President Joe Biden’s first address to a joint session of Congress is all but certain to slip into March, making it the latest debut presidential speech to lawmakers in decades.
The Senate’s impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump slowed work on a pandemic relief bill, delaying the originally expected timeline. Two administration officials said Tuesday they didn’t expect Biden to lay out his longer-term economic recovery plan — set to feature in the address to the joint session — until after the recovery bill passes.
That pushes the speech into March, given the current timeline for the Covid-19 assistance legislation. The House intends to hold its first vote on that bill on Feb. 26, with the goal of final passage before March 14 — when key benefits from the previous round of pandemic aid will expire.
The president’s first speech to Congress is generally an opportunity to lay out long-term policy themes as well as shorter-term legislative goals. Biden said last month that he intended to use the platform to unveil his economic recovery plan, expected to cost some trillions of dollars and feature priorities including infrastructure and clean energy.
“Next month, in my first appearance before a joint session of Congress, I will lay out my ‘Build Back Better’ recovery plan,” Biden said on Jan. 14.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki denied Tuesday that he had ever committed to a February speech, telling reporters “it was never planned to be in February, and we don’t have a date for a joint session at this point.”
Trump’s first speech to a joint session — on Feb. 28, 2017 — was the latest of the six presidents going back to Ronald Reagan’s in 1981. George H.W. Bush’s was the earliest, on Feb. 9, 1989.
— With assistance by Billy House