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Biden to unveil American Families Plan during address to Congress

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President Biden is delivering his first address to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday night on the eve of his 100th day in office. CBSN Washington reporter Caitlin Huey-Burns and Associated Press White House reporter Zeke Miller join CBSN's "Red & Blue" host Elaine Quijano with analysis.

Video Transcript


ELAINE QUIJANO: Hi, everyone. I'm Elaine Quijano. It is good to be with you. Thanks for joining us for our special coverage tonight ahead of President Biden's first address to a joint session of Congress. The speech comes on the Eve of his 100th day in office, a symbolic benchmark used to evaluate a new administration. So far, the president has signed 41 executive orders. That is more than presidents Trump and Obama at the same point, but Mr. Biden has only signed 11 bills into law, most notably his COVID relief plan.

That is fewer than his past two predecessors, as he's largely only been able to find Democratic support in Congress, but that soon may change. White House officials have been quietly meeting with Republican lawmakers. It's over the GOP's counter-proposal to his $2.3 billion infrastructure and jobs plan. In addition, President Biden is officially introducing his American Families Plan tonight as a, quote, investment in our kids.

It includes investments in child care to make it more affordable for parents and to pay workers better. The measure would also establish a paid family leave program, free community college and pre-kindergarten, and extend child tax credits to fight poverty. While lower and middle income people will see a tax break, the Biden proposal nearly doubles the tax on capital gains for Americans earning more than $1 million per year.

JEN PSAKI: This is a really bold proposal, the American Families Plan. The American Families Plan is going to ensure that kids across the country, families across the country get four years of additional education. Universal pre-k, that's not a partisan proposal. That's something people across the country really could benefit from, but the president believes we should propose a way to pay for it.

So what you're talking about is raising the top rates, the top tax rates, for 1% of Americans, 1%, the top rate, going back to what the rates were during former President George W Bush's presidency to help pay for that, and we think they can afford to do that.

ELAINE QUIJANO: While we look ahead to the speech, there is more news developing. In New York City this afternoon, federal investigators raided the home of former President Trump's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani. Prosecutors reportedly seized his electronic devices when they executed a search warrant. It stems from an ongoing investigation into Giuliani's dealings in Ukraine.

In 2019, Giuliani was involved in then President Trump's efforts to pressure Ukrainian investigators to open anti-corruption probes into his political rivals. At the time, that included the business dealings of Hunter Biden, President Biden's son, and that's where I want to bring in Caitlin Huey-Burns and Zeke Miller. Caitlin is our CBSN Washington reporter. She's on Capitol Hill tonight, and Zeke is a CBSN political contributor and White House reporter for the Associated Press. Welcome to you both.

Caitlin let's start with President Biden's address. There will only be around 200 people in attendance tonight. What do we know about those who are and are not attending?

CAITLIN HUEY-BURNS: That's right, Elaine. This speech is going to look unlike anything that we've seen in the past, given the COVID restrictions. So as you mentioned, only 200 members of Congress are going to be in the room. Usually, there's about 1,600. So it shows kind of how pared down this is. On the House side, House leaders determined who would be invited.

They invited House Committee chairs, and ranking members got the first dibs. And on the Senate side, there was a lottery system to who could attend. So it will be a smaller audience, more spread out. It feels very strange because usually on days like this, you see lawmakers going into the chamber in the early hours of the morning trying to save seats for themselves, get as close to the president as possible, to try to touch the president or interact or get an autograph, even. So you're not going to see any of that this time around, given the COVID restrictions.

You're also not going to see all of the members of the Supreme Court who usually attend. Chief Justice John Roberts will represent them. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff will be representing the military branch. So a much more pared down version, and I think it's also important to note kind of the historical significance of where Biden is giving this speech.

Remember, he had been a Senator for a long time, had been attending these since the 1970s. He, of course, attended eight years worth of addresses to Congress while he was vice president, but just four months ago in this same exact chamber where he will be standing was the insurrection on the Capitol, and insurrectionist trying to prevent the president from being-- the election results from being certified.

So the historic nature of that is something to note as well as the two women who will be seated behind him, Nancy Pelosi and Kamala Harris. For the first time, you'll see two women there. So a lot of history being made with COVID restrictions but also in terms of the House Speaker and the vice president.

ELAINE QUIJANO: Yes, a lot of symbolism tonight. Well, Zeke, after tonight's address, President Biden is going back on the road to sell his American Jobs and Families Plans and to visit a former president. Tell us about that.

ZEKE MILLER: Well, the White House, as in normal years, and Caitlin talked about how this joint address is different than other states of the union and joint addresses in that the setting on the Hill will be different, but what will be the same is that the president and White House aides and senior cabinet officials will all be hitting the road over the next week. The president will be going to Atlanta tomorrow, to Philadelphia on Friday. There he'll be celebrating the 50th anniversary of Amtrak, and then the White House announced that he'll be going to Virginia on Monday as well.

But while he's in Georgia on Thursday, the president's going to be visiting the 39th President, Jimmy Carter, and his wife, Rosalynn. They were not able to attend his inauguration 99 days ago because of COVID and because of their advanced age. But obviously, Jimmy Carter is a beloved figure within the Democratic party. He's an icon in that Joe Biden was the first Democratic Senator to endorse his campaign for president 45 years ago.

Carter is also the longest living president in the retirement age, which is exactly now 40 years and 99 days. So the president will see him on the anniversary of 40 years and 100 days after leaving office.

ELAINE QUIJANO: Wow, really remarkable symbolism there as well. Zeke, it seems that things are still in flux for the Biden administration's infrastructure and jobs proposal, and now the president is looking at another ambitious package. So where do negotiations stand?

ZEKE MILLER: Well, we saw that counteroffer from some Republican lawmakers last week. White House aides made a show of saying they were not dismissing it out of hand the way that they dismissed the Republican counteroffer to the president's COVID relief package a couple of months ago. That said, a lot of outside experts and Democrats on Capitol Hill sort of hold up the Republican proposal against the president's proposal and say they are nowhere close, and that is true. They are very, very far apart, but the president wants to give the legislative process a little bit of time.

That said, that $2.3 trillion proposal that the president put forward was already-- sort of sent the Republicans' eyes open and in sort sticker shock as they sort of come back around on deficit spending now that there's a Democrat in the White House, and now the president is proposing another nearly $2 trillion on top of that. It is a very-- you know, between these two legislative proposals, it is a staggering amount of money, a true effort by the president to redefine the role of government in American society.

Democrats are cheering that, but Republicans are finding a lot of fault with that. So the prospects in getting something through Congress will be very challenging for the president, and that's even with the reconciliation process should Democrats decide to go down that road. They've got to keep their whole conference together, and even that has proven to be a bit of a challenge for the Democrats.

ELAINE QUIJANO: Yeah. I mean, staggering really is the word to describe the price tag on these plans. Well, Caitlin, the talks with Republicans are ongoing. And this afternoon, you actually spoke to one GOP Congressman, Michael McCaul of Texas, about his view of President Biden's first 100 days and the president's new proposals. Let's go ahead and listen to some of your conversation.

MICHAEL MCCAUL: Well, it's been ambitious. I think, you know, my concern is he-- I was at the inauguration. He talked about unity and bringing the country together on both sides of the aisle. I'm on the Republican side, and I've been disappointed that we couldn't have a COVID package that was bipartisan. We were looking at an infrastructure bill that has every potential to be bipartisan.

Now we'll have an announcement on a new education health care proposal that will cost another $2 trillion, and now we're talking about $6 trillion in a matter of 100 days. That's a lot.

ELAINE QUIJANO: So Caitlin, is it clear where there's room for compromise, if there's any room at all to do that?

CAITLIN HUEY-BURNS: Yeah. It's a good question, Elaine, because when it comes to infrastructure, infrastructure is one of those things that always sounds good on paper and something that both sides always say, sure, yeah, we can get on board with infrastructure. But when you actually get down to the details, and by details I mean how much it costs and what exactly infrastructure means, that's where the two sides are very far apart.

As Zeke mentioned, Republicans are really balking at this big, hefty price tag. They say that's a key sticking point even though there are some provisions that they might be able to support, and it's also important to note that Democrats could also have some issues with this proposal that Biden put forward today because it doesn't include yet a lot of the things that they want to see.

It doesn't include an expansion of Medicare, for example. It doesn't include anything addressing prescription drug prices, which they've wanted to address, and they've also wanted to lift the cap on state and local deductions. So I asked Steny Hoyer, the House Majority Leader, about that earlier today. And he said, look, as the legislative process goes forward, those items might be able to be worked in, but you have to get the Democrats on board for this kind of thing, and so that could also push Republicans further apart.

And what's really interesting is to hear from the White House about what they define as bipartisanship these days because, yes, Biden is someone who campaigned on bringing everybody together, campaigned on bipartisanship, but they don't define it as getting support from Republicans, necessarily. They seem to define it as getting support from the American people.

So they point to polling that shows-- our own CBS News polling shows broad support for the broad parameters of the infrastructure plan and how to pay for it, including support for taxing those who make over $400,000 a year and also increasing taxes on corporations. But again, the devil is really in the details here, and Republicans want to show that they're trying to work on this, although their proposal is a quarter of the size, and Democrats are also facing the reality that the midterms are next year, and that makes the political dynamics very difficult to pass these big, bold reforms that they want.

And if they are in danger of losing the House and the Senate, now is the time to kind of go it alone with some of these big proposals. And so that's kind of how the mindsets are on both sides, very entrenched still.

ELAINE QUIJANO: Very entrenched. All right. Zeke, let's turn back to the searches related to two members of former President Trump's legal team, Rudy Giuliani and Victoria Toensing. What do we know about investigations involving them?

ZEKE MILLER: Well, we know this has to do with Rudy Giuliani's business dealings with Ukraine, potentially related to whether or not he registered as a foreign agent and some of the other efforts overseas. Some of that was obviously the subject of former President Trump's first impeachment trial. This investigation according-- sources tell my colleagues at the AP-- was essentially put on hold when senior department of justice officials in the Trump administration would not sign off on the subpoenas that were executed today, subpoenas of any attorney in general, but also of a high profile attorney representing the President of the United States would obviously be elevated to the highest levels of the Department of Justice.

So this is an effort by the Department of Justice here to signing off on the subpoenas that had been recommended by career prosecutors, and those are taking effect. And it will be interesting to see where this investigation goes in the coming weeks and months.

ELAINE QUIJANO: All right. Caitlin-Huey Burns and Zeke Miller, thank you both very much.

ZEKE MILLER: Thank you.