Biden to deliver primetime address this week
President Joe Biden will deliver his first primetime address as commander-in-chief to the nation Thursday evening to commemorate one year since the start of the coronavirus shutdowns.
At Monday’s press briefing, White House press secretary Jen Psaki announced the planned address and teased what the president will say.
“The president will deliver his first primetime address to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the COVID-19 shutdown on Thursday,” Psaki said. “He will discuss the many sacrifices the American people have made over the last year, and the grave loss communities and families across the country have suffered.”
“The president will look forward, highlighting the role that Americans will play in beating the virus and getting the country back to normal,” she added.
It was on March 11 of last year that the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the novel coronavirus a pandemic. Since then, 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and 525,000 Americans have died from it, according to Johns Hopkins University. Currently, the U.S. unemployment rate sits at 6.2%, according to the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics data.
“The American people know that the reason why we have a recession, the reason why so many families are concerned about putting food on the table, the reason why parents around the country are worried about the impact of closed schools on their kids’ mental health and their learning because of the pandemic,” Psaki also said.
“And it is the number-one issue and priority on the mind of the president, the vice president and our entire team,” Psaki added. “Of course, this week marks one year since the country was essentially shut down as a result of a pandemic, and it’s important to note, of course, what steps have been taken and what progress has been made.”
Biden’s Thursday address will be his first major speech since his January 20 inaugural address. He has yet to hold a formal press briefing where he takes questions from reporters and has yet to set a date to deliver a speech to a joint session of Congress.
“We certainly intend on the president delivering a joint session speech, not a State of the Union, in the first year that they are in office,” Psaki said Friday.
“But we don’t have a date for that or a timeline at this point in time,” the press secretary continued. “And we have been engaged closely with leaders in Congress about determining that.”
Earlier that week, Psaki was also asked about the delay and she said the president will wait to address a joint session of Congress until after lawmakers voted on the American Rescue Plan, Biden’s COVID-19 relief package.
“When it became clear, which it should have been from the beginning, that the American Rescue Plan would take until about, hopefully, about mid-March to get passed and signed into law, we made a decision internally that we weren’t going to have the president propose his forward-looking agenda beyond that,” Psaki said, mentioning that portion’s of the president’s “Build Back Better” agenda are “still being determined” and that there are still discussions taking place “internally.”
She asserted, however, that he would not deliver his address “until after that bill is signed, until after those checks are going out to Americans, until after that vaccine money is going out, and after the money is going out to schools.”
On Saturday, after grueling negotiations, the U.S. Senate passed its version of the $1.9 trillion package along party lines. This week, the House of Representatives is expected to consider the Senate-approved legislation.
On Friday, Psaki also said that Biden will hold his first formal press briefing before the end of March.
You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.