Scott also spoke about his experience with discrimination as a Black man, and noted that he had proposed a police reform bill last year that had been blocked by Democrats. Democrats argued that the bill did not go far enough.
Scott also discussed some of the social issues that are motivating voters on the right, such as recent efforts to center the history of slavery and discrimination in the current political conversation. Scott, like other Republicans, argued that Democrats are invoking racism to score political points.
“America is not a racist country,” Scott said. “Race is not a political weapon to settle every issue like one side wants.”
But while he mentioned issues that motivated Republican voters, he only referred to Mr. Trump in passing.
Scott offered an alternative vision for the future as the country begins to emerge from the worst of the coronavirus pandemic, which has shaken the economy and resulted in the deaths of more than half a million Americans.
“I look forward to having an honest conversation with the American people and sharing Republicans’ optimistic vision for expanding opportunity and empowering working families,” Scott said in a statement announcing his response last week.
Scott told reporters at the Capitol on Tuesday that he would “try to keep it simple,” and that he had been practicing his remarks “a bunch.”
“From my perspective, you figure out who your audience is, you figure out what you want to say, you try to find a way to say it well. And you lean into who you are,” Scott said.
After the joint session of Congress, the president and first lady are participating in a photo line with 23 employees of the U.S. Capitol.
The assault on the Capitol was only a little over 100 days ago.
President Biden wrapped his speech by saying autocrats and skeptical nations look at America and think it’s too divisive to succeed.
“They look at the images of the mob that assaulted this Capitol as proof that the sun is setting on American democracy,” the president said, referencing the assault on the nation’s Capitol on January 6.
America has to “prove that democracy still works,” he said.
He said those autocrats are wrong. And America needs to prove it by coming together and leading, he said.
It’s time Americans remembered that here, “We the People are the government.”
Mr. Biden said he reminds other world leaders of one thing in conversation: “It’s never ever ever ever been a good bet to bet against America, and it still isn’t.”
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Mr. Biden called on Congress to pass his immigration reform proposal in response to the increased criticism from Republicans amid the influx of migrants crossing the border.
“If you believe we need a secure border — pass it,” Mr. Biden said. “If you believe in a pathway to citizenship — pass it.”
Mr. Biden’s proposal would allow millions of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. to apply for legal status, increase aid to Central America, refocus border control measures and expand legal immigration. House Democrats have introduced a bill based on this framework, but it has yet to pass in Congress. The House did pass two immigration reform bills last month that would legalize certain subsects of the illegal immigrants in the country.
“If you don’t like my plan, let’s at least pass what we all agree on. Congress needs to pass legislation this year to finally secure citizenship for Dreamers,” Mr. Biden said, referring to migrants who came to the country as children.
He also said that the “root causes” of migration, such as gang violence and political instability, must be addressed.
Biden says gun safety reforms “shouldn’t be a red or blue issue”
Mr. Biden tackled the topic of gun control, something he campaigned on but can do very little about without the aid of Congress.
The president said he’ll do everything he can to address gun violence, but it’s “time for Congress” to address gun violence as well. He urged Republicans to join him in expanding background checks and in banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.
The White House flag has been flying at half staff for the eight victims of the mass shooting in Georgia and for the 10 lives taken in a mass shooting in Colorado.
“I need not tell anyone this, but gun violence has become an epidemic in America.”
The country “supports reform, and Congress should act.”
“This shouldn’t be a red or blue issue,” he said.
Biden calls on Congress to pass comprehensive police reform
Mr. Biden addressed police brutality and racial violence against Black Americans, saying that the country “must come together to heal the soul of this nation.” He referenced George Floyd, a Black man who was killed last year after a police officer pinned his knee on Floyd’s neck for over nine minutes. The officer was found guilty of murder last week.
“It was nearly a year ago before her father’s funeral, when I spoke with Gianna Floyd, George Floyd’s young daughter,” Mr. Biden said, referring to Gianna Floyd’s comment that her father changed the world. “After the conviction of George Floyd’s murderer, we can see how right she was – if we have the courage to act.”
The president said that the time had come to address “the knee of injustice on the neck of Black America” by passing a police reform bill.
“We have to come together to rebuild trust between law enforcement and the people they serve, to root out systemic racism in our criminal justice system, and to enact police reform in George Floyd’s name that passed the House already,” Mr. Biden said, referring to a reform bill approved by the House last month.
However, that legislation has stalled in the Senate, as Republicans oppose a provision that would overhaul qualified immunity, making it easier to bring litigation against law enforcement officers. Mr. Biden referenced ongoing discussions between Republican Senator Tim Scott and Democratic Senator Cory Booker and Congresswoman Karen Bass on potential legislation.
“We need to work together to find a consensus. Let’s get it done next month, by the first anniversary of George Floyd’s death,” Mr. Biden said.
President Biden said he’s made it clear to other world leaders in his conversations with them that America is back.
“I’ve made it known. I’ve made it known that America’s back,” he said, repeating a message he’s said often before.
Their most common response, he said, is, “but for how long?” It’s important that the U.S. show unity, and that the United States will lead not just alone, but “with our allies.”
That’s why it’s important for the U.S to lead on climate, he said.
Mr. Biden said that in his conversation with Chinese President Xi Jinping, he says the U.S. welcomes the competition, but will absolutely defend its interests. Mr. Biden said he also told Xi the U.S. will maintain a strong military presence in the Indo-Pacific to prevent conflict.