost of insulin $35 a month so everyone can afford it. And drug companies will do very, very well, their profit margin. While we're at it, I know we have great disagreements on this floor with this - let's let Medicare negotiate the price of prescription drugs.
They already set the price for VA drugs. Look, the American Rescue Plan is helping millions of families of the Affordable Care Act plans to save them $2,400 a year on their health premiums. Let's close the coverage gap and make these savings permanent. And second...
...let's cut energy cost for families an average of $500 a year by combating climate change. Let's provide an investment tax credit to weatherize your home and your business, to be energy efficient and get a tax credit for it. Double America's clean energy production in solar, wind, and so much more. Lower the price of electric vehicles, saving another $80 a month that you're not going to have to pay at the pump.
...third - the third thing we can do to change the standard of living for hardworking folks is cut the cost of childcare.
Cut the cost of childcare.
Folks, if you live in a major city in America, you pay up to $14,000 a year for childcare per child. I was a single dad for five years raising two kids, had a lot of help though. I had a mom and dad, a brother and a sister that really helped. But middleclass and working folks shouldn't have to pay more than 7 percent of their income to care for the young children.
My plan - my plan would cut the cost of childcare in half for most families. And help parents, including millions of women who left the workforce during the pandemic because they couldn't afford childcare to be able to get back to work, generating economic growth.
But my plan doesn't stop there, it also includes home and long-term care, more affordable housing, pre-K for three and four year olds - all these will lower costs to families. And under my plan nobody - let me say this again, nobody earning less than $400,000 a year will pay an additional penny in new taxes, not a single penny.
I may be wrong, but my guess is if we took a secret ballot on this floor, that we'd all agree that the present tax system ain't fair. We have to fix it. I'm not looking to punish anybody, but let's make corporations and wealthy Americans start paying their fair share.
Look, last year...
...last year - like Chris Coons and Tom Carper, and my distinguished Congresswoman, we come from the land of corporate America. There are more corporations in corporate America than every other state in America combined, and I still won 36 years in a row.
The point is, even they understand they should pay just a fair share. Last year 55 of the Fortune 500 companies earned $40 billion in profit and paid zero in federal taxes. Now look, it's not fair. That's why I proposed a 15 percent minimum tax rate for corporations.
We've got (ph) - and that's why in the G7 and other meetings overseas we're able to put together - I was able to be somewhat helpful, 130 countries to agree on a global minimum tax rate so companies can't get out of paying their taxes at home by shipping jobs and factories overseas and raise billions of dollars.
And that's why I proposed closing loopholes for the very wealthy who don't pay - who pay a lower tax rate than a teacher and firefighter. So that's my plan, but we have to go into more detail later. I'm going to grow - we will grow the economy, lower the cost to families. So what are we waiting for? Let's get this done, we all know we've got to make changes.
And while you're at it, confirm my nominees for the Federal Reserve, which plays a critical role in fighting inflation. My plan will not only lower costs and give families a fair shot, it will lower the deficit.
The previous administration not only ballooned the deficit with those tax cuts for the very wealthy and corporations, it undermined the watchdogs, the job of those key pandemic (ph) relief funds being wasted. Remember we had those debates about whether or not those watchdogs should be able to see every day how much money was being spent, where - was it going to the right place? Under my administration the watchdogs are back.
And we're going to go after the criminals who stole billions of relief money meant for small business and millions of Americans. And tonight I'm announcing that the Justice Department will soon name a chief prosecutor for pandemic fraud.
...I think we all agree - thank you. By the end of this year the deficit will be down to less than half of what it was when I took office. The only president ever to cut the deficit by more than $1 trillion in a single year. Lowering your costs also meant demanding more competition. I'm a Capitalist, but Capitalism without competition is not Capitalism. Capitalism without competition is exploitation, it drives up profits.
When corporations have to compete, their profits go up and your prices go up when they don't have to compete. Small businesses, and family farmers, and ranchers - I need not tell some of my Republican friends from those states, guess what? You've got four basic meat packing facilities, that's it. You play with them or you don't get to play at all, and you pay a hell of a lot more - a hell of a lot more because there's only four.
See what's happening with ocean carriers moving goods in and out of America. During the pandemic, about (ph) half a dozen or less foreign owned companies raised prices by as much as 1,000 percent and made record profits. Tonight, I'm announcing a crackdown on those companies overcharging American businesses and consumers.
(APPLAUSE) And as Wall Street firms take over more nursing homes, quality in those homes has gone down and costs have gone up. That ends on my watch. Medicare is going to set higher standards for nursing homes and make sure your loved ones get the care they deserve, and that they inspect, and they will look (ph) at closely.
We're also going to cut costs to keep the economy going strong, and giving workers a fair shot. Provide more training and apprenticeships, hire them based on skills, not just their degrees.
Let's pass the Paycheck Fairness Act and paid leave (ph), raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, and extend the Child Tax Credit so no one has to raise a family in poverty. Let's increase Pell Grants, increase our stark support for HBCUs, and invest in what Jill our First Lady who teaches fulltime calls America's best kept secret, community colleges.
Look, let's pass the PRO Act. When a majority of workers want to form a union, they shouldn't be able to be stopped. When we invest in our workers, and we build an economy from the bottom up and the middle out, together we can do something we haven't done in a long time - build a better America.
For more than two years COVID has impacted every decision in our lives, and the life of this nation. And I know you're tired, frustrated, and exhausted. That doesn't even count the close (ph) to a million people who sit at a dining room table or a kitchen table, look at an empty chair because they lost somebody.
But I also know this. Because of the progress we've made; because of your resilience and the tools that we have been provided by this Congress, tonight I can say we're moving forward safely back to more normal routines.
We've reached a new moment in the fight against COVID-19, where severe cases are down to a level not seen since July of last year. Just a few days ago, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention issued new mask guidelines.
Under the new guidelines, most Americans and most of the country can now go mask-free. And based on projections...
And based on projections, more of the country will reach a point across -- that point -- across the next couple of weeks. And thanks to the progress we've made in the past year, COVID-19 no longer need control our lives.
I know some are talking about living with COVID-19. But tonight, I say that we never will just accept living with COVID-19. We'll continue to combat the virus, as we do other diseases. And because this virus mutates and spreads, we have to stay on guard.
And here are four common-sense steps as we move forward safely, in my view. First, stay protected with vaccines and treatments. We know how incredibly effective vaccines are. If you're vaccinated and boosted, you have the highest degree of protection. And we'll never give up on vaccinating more Americans.
Now, I know parents with kids under 5 are eager to see their vaccines authorized for their children. Scientists are working hard to get that done. And we'll be ready with plenty of vaccines if and when they do. We're all ready. We are also ready with antiviral treatments.
If you get COVID-19, the Pfizer pill reduces your chances of ending up in the hospital by 90 percent. I have ordered more pills than anyone in the world has. Pfizer's working overtime to get us a million pills this month and more than double that next month.
And now we're launching the Test to Treat initiative, so people can get tested at a pharmacy, and if they prove positive, receive the antiviral pills on the spot at no cost.
Folks, if you're -- if you're immunocompromised or have some other vulnerability, we have treatments and free high-quality masks. We're leaving no one behind or ignoring anyone's needs as we move forward.
On testing, we have made hundreds of millions of tests available, and you can order them for free to your doorstep. And we've already ordered free tests -- if you already ordered free tests tonight, I'm announcing you can order another group of tests, COVID -- go to covidtest.gov starting next week and you can get more tests.
Second, we must prepare for new variants. Over the past, we've gotten much better at detecting new variants. If necessary, we'll be able to develop new vaccines within 100 days instead of, maybe, months or years. And if Congress provides the funds we need, we'll have new stockpiles of tests, masks, pills, ready if needed.
I can't promise a new variant won't come, but I -- I can promise you we'll do everything within our power to be ready if it does.
... we can end the shutdown of schools and businesses. We have the tools we need. It's time for America to get back to work and fill our great downtowns again with people. People working from home can feel safe and begin to return to their offices.
We're doing that here in the federal government. The vast majority of federal workers will once again work in person.
Our schools are open. Let's keep it that way.
Our kids need to be in school.
You know, 75 -- 75 percent of adult Americans fully vaccinated, and hospitalizations down by 77 percent, most Americans can remove their masks and stay in the classroom and move forward safely.
We achieved this because we provided free vaccines, treatments, tests and masks. Of course, continuing this costs money. So it will not surprise you I'll be back to see you all.
And I'm going to soon send a request to Congress. The vast majority of Americans have used these tools and may want again -- we may need them again. So I expect Congress, and I hope you'll pass that quickly.
Fourth, we'll continue vaccinating the world. We've sent 475 million vaccine doses to 112 countries, more than any nation on earth.
We won't stop. Because you can't build a wall high enough to keep out a -- a vaccine -- the vaccine can stop the spread of these diseases.
You know, we've lost so much in COVID-19, time with one another, and worst of all, much loss of life.
Let's use this moment to reset. So stop looking at COVID as a partisan dividing line. See it for what it is, a godawful disease. Let's stop sending -- seeing each other as enemies and start seeing each other for who we are, fellow Americans.
We can't change how divided we've been. It was a long time in coming. But we can change how to move forward, on COVID-19 and other issues that we must face together.
I recently visited New York City Police Department days after the funerals of Officer Wilbert Mora and his partner officer Jason Rivera. They were responding to a 911 call when a man shot and killed them with a stolen gun.
Officer Mora was 27 years old; Officer Rivera was 22 years old, both Dominican Americans who grew up on the same streets that they later chose to parole -- to patrol as police officers. I spoke with their families. And I told them that we were forever in debt for their sacrifices. And we'll carry on their mission to restore the trust and safety that every community deserves.
Like some of you that have been around for a while, I've worked with you on these issues for a long time. I know what works, investigating, crime prevention and community policing, cops who walk the beat, who know the neighborhood, and who can restore trust and safety.
Let's not abandon our streets or choose between safety and equal justice. Let's come together and protect our communities, restore trust and hold law enforcement accountable.
That's why the Justice Department has required body cameras, banned chokeholds and restricted no-knock warrants for its officers. That's why the American Rescue Plan, that you all provided $350 billion, that cities, states and counties can use to hire more police, invest in more proven strategies...
... proven strategies like -- proven strategies like community violence interruption, trusted messengers, breaking the cycle of violence and trauma and giving young people some hope. We should all agree the answer is not to defund the police.
(APPLAUSE): That's right!
BIDEN: It's to fund the police.
Fund them with resources and training, resources and training they need to protect our communities.
I ask Democrats and Republicans alike to pass my budget and keep our neighborhoods safe. And we'll do everything in my power to crack down on gun trafficking of ghost guns that you can buy online, assemble at home, no serial numbers, can't be traced.
I ask Congress to pass proven measures to reduce gun violence. Pass universal background checks.
(APPLAUSE) Why should anyone on the terrorist list be able to purchase a weapon? Why?
Folks, ban assault weapons with high-capacity magazines that hold up to a hundred rounds. You think the deer are wearing Kevlar vests?
Look, repeal the liability shield that makes gun manufacturers the only industry in America that can't be sued.
The only one.
Imagine had we done that with the tobacco manufacturers.
These laws don't infringe on the second amendment. They save lives. The most fundamental right in America is the right to vote and have it counted.
And look, it's under assault.
In state after state, new laws have been passed not only to suppress the vote -- we've been there before -- but to subvert the entire election. You can't let this happen.
Tonight, I call on the Senate to pass -- pass the Freedom to Vote Act. Pass the John Lewis Act -- Voting Rights Act.
And while you're at it, pass the DISCLOSE Act so Americans know who is funding our elections.
Look, tonight I would like to honor someone who dedicated his life to serve this country: Justice Breyer, an Army veteran, constitutional scholar, retiring justice of the United States Supreme Court.
Justice Breyer, thank you for your service. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
I mean it. Get up. Let them see you. Thank you.
And we all know, no whatever your ideology, we all one of the most important constitutional responsibility the president has is nominating someone to serve on the United States Supreme Court. As I did four days ago, I've nominated Circuit Court of Appeals' Ketanji Brown Jackson.
One of our nation's top legal minds who will continue in Justice Breyer's legacy of excellence.
A former top litigator in private practice, a former federal public defender, from a family of public school educators and police officers, she's a consensus builder. Since she's been nominated, she's received a broad range of support, including the Fraternal Order of Police and former judges supported by Democrats and Republicans.
Folks, if we're to advance liberty and justice, we need to secure our border and fix the immigration system.
As you might guess, I think we can do both.
At our border, we've installed new technology like cutting edge scanners to better detect drug smuggling. We've set up joint patrols in Mexico and Guatemala to catch more human traffickers. We're putting in place dedicated immigration judges and significant larger number so families fleeing persecution and violence can have their cases heard faster and those who don't legitimately hear it can be sent back.
We're screening. We're securing commitments and supporting partners in South and Central America, to host more refugees and secure their own borders. We can do all of this while keeping lit the torch of liberty that's led the generation of immigrants to this land, my forbearers and many of yours.
Provide a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers, those with temporary status, farm workers, essential workers.
Revise our laws so businesses have workers they need and families don't wait decades to reunite. It's not only the right thing to do, it's economically smart thing to do.
That's why the immigration reform is supported by everyone from labor unions to religious leaders to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Let's get it done once and for all. (APPLAUSE)
Folks -- advancing liberty and justice also requires protecting the rights of women. The constitutional right affirmed by Roe v. Wade, standing precedent for half a century, is under attack as never before. If you want to go forward, not backwards, we must protect access to health care, preserve a woman's right to choose, and continue to advance maternal health care for all Americans.
And, folks, for our LGBTQ+ Americans, let's finally get the bipartisan Equality Act to my desk. The onslaught of state laws targeting transgender Americans and their families is simply wrong.
And I said last year, especially to our younger transgender Americans, I'll always have your back as your president so you can be yourself and reach your God-given potential.
Folks -- as I've just demonstrated, while it often appears we do not agree, and that we do agree on a lot more things than we acknowledge.