Facebook Twitter

What to expect from President Joe Biden’s first speech to a joint session of Congress

President Biden will introduce the American Families Plan and discuss his priorities for the next year during Wednesday evening’s address

SHARE What to expect from President Joe Biden’s first speech to a joint session of Congress
Lights shine inside the U.S. Capitol Building as night falls in Washington, D.C.

In this Jan. 21, 2018, photo, lights shine inside the U.S. Capitol as night falls in Washington.

J. David Ake, Associated Press

President Joe Biden will give a speech to a joint session of Congress Wednesday night to outline his priories for the year and encourage Congress — and the American people — to support large legislative efforts he thinks will provide a brighter future.

The president’s Capitol address — on the evening of his 99th day in the Oval Office — comes nearly four months after a mob of supporters of the former president tried to prevent Congress from certifying the results of Biden’s election victory.

Because of the more than yearlong pandemic, Biden will give his address to an abbreviated, in-person audience of America’s three branches of government. Even the president’s Cabinet will be watching the address remotely.

Here’s what you need to know about how to watch and what to expect from Biden’s address to the joint session of Congress:

How to watch and stream:

The president’s speech from the House camber will begin at 7 p.m. MT (9 p.m. at the Capitol) and will be broadcasted on all major television news networks.

Radio fans — or those not in their living rooms during the address — will be able to listen to Biden’s speech on National Public Radio.

History of the presidential speeches to Congress

The U.S. Constitution directs the president to address a joint session of Congress to provide an update of on the nation and express his priorities. The president “shall from time to time give to the Congress information of the state of the union, and recommend to their consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient,” Article II, Section 3 of the Constitution reads.

  • The name of this address has changed during America’s short history, from the Annual Message to the State of the Union.
  • Biden’s address on Wednesday will generally be referred to as a speech to a joint session of Congress — not a State of the Union — because it is given during his first few months in the White House.
  • “Every president since Ronald Reagan has chosen to call their first speech before a joint session of Congress — which is generally more foreword-looking than the speeches that come in the following years — something other than a State of the Union address,” according to CBS News.

What to expect from Biden’s first address

During his first 100 days in the Oval Office, Biden has signed an array of executive orders, enacted a coronavirus stimulus bill and proposed legislation — like the American Jobs Plan and gun control reform— which he hopes lawmakers will send to the Resolute Desk for his signature. He will most likely reiterate his reasons for some of this actions and address his priorities for Congress.

  • “His prime-time speech will underscore a trio of central campaign promises: to manage the deadly pandemic, to turn down the tension in Washington and to restore faith in government as an effective force for good,” The Associated Press reported.

Also on Wednesday night, Biden is expected to introduce a new proposal: the American Families Plan.

  • “Experts expect the proposal to include paid family leave, free or at least reduced-price community college, universal pre-K, child care funding and more food assistance,” the Deseret News reported.
  • The to-be-proposed legislation is predicted to cost around $1.5 trillion or more.

Biden will also provide an update on America’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and is expected to talk about the country’s vaccination program and the early results of the American Rescue Plan, The Associates Press reported.

Why is there no designated survivor and or packed House?

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said there would not be a “designated survivor” for Wednesday’s speech because the complete presidential line of succession will not be in the Capitol. Coronavirus protocols have limited attendance.

“There does not need to be a designated survivor because the Cabinet will be watching from their offices or home,” said Psaki, Politico reported.

  • A designated survivor typically will not attend the Capitol for the president’s address in case of disaster and the attendees — including Congress, the Supreme Court and members of the president’s Cabinet — are harmed or killed.
  • “Around 200 people in all are expected at the speech, instead of the roughly 1,600 who typically attend. First lady Jill Biden will be in the audience, along with Vice President (Kamala) Harris and second gentleman Doug Emhoff. Chief Justice John Roberts will be the only Supreme Court justice in attendance, and while Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken will be there, most of the Cabinet will not,” according to NPR.
  • Lawmakers who do attend the address will not be able to bring guests, Politico reported.