Biden to sell child care and free university in speech to Congress

US President Joe Biden is expected to call for free pre-school and community college in his first speech to a joint session of Congress.

Speaking on the eve of his 100th day in office, the Democrat will call for the most sweeping revamp of US social benefits since the 1960s.

His plan includes $4tn (£2.9tn) of spending on education and family leave.

History will also be made as two women sit behind the president for the first time during a speech to Congress.

US Vice-President Kamala Harris and House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi will both wear masks at the rostrum during Wednesday night’s primetime address.

The US president’s State of the Union-style remarks will be followed by the traditional rebuttal speech from the opposing party – delivered on this occasion by Senator Tim Scott, a South Carolina Republican.

Mr Scott, a potential 2024 White House contender who is African American, is a leading voice in his party on race.

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What will happen at Biden’s speech to Congress?

Mr Biden will speak at 21:00 EDT (02:00 BST on Thursday) from a US Capitol that is still ringed by security fencing and guarded by hundreds of National Guard troops following the storming of the complex on 6 January by pro-Trump protesters.

Ahead of his speech, he will meet congressional staff who were trapped in the building during the riot, the White House said.

Around 1,600 guests usually attend a president’s address to a joint session of Congress. But this time only about 200 people will get invitations because of virus-prevention protocols.

Buoyed by solid approval ratings, Mr Biden will look to the tens of millions of Americans that the White House hopes will tune in from home.

The president will seek to build public support for two massive packages – the American Jobs Plan and the American Families Plan – which analysts project would entail the most far-reaching reform of the US social safety net since the 1960s.

The White House says both proposals if passed by Congress would be “fully paid for” by tax hikes on the richest Americans and corporations.

National Guard troops take up weapons as they guard the US Capitol after rioters attacked the building January 2021
image captionSecurity remains tight around the US Capitol

The American Families Plan, with a price tag of $1.8tn, aims to provide free pre-school for US children aged three to four, paid family leave and free community college, the White House said on Tuesday.

It would also extend until 2025 a child tax credit that was expanded during the pandemic, offering monthly payments to lower-income parents of around $300 per child. Democrats reportedly hope to establish these payments as a permanent government programme.

The White House has indicated the package would be funded by almost doubling the capital gains tax rate on incomes above $1 million to 39.6% and hiking the top income tax bracket for households earning more than $400,000 to the same level.

Reports of Biden plans for an increase in capital gains taxes sparked a stock market sell-off last week.

Source: BBC

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