White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Friday said President Biden is not “snubbing” Congress by delaying his joint address, pointing to the coronavirus pandemic and saying the administration has been “engaged closely” with congressional leadership regarding their plans.
No date for the address has yet been scheduled, even though the president had suggested it would take place in February.
Psaki was pressed on Friday during the White House press briefing on what the cause for the delay was, as most presidents deliver a joint address to Congress within the first weeks of their administration to lay out their policy proposals, and she was asked whether he would deliver an address at all.
“There is not — it is not a snubbing happening here,” Psaki said. “We are in the middle of a global pandemic, and of course, any joint session speech would look different than the past.”
Psaki said, “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.”
“But we don’t have a date for that or a timeline at this point in time,” she continued. “And we have been engaged closely with leaders in Congress about determining that.”
Psaki was also asked about the delay earlier in the week, and she said Biden will wait address a joint session of Congress until after Congress decides on the American Rescue Plan, his coronavirus 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, noting that parts of Biden’s “Build Back Better” agenda are “still being determined” and that there are still discussions ongoing “internally.”
Psaki maintained, though, 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.”
Lawmakers are racing to send the legislation to Biden’s desk before March 14, when more than 11 million Americans will lose their jobless aid when two key federal jobless aid programs created a year ago under the CARES Act — and extended in the $900 billion relief package that Congress passed in December — lapse.
Meanwhile, as for his first address to Congress, past presidents have traditionally given a speech to Congress during their first year in office, often in February. An address to a joint session of Congress is like a State of the Union, though it technically is not called that until the president’s second year in office.
Typically, new presidents deliver their addresses just weeks after the inauguration.
Former President George H.W. Bush delivered one of the earliest addresses to a joint session, taking place on Feb. 9, 1989. Former President Trump delivered one of the latest — his address was on Feb. 28, 2017.
Former President Obama delivered his address on Feb. 24, 2009; former President George W. Bush delivered his on Feb. 27, 2001; and former President Clinton delivered his on Feb. 17.
Presidents, during their first congressional address, tend to establish the tone of their new administration, with optimistic language to look ahead, and to set their legislative agenda as well as outline their positions on a range of policy issues.
Since taking office, Biden has signed dozens of executive orders, actions and directives, with government officials telling Fox News that the moves are “previews” of the agenda items the president will push in Congress. They have been focused on environmental regulations, the climate crisis, immigration policies, racial justice, health care and more.