Tag Archives: President Joe Biden

On 49th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade, Biden-Harris Commit to Protecting Women’s Reproductive Rights; HHS Acts

New York City Women’s Rally to protect Roe v. Wade © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

On the 49th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris issued a statement asserting their commitment to protecting women’s reproductive freedom:

The constitutional right established in Roe v. Wade nearly 50 years ago today is under assault as never before. It is a right we believe should be codified into law, and we pledge to defend it with every tool we possess. We are deeply committed to protecting access to health care, including reproductive health care—and to ensuring that this country is not pushed backwards on women’s equality.

In recent years, we have seen efforts to restrict access to reproductive health care increase at an alarming rate. In Texas, Mississippi, and many other states around the country, access to reproductive health care is under attack. These state restrictions constrain the freedom of all women. And they are particularly devastating for those who have fewer options and fewer resources, such as those in underserved communities, including communities of color and many in rural areas.

The Biden-Harris Administration strongly supports efforts to codify Roe, and we will continue to work with Congress on the Women’s Health Protection Act. All people deserve access to reproductive health care regardless of their gender, income, race, zip code, health insurance status, immigration status, disability, or sexual orientation. And the continued defense of this constitutional right is essential to our health, safety, and progress as a nation.

We must ensure that our daughters and granddaughters have the same fundamental rights that their mothers and grandmothers fought for and won on this day, 49 years ago—including leaders like the late Sarah Weddington, whose successful arguments before the Supreme Court led to the landmark Roe v. Wade decision in 1973.

At this pivotal moment, we recommit to strengthening access to critical reproductive health care, defending the constitutional right established by Roe, and protecting the freedom of all people to build their own future.

Watch the Vice President’s Exclusive with Elle Magazine Marking the 49th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade

The Vice President recorded a video message reiterating our administration’s commitment to protecting constitutional rights. “Roe v. Wade advanced women’s equality and that case saved women’s lives,” Harris says in the video. Read the Full Exclusive Here

HHS Secretary Becerra Takes Action to Protect Reproductive Health Care

New Task Force Launched on Eve of Roe v. Wade Anniversary

Today, on the eve of the 49th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra announced the first-ever HHS Intra-agency Task Force on Reproductive Healthcare Access.

The task force includes subject matter experts from across the department. The HHS Assistant Secretary for Health and the HHS Assistant Secretary for Global Affairs will serve as the co-chairs of this coordinating body. The task force’s primary goal is to facilitate collaborative, innovative, transparent, equitable, and action-oriented approaches to protect and bolster sexual and reproductive health.

“As we commemorate the 49th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, we recommit to protecting and strengthening access to reproductive health care, including the right to safe and legal abortion care that the Supreme Court has recognized for decades,” said Secretary Becerra. “Patients have the right to make decisions about their own bodies. In light of restrictive laws across the nation, HHS will evaluate the impact on patients and our communities. That’s why today, I have launched the first Intra-agency Task Force on Reproductive Healthcare Access. Once again, we are telling health care providers and patients, we have your back.”

“Across America, we must protect access to sexual and reproductive health,” said HHS Assistant Secretary for Health Admiral Rachel Levine, MD. “Establishing a new task force dedicated to this critical public health topic will advance policies that improve reproductive health care access within Federal programs and services, eliminate health disparities, and expand access to culturally competent health care services for underserved communities, including people of color, people with disabilities, young people, LGBTQI+ people, and others.”

“Advancing sexual and reproductive health and rights is central to our core global health goals, including our focus on addressing health inequities and expanding access to universal health coverage,” said HHS Assistant Secretary for Global Affairs Loyce Pace. “In order to build back better in the U.S. and around the world, we must ensure that all people can access high quality health care, including sexual and reproductive health care services.”

HHS has taken several meaningful actions under the Biden-Harris Administration to protect and bolster reproductive health, rights, and justice, including:

  • The Department issued a new final rule for Title X, the nation’s family planning program, to ensure access to equitable, affordable, client-centered, quality family planning services.
  • The Department announced $6.6 million through the Title X family planning program to address the demand for family planning services where restrictive laws and policies have impacted reproductive health access, or in states where there is a lack of or limited Title X access.
  • The Department has advanced maternal health priorities, including expanding access to postpartum Medicaid coverage, rural health care services, and implicit bias training.
  • The Department has issued guidance on both nondiscrimination requirements of the Church Amendments protecting health care providers through its Office for Civil Rights and providers’ legal obligations and protections under the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA) through the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to provide medical treatment to a pregnant patient who presents to the emergency department regardless of conflicting state laws or mandates that might seek to prevent such treatment.

President Biden Pushes for Voting Rights: ‘This is a defining moment in history. To protect democracy, change the Senate rules’

“To protect our democracy, I support changing the Senate rules..to prevent a minority of senators from blocking action on voting rights,President Joe Biden declared in a speech in Atlanta, “cradle of civil rights,” demanding passage of laws to voting rights © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com via msnbc.

President Joe Biden delivered a forceful speech delivered in Atlanta, Georgia, the “cradle of civil rights,” demanding the Senate pass voting rights protections, at one point slamming his hand down on the podium. The “institutionalist” who spent decades in the Senate, he came out as supporting overturning the filibuster – a relic of segregation and Jim Crow – which has been weaponized by Republicans, giving tyrannical control of the minority over the majority.

“To protect our democracy, I support changing the Senate rules..to prevent a minority of senators from blocking action on voting rights,” he declared.

Here is a highlighted transcript of his remarks:

In our lives and the lives of our nation — the life of our nation, there are moments so stark that they divide all that came before from everything that followed.  They stop time.  They rip away the trivial from the essential.  And they force us to confront hard truths about ourselves, about our institutions, and about our democracy.
 
In the words of Scripture, they remind us to “hate evil, love good, and establish justice in the gate.”
 
Last week, [Vice] President Harris and I stood in the United States Capitol to observe one of those “before and after” moments in American history: January 6th insurrection on the citadel of our democracy.
 
Today, we come to Atlanta — the cradle of civil rights — to make clear what must come after that dreadful day when a dagger was literally held at the throat of American democracy.
 
We stand on the grounds that connect Clark Atlanta — Atlanta University, Morehouse College, and near Spellman College — the home of generations of advocates, activists, educators and preachers; young people, just like the students here, who have done so much to build a better America.  (Applause.)
 
We visited the sacred Ebenezer Baptist Church and paused to prayed at the crypt of Dr. and Mrs. King, and spent time with their family.  And here in the district — as was pointed out — represented and reflected the life of beloved friend, John Lewis.
 
In their lifetimes, time stopped when a bomb blew up the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham and murdered four little girls.
 
[Time] stopped when John and many others seeking justice were beaten and bloodied while crossing the bridge at Selma named after the Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan.
 
They stopped — time stopped, and they forced the country to confront the hard truths and to act — to act to keep the promise of America alive: the promise that holds that we’re all created equal but, more importantly, deserve to be treated equally.  And from those moments of darkness and despair came light and hope.
 
Democrats, Republicans, and independents worked to pass the historic Civil Rights Act and the voting rights legislation.  And each successive generation continued that ongoing work.
 
But then the violent mob of January 6th, 2021, empowered and encouraged by a defeated former president, sought to win through violence what he had lost at the ballot box, to impose the will of the mob, to overturn a free and fair election, and, for the first time — the first time in American history, they — to stop the peaceful transfer of power.
 
They failed.
  They failed.  (Applause.)  But democracy’s victory was not certain, nor is democracy’s future.
 
That’s why we’re here today to stand against the forces in America that value power over principle, forces that attempted a coup — a coup against the legally expressed will of the American people — by sowing doubt, inventing charges of fraud, and seeking to steal the 2020 election from the people.
 
They want chaos to reign.  We want the people to rule.
  (Applause.)
 
But let me be clear: This is not about me or Vice President Harris or our party; it’s about all of us.  It’s about the people.  It’s about America.
 
Hear me plainly: The battle for the soul of America is not over.  We must stand strong and stand together to make sure January 6th marks not the end of democracy but the beginning of a renaissance of our democracy.  (Applause.)
 
You know, for the right to vote and to have that vote counted is democracy’s threshold liberty.  Without it, nothing is possible, but with it, anything is possible.
 
But while the denial of fair and free elections is un-democratic, it is not unprecedented.
 
Black Americans were denied full citizenship and voting rights until 1965.  Women were denied the right to vote until just 100 years ago.  The United States Supreme Court, in recent years, has weakened the Voting Rights Act.  And now the defeated former president and his supporters use the Big Lie about the 2020 election to fuel torrent and torment and anti-voting laws — new laws designed to suppress your vote, to subvert our elections.
 
Here in Georgia, for years, you’ve done the hard work of democracy: registering voters, educating voters, getting voters to the polls.  You’ve built a broad coalition of voters: Black, white, Latino, Asian American, urban, suburban, rural, working class, and middle class. 
 
And it’s worked: You’ve changed the state by bringing more people, legally, to the polls.  (Applause.)  That’s how you won the historic elections of Senator Raphael Warnock and Senator Jon Ossoff.  (Applause.) 
 
You did it — you did it the right way, the democratic way.
 
And what’s been the reaction of Republicans in Georgia?  Choose the wrong way, the undemocratic way.  To them, too many people voting in a democracy is a problem.  So they’re putting up obstacles.
 
For example, voting by mail is a safe and convenient way to get more people to vote, so they’re making it harder for you to vote by mail. 
 
The same way, I might add, in the 2020 Election, President Trump voted from behind the desk in the White House — in Florida. 
 
Dropping your ballots off to secure drop boxes — it’s safe, it’s convenient, and you get more people to vote.  So they’re limiting the number of drop boxes and the hours you can use them. 
 
Taking away the options has a predictable effect: longer lines at the polls, lines that can last for hours.  You’ve seen it with your own eyes.  People get tired and they get hungry.
 
When the Bible teaches us to feed the hungry and give water to the thirsty, the new Georgia law actually makes it illegal — think of this — I mean, it’s 2020, and now ’22, going into that election — it makes it illegal to bring your neighbors, your fellow voters food or water while they wait in line to vote.  What in the hell — heck are we talking about?  (Laughter and applause.)
 
I mean, think about it.  (Applause.)  That’s not America.  That’s what it looks like when they suppress the right to vote. 
 
And here’s how they plan to subvert the election: The Georgia Republican Party, the state legislature has now given itself the power to make it easier for partisan actors — their cronies — to remove local election officials. 

Think about that.  What happened in the last election?  The former president and allies pursued, threatened, and intimidated state and local election officials.
 
Election workers — ordinary citizens — were subject to death threats, menacing phone calls, people stalking them in their homes.
 
Remember what the defeated former president said to the highest-ranking election official — a Republican — in this state?  He said, quote, “I just want to find 11,780 votes.” 
 
Pray God.  (Laughter.)  He didn’t say that part.  (Laughter.)
 
He didn’t say, “Count the votes.”  He said, “find votes” that he needed to win.
 
He failed because of the courageous officials — Democrats, Republicans — who did their duty and upheld the law.  (Applause.)
 
But with this new law in Georgia, his loyal- — his loyalists will be placed in charge of state elections.  (Laughs.)  What is that going to mean?  Well, the chances for chaos and subversion are even greater as partisans seek the result they want — no matter what the voters have said, no matter what the count.  The votes of nearly 5 million Georgians will be up for grabs if that law holds.
 
It’s not just here in Georgia.  Last year alone, 19 states not proposed but enacted 34 laws attacking voting rights.  There were nearly 400 additional bills Republican members of state legislatures tried to pass.  And now, Republican legislators in several states have already announced plans to escalate the onslaught this year.
 
Their endgame?  To turn the will of the voters into a mere suggestion — something states can respect or ignore.
 
Jim Crow 2.0 is about two insidious things: voter suppression and election subversion.  It’s no longer about who gets to vote; it’s about making it harder to vote.  It’s about who gets to count the vote and whether your vote counts at all.
 
It’s not hyperbole; this is a fact. 
 
Look, this matters to all of us.  The goal of the former president and his allies is to disenfranchise anyone who votes against them.  Simple as that.  The facts won’t matter; your vote won’t matter.  They’ll just decide what they want and then do it.
 
That’s the kind of power you see in totalitarian states, not in democracies. 

We must be vigilant.
 
And the world is watching.  I know the majority of the world leaders — the good and the bad ones, adversaries and allies alike.  They’re watching American democracy and seeing whether we can meet this moment.  And that’s not hyperbole.
 
When I showed up at the G7 with seven other world leaders — there were a total of nine present — Vice President Harris and I have spent our careers doing this work — I said, “America is back.”  And the response was, “For how long?”  “For how long?” 

As someone who’s worked in foreign policy my whole life, I never thought I would ever hear our allies say something like that.
 
Over the past year, we’ve directed federal agencies to promote access to voting, led by the Vice President.  We’ve appointed top civil rights advocates to help the U.S. Department of Justice, which has doubled its voting rights enforcement staff.
 
And today, we call on Congress to get done what history will judge: Pass the Freedom to Vote Act.  (Applause.)  Pass it now — (applause) — which would prevent voter suppression so that here in Georgia there’s full access to voting by mail, there are enough drop boxes during enough hours so that you can bring food and water as well to people waiting in line. 
 
The Freedom to Vote Act takes on election subversion to protect nonpartisan electors [election] officials, who are doing their job, from intimidation and interference.
 
It would get dark money out of politics, create fairer district maps and ending partisan gerrymandering.  (Applause.)
 
Look, it’s also time to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.
  (Applause.) 
 
I’ve been having these quiet conversations with the members of Congress for the last two months.  I’m tired of being quiet!  (Applause.)
 
Folks, it’ll restore the strength of the Voting Rights Act of ’65 — the one President Johnson signed after John Lewis was beaten, nearly killed on Bloody Sunday, only to have the Supreme Court weaken it multiple times over the past decade.
 
Restoring the Voting Rights Act would mean the Justice Department can stop discriminatory laws before they go into effect — before they go into effect.  (Applause.) 
The Vice President and I have supported voting rights bills since day one of this administration.  But each and every time, Senate Republicans have blocked the way.  Republicans oppose even debating the issue.  You hear me?

I’ve been around the Senate a long time.  I was Vice President for eight years.  I’ve never seen a circumstance where not one single Republican has a voice that’s ready to speak for justice now.

When I was a senator, including when I headed up the Judiciary Committee, I helped reauthorize the Voting [Rights] Act three times.  We held hearings.  We debated.  We voted.  I was able to extend the Voting Rights Act for 25 years.

In 2006, the Voting Rights Act passed 390 to 33 in
the House of Representatives and 98 to 0 in the Senate with votes from 16 current sitting Republicans in this United States Senate.  Sixteen of them voted to extend it.

The last year I was chairman, as some of my friends sitting down here will tell you, Strom Thurmond voted to extend the Voting Rights Act.  Strom Thurmond.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Wow.

THE PRESIDENT:   You can say that again: “Wow.”  You have no idea how damn ha- — how darn hard I worked on that one.  (Laughter and applause.)

But, folks, then it was signed into law, the last time, by President George W. Bush.

You know, when we got voting rights extended in the 1980s, as I’ve said, even Thurmond supported it.  Think about that.  The man who led one of the longest filibusters in history in the United States Senate in 1957 against the Voting Rights Act [Civil Rights Act].  The man who led and sided with the old Southern Bulls in the United States Senate to perpetuate segregation in this nation.  Even Strom Thurmond came to support voting rights.

But Republicans today can’t and won’t.  Not a single Republican has displayed the courage to stand up to a defeated president to protect America’s right to vote.  Not one.  Not one.

We have 50-50 in the United States Senate.  That means we have 51 presidents.  (Laughter.)  You all think I’m kidding.  (Laughter.)

I’ve been pretty good at working with senators my whole career.  But, man, when you got 51 presidents, it gets harder.  Any one can change the outcome.

Sadly, the United States Senate — designed to be the world’s greatest deliberative body — has been rendered a shell of its former self.  It gives me no satisfaction in saying that, as an institutionalist, as a man who was honored to serve in the Senate.
 
But as an institutionalist, I believe that the threat to
our democracy is so grave that we must find a way to pass these voting rights bills, debate them, vote. 
 
Let the majority prevail.  (Applause.)  And if that bare minimum is blocked, we have no option but to change the Senate rules, including getting rid of the filibuster for this.
  (Applause.)

You know, last year, if I’m not mistaken, the filibuster was used 154 times.  The filibuster has been used to generate compromise in the past and promote some bipartisanship.  But it’s also been used to obstruct — including and especially obstruct civil rights and voting rights.

And when it was used, senators traditionally used to have to stand and speak at their desks for however long it took, and sometimes it took hours.  And when they sat down, if no one immediately stood up, anyone could call for a vote or the debate ended.

But that doesn’t happen today.  Senators no longer even have to speak one word.  The filibuster is not used by Republicans to bring the Senate together but to pull it further apart.

The filibuster has been weaponized and abused.

While the state legislatures’ assault on voting rights is simple — all you need in your House and Senate is a pure majority — in the United States Senate, it takes a supermajority: 60 votes, even to get a vote — instead of 50 — to protect the right to vote.

State legislatures can pass anti-voting laws with simple majorities.  If they can do that, then the United States Senate should be able to protect voting rights by a simple majority.  (Applause.)

Today I’m making it clear: To protect our democracy, I support changing the Senate rules, whichever way they need to be changed — (applause) — to prevent a minority of senators from blocking action on voting rights.  (Applause.)  

When it comes to protecting majority rule in America, the majority should rule in the United States Senate.  
 
I make this announcement with careful deliberation, recognizing the fundamental right to vote is the right from which all other rights flow.
 
And I make it with an appeal to my Republican colleagues, to those Republicans who believe in the rule of law: Restore the bipartisan tradition of voting rights. 

The people who restored it, who abided by it in the past were Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush.  They all supported the Voting Rights Act.

Don’t let the Republican Party morph into something else.  Restore the institution of the Senate the way it was designed to be.

Senate rules were just changed to raise the debt ceiling so we wouldn’t renege on our debt for the first time in our history and prevent an economic crisis.  That was done by a simple majority.

As Senator Warnock said a few weeks ago in a powerful speech: If we change the rules to protect the full faith and credit of the United States, we should be able to change the rules to protect the heart and soul of our democracy.  (Applause.)  He was right.

In the days that followed John Lewis’s death, there was an outpouring of praise and support across the political spectrum.

But as we stand here today, it isn’t enough just to praise his memory.  We must translate eulogy into action.  We need to follow John Lewis’s footsteps.  We need to support the bill in his name.

Just a few days ago, we talked about — up in the Congress and in the White House — the event coming up shortly to celebrate Dr. King’s birthday.  And Americans of all stripes will praise him for the content of his character.

But as Dr. King’s family said before, it’s not enough to praise their father.  They even said: On this holiday, don’t celebrate his birthday unless you’re willing to support what he lived for and what he died for.  (Applause.)

The next few days, when these bills come to a vote, will mark a turning point in this nation’s history.

We will choose — the issue is: Will we choose democracy over autocracy, light over shadows, justice over injustice? 

I know where I stand.  I will not yield.  I will not flinch.  I will defend the right to vote, our democracy against all enemies — foreign and, yes, domestic.  (Applause.)

And the question is: Where will the institution of the United States Senate stand?  Every senator — Democrat, Republican, and independent — will have to declare where they stand, not just for the moment, but for the ages.

Will you stand against voter suppression?  Yes or no?  That’s the question they’ll answer.  Will you stand against election subversion?  Yes or no?  Will you stand for democracy?  Yes or no?

And here’s one thing every senator and every American should remember: History has never been kind to those who have sided with voter suppression over voters’ rights.  And it will be even less kind for those who side with election subversion.
 
So, I ask every elected official in America: How do you want to be remembered? 

At consequential moments in history, they present a choice: Do you want to be the side of Dr. King or George Wallace?  Do you want to be on the side of John Lewis or Bull Connor?  Do you want to be on the side of Abraham Lincoln or Jefferson Davis?

This is the moment to decide to defend our elections, to defend our democracy.  (Applause.)

And if you do that, you will not be alone.  That’s because the struggle to protect voting rights has never been borne by one group alone.

We saw Freedom Riders of every race.  Leaders of every faith marching arm in arm.  And, yes, Democrats and Republicans in Congress of the United States and in the presidency.

I did not live the struggle of Douglass, Tubman, King, Lewis, Goodman, Chaney, and Schwerner, and countless others — known and unknown.

I did not walk in the shoes of generations of students who walked these grounds.  But I walked other grounds.  Because I’m so damn old, I was there as well.  (Laughter.)

You think I’m kidding, man.  (Laughter.)  It seems like yesterday the first time I got arrested.  Anyway — (laughter).

But their struggles here — they were the ones that opened my eyes as a high school student in the late — in the late ’50s and early ’60s.  They got me more engaged in the work of my life.

And what we’re talking about today is rooted in the very idea of America — the idea that Annell Ponder, who graduated
from Clark Atlanta, captured in a single word.  She was a teacher and librarian who was also an unyielding champion of voting rights.

In 1963 — when I was just starting college at university — after registering voters in Mississippi, she was pulled off a bus, arrested, and jailed, where she was brutally beaten.

In her cell, next to her, was Fannie Lou Hamer, who described the beating this way, and I quote: “I could hear the sounds of [the] licks and [the] horrible screams…They beat her, I don’t know [for] how long.  And after a while, she began to pray, and asked God to have mercy on those people.”

Annell Ponder’s friends visited her the next day.  Her face was badly swollen.  She could hardly talk.

But she managed to whisper one word: “Freedom.”  “Freedom” — the only word she whispered.

After nearly 250 years since our founding, that singular idea still echoes.  But it’s up to all of us to make sure it never fades, especially the students here — your generation that just started voting — as there are those who are trying to take away that vi- — vote you just started to be able to exercise. 

But the giants we honor today were your age when they made clear who we must be as a nation.  Not a joke.  Think about it.  In the early ’60s, they were sitting where you’re sitting.  They were you.  And like them, you give me much hope for the future.

Before and after in our lives — and in the life of the nation — democracy is who we are, who we must be — now and forever.  So, let’s stand in this breach together.  Let’s love good, establish justice in the gate. 

And remember, as I said, there is one — this is one of those defining moments in American history: Each of those who vote will be remembered by class after class, in the ’50s and ’60s — the 2050s and ’60s.  Each one of the members of the Senate is going to be judged by history on where they stood before the vote and where they stood after the vote. 

There’s no escape.  So, let’s get back to work. 

As my grandfather Finnegan used to say every time I walked out the door in Scranton, he’d say, “Joey, keep the faith.”  Then he’d say, “No, Joey, spread it.” 

Let’s spread the faith and get this done.  (Applause.) 

May God bless you all.  And may God protect the sacred right to vote.  (Applause.)  Thank you.  I mean it.  Let’s go get this done.  Thank you.

Biden Marks January 6th: ‘I will defend this nation. And I will allow no one to place a dagger at the throat of our democracy’

President Joe Biden marks the one-year anniversary of the January 6th insurrection in the Capitol Rotunda: “I will defend this nation.  And I will allow no one to place a dagger at the throat of our democracy.. Here in America, the people rule through the ballot, and their will prevails.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com via msnbc

President Joe Biden spoke to the nation on the day marking the one year anniversary of the January 6 insurrection, the attack on the Capitol and Congress aimed at impeding the Constitutional requirement for Congress to certify the results of the 2020 presidential election and interfere with the peaceful transition of power. In his address, Biden placed responsibility for the violent attack – the first since the War of 1812 and the first interruption of a peaceful transition of power after a free and fair election, promoted, incited and organized by the then-sitting but defeated president, in the nation’s nearly 250 years. He spoke to the need to continually protect democracy, especially in an era marked by the rise of authoritarians. Here is a highlighted transcript of President Biden’s remarks:

THE PRESIDENT:  Madam Vice President, my fellow Americans: To state the obvious, one year ago today, in this sacred place, democracy was attacked — simply attacked.  The will of the people was under assault.  The Constitution — our Constitution — faced the gravest of threats.
 
Outnumbered and in the face of a brutal attack, the Capitol Police, the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department, the National Guard, and other brave law enforcement officials saved the rule of law.
 
Our democracy held.  We the people endured.  And we the people prevailed.
 
For the first time in our history, a president had not just lost an election, he tried to prevent the peaceful transfer of power as a violent mob breached the Capitol.
 
But they failed.  They failed.
 
And on this day of remembrance, we must make sure that such an attack never, never happens again.
 
I’m speaking to you today from Statuary Hall in the United States Capitol.  This is where the House of Representatives
met for 50 years in the decades leading up to the Civil War.  This is — on this floor is where a young congressman of Illinois, Abraham Lincoln, sat at desk 191. 
 
Above him — above us, over that door leading into the Rotunda — is a sculpture depicting Clio, the muse of history.  In her hands, an open book in which she records the events taking place in this chamber below.
 
Clio stood watch over this hall one year ago today, as she has for more than 200 years.  She recorded what took place.  The real history.  The real facts.  The real truth.  The facts
and the truth that Vice President Harris just shared and that you and I and the whole world saw with our own eyes.
 
The Bible tells us that we shall know the truth, and the truth shall make us free.  We shall know the truth.
 
Well, here is the God’s truth about January 6th, 2021:
 
Close your eyes.  Go back to that day.  What do you see? Rioters rampaging, waving for the first time inside this Capitol a Confederate flag that symbolized the cause to destroy America, to rip us apart.
 
Even during the Civil War, that never, ever happened.  But it happened here in 2021.
 
What else do you see?  A mob breaking windows, kicking in doors, breaching the Capitol.  American flags on poles being used as weapons, as spears.  Fire extinguishers being thrown at the heads of police officers. 
 
A crowd that professes their love for law enforcement assaulted those police officers, dragged them, sprayed them, stomped on them.
 
Over 140 police officers were injured.
 
We’ve all heard the police officers who were there that day testify to what happened.  One officer called it, quote, a med- — “medieval” battle, and that he was more afraid that day than he was fighting the war in Iraq.
 
They’ve repeatedly asked since that day: How dare anyone — anyone — diminish, belittle, or deny the hell they were put through?
 
We saw it with our own eyes.  Rioters menaced these halls, threatening the life of the Speaker of the House, literally erecting gallows to hang the Vice President of the United States of America.
 
But what did we not see?
 
We didn’t see a former president, who had just rallied the mob to attack — sitting in the private dining room off the Oval Office in the White House, watching it all on television and doing nothing for hours as police were assaulted, lives at risk, and the nation’s capital under siege.
 
This wasn’t a group of tourists.  This was an armed insurrection.
 
They weren’t looking to uphold the will of the people.  They were looking to deny the will of the people.
 
They were looking to uphold — they weren’t looking to uphold a free and fair election.  They were looking to overturn one.
 
They weren’t looking to save the cause of America.  They were looking to subvert the Constitution.
 
This isn’t about being bogged down in the past.  This is about making sure the past isn’t buried.
 
That’s the only way forward.  That’s what great nations do.  They don’t bury the truth, they face up to it.  Sounds like hyperbole, but that’s the truth: They face up to it.
 
We are a great nation.
 
My fellow Americans, in life, there’s truth and,tragically, there are lies — lies conceived and spread for profit and power.
 
We must be absolutely clear about what is true and what is a lie.
 
And here is the truth: The former president of the United States of America has created and spread a web of lies about the 2020 election.  He’s done so because he values power over principle, because he sees his own interests as more important than his country’s interests and America’s interests, and because his bruised ego matters more to him than our democracy or our Constitution.
 
He can’t accept he lost, even though that’s what 93 United States senators, his own Attorney General, his own Vice President, governors and state officials in every battleground state have all said: He lost.
 
That’s what 81 million of you did as you voted for a new way forward.
 
He has done what no president in American history — the history of this country — has ever, ever done: He refused to accept the results of an election and the will of the American people.
 
While some courageous men and women in the Republican Party are standing against it, trying to uphold the principles of that party, too many others are transforming that party into something else.  They seem no longer to want to be the party — the party of Lincoln, Eisenhower, Reagan, the Bushes.
 
But whatever my other disagreements are with Republicans who support the rule of law and not the rule of a single man, I will always seek to work together with them to find shared solutions where possible.  Because if we have a shared belief in democracy, then anything is possible — anything.
 
And so, at this moment, we must decide: What kind of nation are we going to be?
 
Are we going to be a nation that accepts political violence as a norm?
 
Are we going to be a nation where we allow partisan election officials to overturn the legally expressed will of the people?
 
Are we going to be a nation that lives not by the light of the truth but in the shadow of lies?
 
We cannot allow ourselves to be that kind of nation.  The way forward is to recognize the truth and to live by it.
 
The Big Lie being told by the former president and many Republicans who fear his wrath is that the insurrection in this country actually took place on Election Day — November 3rd, 2020.
 
Think about that.  Is that what you thought?  Is that what you thought when you voted that day?  Taking part in an insurrection?  Is that what you thought you were doing?  Or did you think you were carrying out your highest duty as a citizen and voting?
 
The former president and his supporters are trying to rewrite history.  They want you to see Election Day as the day of insurrection and the riot that took place here on January 6th as the true expression of the will of the people.
 
Can you think of a more twisted way to look at this country — to look at America?  I cannot.
 
Here’s the truth: The election of 2020 was the greatest demonstration of democracy in the history of this country.
 
More of you voted in that election than have ever voted in all of American history.  Over 150 million Americans went to the polls and voted that day in a pandemic — some at great risk to their lives.  They should be applauded, not attacked.
 
Right now, in state after state, new laws are being written — not to protect the vote, but to deny it; not only to suppress the vote, but to subvert it; not to strengthen or protect our democracy, but because the former president lost.
 
Instead of looking at the election results from 2020 and saying they need new ideas or better ideas to win more votes, the former president and his supporters have decided the only way for them to win is to suppress your vote and subvert our elections. 
 
It’s wrong.  It’s undemocratic.  And frankly, it’s un-American.
 
The second Big Lie being told by the former President and his supporters is that the results of the election of 2020 can’t be trusted.

The truth is that no election — no election in American history has been more closely scrutinized or more carefully counted.
 
Every legal challenge questioning the results in every court in this country that could have been made was made and was rejected — often rejected by Republican-appointed judges, including judges appointed by the former president himself, from state courts to the United States Supreme Court.
 
Recounts were undertaken in state after state.  Georgia — Georgia counted its results three times, with one recount by hand.
 
Phony partisan audits were undertaken long after the election in several states.  None changed the results.  And in some of them, the irony is the margin of victory actually grew slightly.
 
So, let’s speak plainly about what happened in 2020.  Even before the first ballot was cast, the former president was preemptively sowing doubt about the election results.  He built his lie over months.  It wasn’t based on any facts.  He was just looking for an excuse — a pretext — to cover for the truth.
 
He’s not just a former president.  He’s a defeated former president — defeated by a margin of over 7 million of your votes in a full and free and fair election.
 
There is simply zero proof the election results were inaccurate.  In fact, in every venue where evidence had to be produced and an oath to tell the truth had to be taken, the former president failed to make his case.
 
Just think about this: The former president and his supporters have never been able to explain how they accept as accurate the other election results that took place on November 3rd — the elections for governor, United States Senate, the House of Representatives — elections in which they closed the gap in the House.
 
They challenge none of that.  The President’s name was first, then we went down the line — governors, senators, House of Representatives.  Somehow, those results were accurate on the same ballot, but the presidential race was flawed?
 
And on the same ballot, the same day, cast by the same voters.
 
The only difference: The former President didn’t lose those races; he just lost the one that was his own.
 
Finally, the third Big Lie being told by a former President and his supporters is that the mob who sought to impose their will through violence are the nation’s true patriots.
 
Is that what you thought when you looked at the mob ransacking the Capitol, destroying property, literally defecating in the hallways, rifling through desks of senators and representatives, hunting down members of congress?  Patriots?  Not in my view.
 
To me, the true patriots were the more than 150 [million] Americans who peacefully expressed their vote at the ballot box, the election workers who protected the integrity of the vote, and the heroes who defended this Capitol.
 
You can’t love your country only when you win.
 
You can’t obey the law only when it’s convenient.
 
You can’t be patriotic when you embrace and enable lies.
 
Those who stormed this Capitol and those who instigated and incited and those who called on them to do so held a dagger at the throat of America — at American democracy.
 
They didn’t come here out of patriotism or principle.  They came here in rage — not in service of America, but rather in service of one man.
 
Those who incited the mob — the real plotters — who were desperate to deny the certification of the election and defy the will of the voters.
 
But their plot was foiled.  Congressmen — Democrats and Republicans — stayed.  Senators, representatives, staff — they finished their work the Constitution demanded.  They honored their oath to defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.
 
Look, folks, now it’s up to all of us — to “We the People” — to stand for the rule of law, to preserve the flame of democracy, to keep the promise of America alive.
 
That promise is at risk, targeted by the forces that value brute strength over the sanctity of democracy, fear over hope, personal gain over public good.
 
Make no mistake about it: We’re living at an inflection point in history.
 
Both at home and abroad, we’re engaged anew in a struggle between democracy and autocracy, between the aspirations of the many and the greed of the few, between the people’s right of self-determination and self- — the self-seeking autocrat. 
 
From China to Russia and beyond, they’re betting that democracy’s days are numbered.  They’ve actually told me democracy is too slow, too bogged down by division to succeed in today’s rapidly changing, complicated world.
 
And they’re betting — they’re betting America will become more like them and less like us.  They’re betting that America is a place for the autocrat, the dictator, the strongman.
 
I do not believe that.  That is not who we are.  That is not who we have ever been.  And that is not who we should ever, ever be.
 
Our Founding Fathers, as imperfect as they were, set in motion an experiment that changed the world — literally changed the world.
 
Here in America, the people would rule, power would be transferred peacefully — never at the tip of a spear or the barrel of a gun.
 
And they committed to paper an idea that couldn’t live up to — they couldn’t live up to but an idea that couldn’t be constrained: Yes, in America all people are created equal.
 

We reject the view that if you succeed, I fail; if you get ahead, I fall behind; if I hold you down, I somehow lift myself up.
 
The former President, who lies about this election, and the mob that attacked this Capitol could not be further away from the core American values.
 
They want to rule or they will ruin — ruin what our country fought for at Lexington and Concord; at Gettysburg; at Omaha Beach; Seneca Falls; Selma, Alabama.  What — and what we were fighting for: the right to vote, the right to govern ourselves, the right to determine our own destiny.
 
And with rights come responsibilities: the responsibility to see each other as neighbors — maybe we disagree with that neighbor, but they’re not an adversary; the responsibility to accept defeat then get back in the arena and try again the next time to make your case; the responsibility to see that America is an idea — an idea that requires vigilant stewardship.
 
As we stand here today — one year since January 6th, 2021 — the lies that drove the anger and madness we saw in this place, they have not abated.
 
So, we have to be firm, resolute, and unyielding in our defense of the right to vote and to have that vote counted.
 
Some have already made the ultimate sacrifice in this sacred effort.
 
Jill and I have mourned police officers in this Capitol Rotunda not once but twice in the wake of January 6th: once to honor Officer Brian Sicknick, who lost his life the day after the attack, and a second time to honor Officer Billy Evans, who lost his life defending this Capitol as well.
 
We think about the others who lost their lives and were injured and everyone living with the trauma of that day — from those defending this Capitol to members of Congress in both parties and their staffs, to reporters, cafeteria workers, custodial workers, and their families.
 
Don’t kid yourself: The pain and scars from that day run deep.
 
I said it many times and it’s no more true or real than when we think about the events of January 6th: We are in a battle for the soul of America.  A battle that, by the grace of God and the goodness and gracious — and greatness of this nation, we will win.
 
Believe me, I know how difficult democracy is.  And I’m crystal clear about the threats America faces.
  But I also know that our darkest days can lead to light and hope.
 
From the death and destruction, as the Vice President referenced, in Pearl Harbor came the triumph over the forces of fascism.
 
From the brutality of Bloody Sunday on the Edmund Pettus Bridge came historic voting rights legislation.
 
So, now let us step up, write the next chapter in American history where January 6th marks not the end of democracy, but the beginning of a renaissance of liberty and fair play.
 
I did not seek this fight brought to this Capitol one year ago today, but I will not shrink from it either.
 
I will stand in this breach.  I will defend this nation.  And I will allow no one to place a dagger at the throat of our democracy. 
 
We will make sure the will of the people is heard; that the ballot prevails, not violence; that authority in this nation will always be peacefully transferred.
 
I believe the power of the presidency and the purpose is to unite this nation, not divide it; to lift us up, not tear us apart; to be about us — about us, not about “me.”
 
Deep in the heart of America burns a flame lit almost 250 years ago — of liberty, freedom, and equality.
 
This is not a land of kings or dictators or autocrats.  We’re a nation of laws; of order, not chaos; of peace, not violence.
 
Here in America, the people rule through the ballot, and their will prevails.
 
So, let us remember: Together, we’re one nation, under God, indivisible; that today, tomorrow, and forever, at our best, we are the United States of America.
 
God bless you all.  May God protect our troops.  And may God bless those who stand watch over our democracy.

Biden Launches Aggressive Plan, Including Vaccine Mandates, More Testing, Treatments to Combat COVID-19

President Joe Biden, declaring that America has lost patience with the 25 percent of Americans – 80 million – who refuse to get vaccinated against COVID-19 in face of a surging Delta variant, put away the carrot and took out the stick, issuing new executive orders that will mandate vaccinations for all federal workers and workers for federal contractors, personnel in hospitals and medical facilities that take Medicare or Medicaid, and requiring corporations with over 100 workers to mandate vaccinations or weekly testing – orders that will cover about two-thirds of all American workers. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

President Joe Biden, declaring that America has lost patience with the 25 percent of Americans – 80 million – who refuse to get vaccinated against COVID-19 in face of a surging Delta variant, put away the carrot and took out the stick, issuing new executive orders that will mandate vaccinations for all federal workers and workers for federal contractors, personnel in hospitals and medical facilities that take Medicare or Medicaid, and requiring corporations with over 100 workers to mandate vaccinations or weekly testing – orders that will cover about two-thirds of all American workers.

“What makes it incredibly more frustrating is that we have the tools to combat COVID-19, and a distinct minority of Americans –supported by a distinct minority of elected officials — are keeping us from turning the corner.  These pandemic politics, as I refer to, are making people sick, causing unvaccinated people to die.

“We cannot allow these actions to stand in the way of protecting the large majority of Americans who have done their part and want to get back to life as normal…

“My plan also increases testing, protects our economy, and will make our kids safer in schools.  It consists of six broad areas of action and many specific measures in each that — and each of those actions that you can read more about at WhiteHouse.gov.”

Key to the plan is the mandate vaccinations in various instances

“This is not about freedom or personal choice.  It’s about protecting yourself and those around you — the people you work with, the people you care about, the people you love.
 
“My job as President is to protect all Americans.” 

To the unvaccinated, the President said, “We’ve been patient, but our patience is wearing thin.  And your refusal has cost all of us.  So, please, do the right thing.  But just don’t take it from me; listen to the voices of unvaccinated Americans who are lying in hospital beds, taking their final breaths, saying, “If only I had gotten vaccinated.”  “If only.”

Here’s a highlighted transcript of his speech on September 9, 2021:

THE PRESIDENT:  Good evening, my fellow Americans.  I want to talk to you about where we are in the battle against COVID-19, the progress we’ve made, and the work we have left to do.
 
And it starts with understanding this: Even as the Delta variant COVID-19 has been hitting this country hard, we have the tools to combat the virus, if we can come together as a country and use those tools.
 
If we raise our vaccination rate, protect ourselves and others with masking and expanded testing, and identify people who are infected, we can and we will turn the tide on COVID-19.
 
It will take a lot of hard work, and it’s going to take some time.  Many of us are frustrated with the nearly 80 million Americans who are still not vaccinated, even though the vaccine is safe, effective, and free.
 
You might be confused about what is true and what is false about COVID-19.  So before I outline the new steps to fight COVID-19 that I’m going to be announcing tonight, let me give you some clear information about where we stand.
 
First, we have made considerable progress in battling COVID-19.  When I became President, about 2 million Americans were fully vaccinated.  Today, over 175 million Americans have that protection
 
Before I took office, we hadn’t ordered enough vaccine for every American.  Just weeks in office, we did.  The week before I took office, on January 20th of this year, over 25,000 Americans died that week from COVID-19.  Last week, that grim weekly toll was down 70 percent.
 
And in the three months before I took office, our economy was faltering, creating just 50,000 jobs a month.  We’re now averaging 700,000 new jobs a month in the past three months.
 
This progress is real.  But while America is in much better shape than it was seven months ago when I took office, I need to tell you a second fact.
 
We’re in a tough stretch, and it could last for a while.
  The highly contagious Delta variant that I began to warn America about back in July spread in late summer like it did in other countries before us.
 
While the vaccines provide strong protections for the vaccinated, we read about, we hear about, and we see the stories of hospitalized people, people on their death beds, among the unvaccinated over these past few weeks. 
 
This is a pandemic of the unvaccinated.  And it’s caused by the fact that despite America having an unprecedented and successful vaccination program, despite the fact that for almost five months free vaccines have been available in 80,000 different locations, we still have nearly 80 million Americans who have failed to get the shot. 
 
And to make matters worse, there are elected officials actively working to undermine the fight against COVID-19.  Instead of encouraging people to get vaccinated and mask up, they’re ordering mobile morgues for the unvaccinated dying from COVID in their communities.  This is totally unacceptable.
 
Third, if you wonder how all this adds up, here’s the math:  The vast majority of Americans are doing the right thing.  Nearly three quarters of the eligible have gotten at least one shot, but one quarter has not gotten any.  That’s nearly 80 million Americans not vaccinated.  And in a country as large as ours, that’s 25 percent minority.  That 25 percent can cause a lot of damage — and they are.
 
The unvaccinated overcrowd our hospitals, are overrunning the emergency rooms and intensive care units, leaving no room for someone with a heart attack, or [pancreatitis], or cancer.
 
And fourth, I want to emphasize that the vaccines provide very strong protection from severe illness from COVID-19.  I know there’s a lot of confusion and misinformation.  But the world’s leading scientists confirm that if you are fully vaccinated, your risk of severe illness from COVID-19 is very low. 
 
In fact, based on available data from the summer, only one of out of every 160,000 fully vaccinated Americans was hospitalized for COVID per day.
 
These are the facts. 
 
So here’s where we stand: The path ahead, even with the Delta variant, is not nearly as bad as last winter.  But what makes it incredibly more frustrating is that we have the tools to combat COVID-19, and a distinct minority of Americans –supported by a distinct minority of elected officials — are keeping us from turning the corner.  These pandemic politics, as I refer to, are making people sick, causing unvaccinated people to die. 
 
We cannot allow these actions to stand in the way of protecting the large majority of Americans who have done their part and want to get back to life as normal. 
 
As your President, I’m announcing tonight a new plan to require more Americans to be vaccinated, to combat those blocking public health. 
 
My plan also increases testing, protects our economy, and will make our kids safer in schools.  It consists of six broad areas of action and many specific measures in each that — and each of those actions that you can read more about at WhiteHouse.gov.  WhiteHouse.gov.
 
The measures — these are going to take time to have full impact.  But if we implement them, I believe and the scientists indicate, that in the months ahead we can reduce the number of unvaccinated Americans, decrease hospitalizations and deaths, and allow our children to go to school safely and keep our economy strong by keeping businesses open.
 
First, we must increase vaccinations among the unvaccinated with new vaccination requirements.  Of the nearly 80 million eligible Americans who have not gotten vaccinated, many said they were waiting for approval from the Food and Drug Administration — the FDA.  Well, last month, the FDA granted that approval.
 
So, the time for waiting is over.  This summer, we made progress through the combination of vaccine requirements and incentives, as well as the FDA approval.  Four million more people got their first shot in August than they did in July. 
 
But we need to do more.  This is not about freedom or personal choice.  It’s about protecting yourself and those around you — the people you work with, the people you care about, the people you love.
 
My job as President is to protect all Americans. 
 
So, tonight, I’m announcing that the Department of Labor is developing an emergency rule to require all employers with 100 or more employees, that together employ over 80 million workers, to ensure their workforces are fully vaccinated or show a negative test at least once a week.
 
Some of the biggest companies are already requiring this: United Airlines, Disney, Tysons Food, and even Fox News.
 
The bottom line: We’re going to protect vaccinated workers from unvaccinated co-workers.  We’re going to reduce the spread of COVID-19 by increasing the share of the workforce that is vaccinated in businesses all across America.
 
My plan will extend the vaccination requirements that I previously issued in the healthcare field.  Already, I’ve announced, we’ll be requiring vaccinations that all nursing home workers who treat patients on Medicare and Medicaid, because I have that federal authority.
 
Tonight, I’m using that same authority to expand that to cover those who work in hospitals, home healthcare facilities, or other medical facilities –- a total of 17 million healthcare workers.
 
If you’re seeking care at a health facility, you should be able to know that the people treating you are vaccinated.  Simple.  Straightforward.  Period.
 
Next, I will sign an executive order that will now require all executive branch federal employees to be vaccinated — all.  And I’ve signed another executive order that will require federal contractors to do the same.
 
If you want to work with the federal government and do business with us, get vaccinated.  If you want to do business with the federal government, vaccinate your workforce. 
 
And tonight, I’m removing one of the last remaining obstacles that make it difficult for you to get vaccinated.
 
The Department of Labor will require employers with 100 or more workers to give those workers paid time off to get vaccinated.  No one should lose pay in order to get vaccinated or take a loved one to get vaccinated.
 
Today, in total, the vaccine requirements in my plan will affect about 100 million Americans –- two thirds of all workers. 
 
And for other sectors, I issue this appeal: To those of you running large entertainment venues — from sports arenas to concert venues to movie theaters — please require folks to get vaccinated or show a negative test as a condition of entry.
 
And to the nation’s family physicians, pediatricians, GPs — general practitioners –- you’re the most trusted medical voice to your patients.  You may be the one person who can get someone to change their mind about being vaccinated. 
 
Tonight, I’m asking each of you to reach out to your unvaccinated patients over the next two weeks and make a personal appeal to them to get the shot.  America needs your personal involvement in this critical effort.
 
And my message to unvaccinated Americans is this: What more is there to wait for?  What more do you need to see?  We’ve made vaccinations free, safe, and convenient.
 
The vaccine has FDA approval.  Over 200 million Americans have gotten at least one shot. 
 
We’ve been patient, but our patience is wearing thin.  And your refusal has cost all of us.  So, please, do the right thing.  But just don’t take it from me; listen to the voices of unvaccinated Americans who are lying in hospital beds, taking their final breaths, saying, “If only I had gotten vaccinated.”  “If only.”
 
It’s a tragedy.  Please don’t let it become yours.
 
The second piece of my plan is continuing to protect the vaccinated.
 
For the vast majority of you who have gotten vaccinated, I understand your anger at those who haven’t gotten vaccinated.  I understand the anxiety about getting a “breakthrough” case.
 
But as the science makes clear, if you’re fully vaccinated, you’re highly protected from severe illness, even if you get COVID-19.  
 
In fact, recent data indicates there is only one confirmed positive case per 5,000 fully vaccinated Americans per day.
 
You’re as safe as possible, and we’re doing everything we can to keep it that way — keep it that way, keep you safe.
 
That’s where boosters come in — the shots that give you even more protection than after your second shot.
 
Now, I know there’s been some confusion about boosters.  So, let me be clear: Last month, our top government doctors announced an initial plan for booster shots for vaccinated Americans.  They believe that a booster is likely to provide the highest level of protection yet.
 
Of course, the decision of which booster shots to give, when to start them, and who will give them, will be left completely to the scientists at the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control.
 
But while we wait, we’ve done our part.  We’ve bought enough boosters — enough booster shots — and the distribution system is ready to administer them.
 
As soon as they are authorized, those eligible will be able to get a booster right away in tens of thousands of sites across the country for most Americans, at your nearby drug store, and for free
 
The third piece of my plan is keeping — and maybe the most important — is keeping our children safe and our schools open.  For any parent, it doesn’t matter how low the risk of any illness or accident is when it comes to your child or grandchild.  Trust me, I know. 
 
So, let me speak to you directly.  Let me speak to you directly to help ease some of your worries.
 
It comes down to two separate categories: children ages 12 and older who are eligible for a vaccine now, and children ages 11 and under who are not are yet eligible.
 
The safest thing for your child 12 and older is to get them vaccinated.  They get vaccinated for a lot of things.  That’s it.  Get them vaccinated.
 
As with adults, almost all the serious COVID-19 cases we’re seeing among adolescents are in unvaccinated 12- to 17-year-olds — an age group that lags behind in vaccination rates.
 
So, parents, please get your teenager vaccinated.
 
What about children under the age of 12 who can’t get vaccinated yet?  Well, the best way for a parent to protect their child under the age of 12 starts at home.  Every parent, every teen sibling, every caregiver around them should be vaccinated.  
 
Children have four times higher chance of getting hospitalized if they live in a state with low vaccination rates rather than the states with high vaccination rates. 
 
Now, if you’re a parent of a young child, you’re wondering when will the vaccine be available for them.  I strongly support an independent scientific review for vaccine uses for children under 12.  We can’t take shortcuts with that scientific work. 
 
But I’ve made it clear I will do everything within my power to support the FDA with any resource it needs to continue to do this as safely and as quickly as possible, and our nation’s top doctors are committed to keeping the public at large updated on the process so parents can plan.
 
Now to the schools.  We know that if schools follow the science and implement the safety measures — like testing, masking, adequate ventilation systems that we provided the money for, social distancing, and vaccinations — then children can be safe from COVID-19 in schools.
 
Today, about 90 percent of school staff and teachers are vaccinated.  We should get that to 100 percent.  My administration has already required teachers at the schools run by the Defense Department — because I have the authority as President in the federal system — the Defense Department and the Interior Department — to get vaccinated.  That’s authority I possess. 
 
Tonight, I’m announcing that we’ll require all of nearly 300,000 educators in the federal paid program, Head Start program, must be vaccinated as well to protect your youngest –– our youngest — most precious Americans and give parents the comfort.
 
And tonight, I’m calling on all governors to require vaccination for all teachers and staff.  Some already have done so, but we need more to step up. 
 
Vaccination requirements in schools are nothing new.  They work.  They’re overwhelmingly supported by educators and their unions.  And to all school officials trying to do the right thing by our children: I’ll always be on your side. 
 
Let me be blunt.  My plan also takes on elected officials and states that are undermining you and these lifesaving actions.  Right now, local school officials are trying to keep children safe in a pandemic while their governor picks a fight with them and even threatens their salaries or their jobs.  Talk about bullying in schools.  If they’ll not help — if these governors won’t help us beat the pandemic, I’ll use my power as President to get them out of the way. 
 
The Department of Education has already begun to take legal action against states undermining protection that local school officials have ordered.  Any teacher or school official whose pay is withheld for doing the right thing, we will have that pay restored by the federal government 100 percent.  I promise you I will have your back. 
 
The fourth piece of my plan is increasing testing and masking.  From the start, America has failed to do enough COVID-19 testing.  In order to better detect and control the Delta variant, I’m taking steps tonight to make testing more available, more affordable, and more convenient.  I’ll use the Defense Production Act to increase production of rapid tests, including those that you can use at home. 
 
While that production is ramping up, my administration has worked with top retailers, like Walmart, Amazon, and Kroger’s, and tonight we’re announcing that, no later than next week, each of these outlets will start to sell at-home rapid test kits at cost for the next three months.  This is an immediate price reduction for at-home test kits for up to 35 percent reduction.
 
We’ll also expand free testing at 10,000 pharmacies around the country.  And we’ll commit — we’re committing $2 billion to purchase nearly 300 million rapid tests for distribution to community health centers, food banks, schools, so that every American, no matter their income, can access free and convenient tests.  This is important to everyone, particularly for a parent or a child — with a child not old enough to be vaccinated.  You’ll be able to test them at home and test those around them.
 
In addition to testing, we know masking helps stop the spread of COVID-19.  That’s why when I came into office, I required masks for all federal buildings and on federal lands, on airlines, and other modes of transportation.  
 
Today — tonight, I’m announcing that the Transportation Safety Administration — the TSA — will double the fines on travelers that refuse to mask.  If you break the rules, be prepared to pay. 
 
And, by the way, show some respect.  The anger you see on television toward flight attendants and others doing their job is wrong; it’s ugly. 
 
The fifth piece of my plan is protecting our economic recovery.  Because of our vaccination program and the American Rescue Plan, which we passed early in my administration, we’ve had record job creation for a new administration, economic growth unmatched in 40 years.  We cannot let unvaccinated do this progress — undo it, turn it back. 
 
So tonight, I’m announcing additional steps to strengthen our economic recovery.  We’ll be expanding COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loan programs.  That’s a program that’s going to allow small businesses to borrow up to $2 million from the current $500,000 to keep going if COVID-19 impacts on their sales. 
 
These low-interest, long-term loans require no repayment for two years and be can used to hire and retain workers, purchase inventory, or even pay down higher cost debt racked up since the pandemic began.  I’ll also be taking additional steps to help small businesses stay afloat during the pandemic. 
 
Sixth, we’re going to continue to improve the care of those who do get COVID-19.  In early July, I announced the deployment of surge response teams.  These are teams comprised of experts from the Department of Health and Human Services, the CDC, the Defense Department, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency — FEMA — to areas in the country that need help to stem the spread of COVID-19. 
 
Since then, the federal government has deployed nearly 1,000 staff, including doctors, nurses, paramedics, into 18 states.  Today, I’m announcing that the Defense Department will double the number of military health teams that they’ll deploy to help their fellow Americans in hospitals around the country. 
 
Additionally, we’re increasing the availability of new medicines recommended by real doctors, not conspiracy theorists.  The monoclonal antibody treatments have been shown to reduce the risk of hospitalization by up to 70 percent for unvaccinated people at risk of developing sefe- — severe disease. 
 
We’ve already distributed 1.4 million courses of these treatments to save lives and reduce the strain on hospitals.  Tonight, I’m announcing we will increase the average pace of shipment across the country of free monoclonal antibody treatments by another 50 percent.
 
Before I close, let me say this: Communities of color are disproportionately impacted by this virus.  And as we continue to battle COVID-19, we will ensure that equity continues to be at the center of our response.  We’ll ensure that everyone is reached.  My first responsibility as President is to protect the American people and make sure we have enough vaccine for every American, including enough boosters for every American who’s approved to get one. 
 
We also know this virus transcends borders.  That’s why, even as we execute this plan at home, we need to continue fighting the virus overseas, continue to be the arsenal of vaccines. 
 
We’re proud to have donated nearly 140 million vaccines over 90 countries, more than all other countries combined, including Europe, China, and Russia combined.  That’s American leadership on a global stage, and that’s just the beginning.
 
We’ve also now started to ship another 500 million COVID vaccines — Pfizer vaccines — purchased to donate to 100 lower-income countries in need of vaccines.  And I’ll be announcing additional steps to help the rest of the world later this month.
 
As I recently released the key parts of my pandemic preparedness plan so that America isn’t caught flat-footed when a new pandemic comes again — and it will — next month, I’m also going to release the plan in greater detail.
 
So let me close with this: We have made so much progress during the past seven months of this pandemic.  The recent increases in vaccinations in August already are having an impact in some states where case counts are dropping in recent days.  Even so, we remain at a critical moment, a critical time.  We have the tools.  Now we just have to finish the job with truth, with science, with confidence, and together as one nation.
 
Look, we’re the United States of America.  There’s nothing — not a single thing — we’re unable to do if we do it together.  So let’s stay together.
 
God bless you all and all those who continue to serve on the frontlines of this pandemic.  And may God protect our troops.
 
Get vaccinated.

Biden in Tulsa on Centennial of Race Massacre Stands up for Economic Justice, Voting Rights

On the centennial of the race massacre, President Biden visited Tulsa – the first president to acknowledge this horrific atrocity, this gigantic crack in the mirror of American “Exceptionalism” – and advanced an economic justice agenda, including promoting access to homeownership © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com via MSNBC.

In moving remarks, President Joe Biden, only the first sitting president to acknowledge the Tulsa Race Massacre of 100 years ago, tackled systemic, institutional racism and laid out a plan for economic justice including improving access to homeownership (the most significant factor in family wealth), investments in minority-owned small businesses and disadvantaged communities, and said he would act to preserve voting rights. He pointed to the most significant threat against domestic tranquility – White Supremacy and the rise of domestic terrorists – drawing a line from the Tulsa Race Massacre a century ago and today, and tackled the latest assault by right-wingers to whitewash history, rather than take responsibility.

We can’t just choose to learn what we want to know and not what we should know.  We should know the good, the bad, everything.  That’s what great nations do: They come to terms with their dark sides.  And we’re a great nation. The only way to build a common ground is to truly repair and to rebuild”

“Only with truth can come healing and justice and repair.” 

Biden said,And there’s greater recognition that, for too long, we’ve allowed a narrowed, cramped view of the promise of this nation to fester — the view that America is a zero-sum game where there is only one winner.  “If you succeed, I fail.  If you get ahead, I fall behind.  If you get a job, I lose mine.”   And maybe worst of all, “If I hold you down, I lift myself up,” instead of “If you do well, we all do well.”  (Applause.)  We see that in Greenwood.
 
“This story isn’t about the loss of life, but a loss of living, of wealth and prosperity and possibilities that still reverberates today.”

He announced significant policies aimed at redressing generational discrimination:

“Today, we’re announcing two expanded efforts targeted toward Black wealth creation that will also help the entire community.  The first is: My administration has launched an aggressive effort to combat racial discrimination in housing.  That includes everything from redlining to the cruel fact that a home owned by a Black family is too often appraised at a lower value than a similar home owned by a white family…

“I’m going to increase the share of the dollars the federal government spends to small, disadvantaged businesses, including Black and brown small businesses” from 10 percent to 15 percent.

Biden laid out a plan to use infrastructure investments to specifically improve lives in historically disadvantaged communities.

Then the President turned to voting rights, which Congressman john Lewis called “precious,” “almost sacred”… “The most powerful nonviolent tool we have in a democratic society”.

Biden declared, “This sacred right is under assault with an incredible intensity like I’ve never seen.. It’s simply un-American.  It is not, however, sadly, unprecedented,” and vowed to ”today, let me be unequivocal: we’re going to be ramping up our efforts to overcome again.” He said june would be a month of action, called upon voting rights groups to engage in voter registration campaigns and designated Vice President Kamala Harris as the point-person in his administration to get Congress to pass critical voting rights legislation, including the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act. 

But returning to the Tulsa Massacre of 100 years ago, he said that violence resonates again in the rise of White Supremacy, Neo-Nazism, the resurrection of the KKK – the rise of hate crimes and terror against blacks, Asian-Americans, Jews – as was on display in Charlottesville NC that inspired Biden to run for president to “reclaim the soul of the nation.”

“Hate is never defeated; it only hides,” Biden declared. “And given a little bit of oxygen — just a little bit oxygen — by its leaders, it comes out of there from under the rock like it was happening again, as if it never went away. We must not give hate a safe harbor.”

“Terrorism from white supremacy is the most lethal threat to the homeland today.  Not ISIS, not al Qaeda — white supremacists” and promised to soon lay out “a broader strategy to counter domestic terrorism and the violence driven by the most heinous hate crimes and other forms of bigotry.” 
 
Here is a highlighted transcript:

President Joe Biden visits the Greenwood Cultural Center which harbors the history of the Tulsa Race Massacre of June 1, 1921 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com via MSNBC.

I just toured the Hall of Survivors here in Greenwood Cultural Center, and I want to thank the incredible staff for hosting us here.  And — (applause) — I mean that sincerely.  Thank you.
 
In the tour, I met Mother Randle, who’s only 56 [107] years old.  (Laughter.)  God love her.  And Mother Fletcher, who’s 67 [106] years old.  (Laughter.)  And her brother — her brother, Van Ellis, who’s 100 years old.  (Laughter.)  And he looks like he’s 60.  Thank you for spending so much time with me.  I really mean it.  It was a great honor.  A genuine honor.
 
You are the three known remaining survivors of a story seen in the mirror dimly.  But no longer.  Now your story will be known in full view.
 
The events we speak of today took place 100 years ago.  And yet, I’m the first President in 100 years ever to come to Tulsa — (applause) — I say that not as a compliment about me, but to think about it — a hundred years, and the first President to be here during that entire time, and in this place, in this ground, to acknowledge the truth of what took place here.
 
For much too long, the history of what took place here was told in silence, cloaked in darkness.  But just because history is silent, it doesn’t mean that it did not take place.  And while darkness can hide much, it erases nothing.  It erases nothing.  Some injustices are so heinous, so horrific, so grievous they can’t be buried, no matter how hard people try.
 
And so it is here.  Only — only with truth can come healing and justice and repair.  Only with truth, facing it.  But that isn’t enough. 
 
First, we have to see, hear, and give respect to Mother Randle, Mother Fletcher, and Mr. Van Ellis.  (Applause.)  To all those lost so many years ago, to all the descendants of those who suffered, to this community — that’s why we’re here: to shine a light, to make sure America knows the story in full.
 
May 1921: Formerly enslaved Black people and their descendants are here in Tulsa — a boom town of oil and opportunity in a new frontier.
 
On the north side, across the rail tracks that divided the city already segregated by law, they built something of their own, worthy — worthy of their talent and their ambition: Greenwood — a community, a way of life.  Black doctors and lawyers, pastors, teachers; running hospitals, law practices, libraries, churches, schools.
 
Black veterans, like a man I had the privilege to giving a Command Coin to, who fought — volunteered and fought, and came home and still faced such prejudice.  (Applause.)  Veterans had been back a few years helping after winning the first World War, building a new life back home with pride and confidence, who were a mom-and — they were, at the time — mom-and-plack [sic] — mom-and-pop Black diners, grocery stores, barber shops, tailors — the things that make up a community.
 
At the Dreamland Theatre, a young Black couple, holding hands, falling in love.  Friends gathered at music clubs and pool halls; at the Monroe family roller-skating rink.  Visitors staying in hotels, like the Stradford.
 
All around, Black pride shared by the professional class and the working class who lived together, side by side, for blocks on end.
 
Mother Randle was just six years old — six years old — living with her grandmom.  She said she was lucky to have a home and toys, and fortunate to live without fear.
 
Mother Fletcher was seven years old, the second of seven children.  The youngest, being Mr. Van Ellis, was just a few months old.  The children of former sharecroppers, when they went to bed at night in Greenwood, Mother Fletcher says they fell asleep rich in terms of the wealth — not real wealth, but a different wealth — a wealth in culture and community and heritage.  (Applause.) 
 
But one night — one night changed everything.  Everything changed.  While Greenwood was a community to itself, it was not separated from the outside.
 
It wasn’t everyone, but there was enough hate, resentment, and vengeance in the community.  Enough people who believed that America does not belong to everyone and not everyone is created equal — Native Americans, Asian Americans, Hispanic Americans, Black Americans.  A belief enforced by law, by badge, by hood and by noose.  
 
And it speaks to that — lit the fuse.  It lit it by the spark that it provided — a fuse of fury — was an innocent interaction that turned into a terrible, terrible headline allegation of a Black male teenager attacking a white female teenager.
 
A white mob of 1,000 gathered around the courthouse where the Black teenager was being held, ready to do what still occurred: lynch that young man that night.  But 75 Black men, including Black veterans, arrived to stand guard. 
 
Words were exchanged.  Then a scuffle.  Then shots fired.  Hell was unleashed.  Literal hell was unleashed. 
 
Through the night and into the morning, the mob terrorized Greenwood.  Torches and guns.  Shooting at will.  A mob tied a Black man by the waist to the back of their truck with his head banging along the pavement as they drove off.  A murdered Black family draped over the fence of their home outside.  An elderly couple, knelt by their bed, praying to God with their heart and their soul, when they were shot in the back of their heads.
 
Private planes — private planes — dropping explosives — the first and only domestic aerial assault of its kind on an American city here in Tulsa.
 
Eight of Greenwood’s nearly two dozen churches burned, like Mt. Zion — across the street, at Vernon AME.
 
Mother Randle said it was like war.  Mother Fletcher says, all these years later, she still sees Black bodies around.
 
The Greenwood newspaper publisher A.J. Smitherman penned a poem of what he heard and felt that night.  And here’s the poem.  He said, “Kill them, burn them, set the pace… teach them how to keep their place.  Reign of murder, theft, and plunder was the order of the night.”  That’s what he remembered in the poem that he wrote.
 
One hundred years ago at this hour, on this first day of June, smoke darkened the Tulsa sky, rising from 35 blocks of Greenwood that were left in ash and ember, razed and in rubble.
 

Greenwood burning. In 24 hours, 1000 homes and businesses in the “Black Wall Street” community – so named for its prosperity – were burned, hundreds massacred, 10,000 left homeless and marched into internment camps by White Supremacists. “Only with truth can come healing and justice and repair,” President Joe Biden declared  © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com via MSNBC.

In less than 24 hours, 1,100 Black homes and businesses were lost.  Insurance companies — they had insurance, many of them — rejected claims of damage.  Ten thousand people were left destitute and homeless, placed in internment camps.
 
As I was told today, they were told, “Don’t you mention you were ever in a camp or we’ll come and get you.”  That’s what survivors told me.
 
Yet no one — no arrests of the mob were made.  None.  No proper accounting of the dead.  The death toll records by local officials said there were 36 people.  That’s all.  Thirty-six people.
 
But based on studies, records, and accounts, the likelihood — the likely number is much more, in the multiple of hundreds. Untold bodies dumped into mass graves.  Families who, at the time, waited for hours and days to know the fate of their loved ones are now descendants who have gone 100 years without closure.
 
But, you know, as we speak, the process — the process of exhuming the unmarked graves has started.  And at this moment, I’d like to pause for a moment of silence for the fathers, the mothers, the sisters, sons, and daughters, friends of God and Greenwood.  They deserve dignity, and they deserve our respect.  May their souls rest in peace.
 
[Pause for a moment of silence.]
 
My fellow Americans, this was not a riot.  This was a massacre — (applause) — among the worst in our history, but not the only one.  And for too long, forgotten by our history.
 
As soon as it happened, there was a clear effort to erase it from our memory — our collective memories — from the news and everyday conversations.  For a long time, schools in Tulsa didn’t even teach it, let alone schools elsewhere.
 
And most people didn’t realize that, a century ago, a second Ku Klux Klan had been founded — the second Ku Klux Klan had been founded.
 
A friend of mine, Jon Meacham — I had written — when I said I was running to restore the soul of America, he wrote a book called “The Soul of America” — not because of what I said.  And there’s a picture about page 160 in his book, showing over 30,000 Ku Klux Klan members in full regalia, Reverend — pointed hats, the robes — marching down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C.  Jesse, you know all about this.  Washin- — Washington, D.C.
 
If my memory is correct, there were 37 members of the House of Representatives who were open members of the Klan.  There were five, if I’m not mistaken — it could have been seven; I think it was five — members of the United States Senate — open members of the Klan.  Multiple governors who were open members of the Klan.
 
Most people didn’t realize that, a century ago, the Klan was founded just six years before the horrific destruction here in Tulsa.  And one of the reasons why it was founded was because of guys like me, who were Catholic.  It wasn’t about African Americans, then; it was about making sure that all those Polish and Irish and Italian and Eastern European Catholics who came to the United States after World War One would not pollute Christianity.
 
The flames from those burning crosses torched every region — region of the country.  Millions of white Americans belonged to the Klan, and they weren’t even embarrassed by it; they were proud of it.
 
And that hate became embedded systematically and systemically in our laws and our culture.  We do ourselves no favors by pretending none of this ever happened or that it doesn’t impact us today, because it does still impact us today.
 
We can’t just choose to learn what we want to know and not what we should know.  (Applause.)  We should know the good, the bad, everything.  That’s what great nations do: They come to terms with their dark sides.  And we’re a great nation.
 
The only way to build a common ground is to truly repair and to rebuild.  I come here to help fill the silence, because in silence, wounds deepen.  (Applause.)  And only — as painful as it is, only in remembrance do wounds heal.  We just have to choose to remember.
 
We memorialize what happened here in Tulsa so it can be –so it can’t be erased.  We know here, in this hallowed place, we simply can’t bury pain and trauma forever.
 
And at some point, there will be a reckoning, an inflection point, like we’re facing right now as a nation.
 
What many people hadn’t seen before or ha- — or simply refused to see cannot be ignored any longer.  You see it in so many places. 
 
And there’s greater recognition that, for too long, we’ve allowed a narrowed, cramped view of the promise of this nation to fester — the view that America is a zero-sum game where there is only one winner.  “If you succeed, I fail.  If you get ahead, I fall behind.  If you get a job, I lose mine.”   And maybe worst of all, “If I hold you down, I lift myself up,” instead of “If you do well, we all do well.”  (Applause.)  We see that in Greenwood.
 
This story isn’t about the loss of life, but a loss of living, of wealth and prosterity [prosperity] and possibilities that still reverberates today.
 
Mother Fletcher talks about how she was only able to attend school until the fourth grade and eventually found work in the shipyards, as a domestic worker.
 
Mr. Van Ellis has shared how, even after enlisting and serving in World War Two, he still came home to struggle with a segregated America.
 
Imagine all those hotels and dinners [diners] and mom-and-pop shops that could been — have been passed down this past hundred years.  Imagine what could have been done for Black families in Greenwood: financial security and generational wealth.
 
If you come from backgrounds like my — my family — a working-class, middle-class family — the only way we were ever able to generate any wealth was in equity in our homes.  Imagine what they contributed then and what they could’ve contributed all these years.  Imagine a thriving Greenwood in North Tulsa for the last hundred years, what that would’ve meant for all of Tulsa, including the white community.
 
While the people of Greenwood rebuilt again in the years after the massacre, it didn’t last.  Eventually neighborhoods were redlined on maps, locking Black Tulsa out of homeownerships.  (Applause.)  A highway was built right through the heart of the community.  Lisa, I was talking about our west side — what 95 did to it after we were occupied by the military, after Dr. King was murdered.  The community — cutting off Black families and businesses from jobs and opportunity.  Chronic underinvestment from state and federal governments denied Greenwood even just a chance at rebuilding.  (Applause.)
 
We must find the courage to change the things we know we can change.  That’s what Vice President Harris and I are focused on, along with our entire administration, including our Housing and Urban Development Secretary, Marcia Fudge, who is here today.  (Applause.)
 
Because today, we’re announcing two expanded efforts targeted toward Black wealth creation that will also help the entire community.  The first is: My administration has launched an aggressive effort to combat racial discrimination in housing.  That includes everything from redlining to the cruel fact that a home owned by a Black family is too often appraised at a lower value than a similar home owned by a white family.  (Applause.)
 
And I might add — and I need help if you have an answer to this; I can’t figure this one out, Congressman Horsford.  But if you live in a Black community and there’s another one on the other side of the highway — it’s a white community; it’s the — built by the same builder, and you have a better driving record than they guy with the same car in the white community, you’re — can pay more for your auto insurance. 
 
Shockingly, the percentage of Black American homeownership is lower today in America than when the Fair Housing Act was passed more than 50 years ago.  Lower today.  That’s wrong.  And we’re committing to changing that.
 
Just imagine if instead of denying millions of Americans
the ability to own their own home and build generational wealth, we made it possible for them to buy a home and build equity into that — into that home and provide for their families.
 
Second, small businesses are the engines of our economy and the glue of our communities.  As President, my administration oversees hundreds of billions of dollars in federal contracts for everything from refurbishing decks of aircraft carriers, to installing railings in federal buildings, to professional services.
 
We have a thing called — I won’t go into it all because there’s not enough time now.  But I’m determined to use every taxpayer’s dollar that is assigned to me to spend, going to American companies and American workers to build American products.   And as part of that, I’m going to increase the share of the dollars the federal government spends to small, disadvantaged businesses, including Black and brown small businesses.
 
Right now, it calls for 10 percent; I’m going to move that to 15 percent of every dollar spent will be spent (inaudible).  (Applause.)  I have the authority to do that. 
 
Just imagine if, instead of denying millions of entrepreneurs the ability to access capital and contracting, we made it possible to take their dreams to the marketplace to create jobs and invest in our communities.
 
That — the data shows young Black entrepreneurs are just as capable of succeeding, given the chance, as white entrepreneurs are.  But they don’t have lawyers.  They don’t have — they — they don’t have accountants, but they have great ideas. 
 
Does anyone doubt this whole nation would be better off from the investments those people make?  And I promise you, that’s why I set up the — a national Small Business Administration that’s much broader.  Because they’re going to get those loans.  
 
Instead of consigning millions of American children to under-resourced schools, let’s give each and every child, three and four years old, access to school — not daycare, school.  (Applause.)
 
In the last 10 years, studies have been done by all the great universities.  It shows that, if increased by 56 percent, the possibility of a child — no matter what background they come from; no matter what — if they start school at three years old, they have a 56 percent chance of going all through all 12 years without any trouble and being able to do well, and a chance to learn and grow and thrive in a school and throughout their lives.
 
And let’s unlock more than — an incredible creativity and innovation that will come from the nation’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities.  (Applause.)  I have a $5 billion program giving them the resources to invest in research centers and laboratories and high-demand fields to compete for the good-paying jobs in industries like — of the future, like cybersecurity.
 
The reason why they don’t — their — their students are equally able to learn as well, and get the good-paying job that start at 90- and 100,000 bucks.  But they don’t have — they don’t have the back — they don’t have the money to provide and build those laboratories.  So, guess what?  They’re going to get the money to build those laboratories.  (Applause.) 
 
So, instead of just talking about infrastructure, let’s get about the business of actually rebuilding roads and highways, filling the sidewalks and cracks, installing streetlights and high-speed Internet, creating space — space to live and work and play safely.
 
Let’s ensure access to healthcare, clean water, clean air, nearby grocery stores — stock the fresh vegetables and food that — (applause) — in fact, deal with — I mean, these are all things we can do.
 
Does anyone doubt this whole nation would be better off with these investments?  The rich will be just as well off.  The middle class will do better, and everybody will do better.  It’s about good-paying jobs, financial stability, and being able to build some generational wealth.  It’s about economic growth for our country and outcompeting the rest of the world, which is now outcompeting us.
 

President Joe Biden in Tulsa: I’m going to fight like heck with every tool at my disposal” to pass voting rights legislation © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com via MSNBC.

But just as fundamental as any of these investments I’ve discussed — this may be the most fundamental: the right to vote.  (Applause.)  The right to vote.  (Applause.)
 
A lot of the members of the Black Caucus knew John Lewis better than I did, but I knew him.  On his deathbed, like many, I called John, to speak to him.  But all John wanted to do was talk about how I was doing.  He died, I think, about 25 hours later. 

But you know what John said?  He called the right to vote “precious,” “almost sacred.”  He said, “The most powerful nonviolent tool we have in a democratic society”.
 
This sacred right is under assault with an incredible intensity like I’ve never seen — even though I got started as a public defender and a civil rights lawyer — with an intensity and an aggressiveness that we have not seen in a long, long time. 
 
It’s simply un-American.  It is not, however, sadly, unprecedented.  The creed “We Shall Overcome” is a longtime mainstay of the Civil Rights Movement, as Jesse Jackson can tell you better than anybody.
 
The obstacle to progress that have to be overcome are a constant challenge.  We saw it in the ‘60s, but with the current assault, it’s not just an echo of a distant history. 
 
In 2020, we faced a tireless assault on the right to vote: restrictive laws, lawsuits, threats of intimidation, voter purges, and more.  We resolved to overcome it all, and we did.  More Americans voted in the last election than any — in the midst of a pandemic — than any election in American history.  (Applause.) 
 
You got voters registered.  You got voters to the polls.  The rule of law held.  Democracy prevailed.  We overcame. 
 
But today, let me be unequivocal: I’ve been engaged in this work my whole career, and we’re going to be ramping up our efforts to overcome again. 
 
I will have more to say about this at a later date — the truly unprecedented assault on our democracy, an effort to replace nonpartisan election administrators and to intimidate those charged with tallying and reporting the election results. 
 
But today, as for the act of voting itself, I urge voting rights groups in this country to begin to redouble their efforts now to register and educate voters.
  (Applause.) 
 
June should be a month of action on Capitol Hill.  I hear all the folks on TV saying, “Why doesn’t Biden get this done?”  Well, because Biden only has a majority of, effectively, four votes in the House and a tie in the Senate, with two members of the Senate who vote more with my Republican friends. 
 
But we’re not giving up.  Earlier this year, the House of Representatives passed For the People Act to protect our democracy.  The Senate will take it up later this month, and I’m going to fight like heck with every tool at my disposal for its passage.
 
The House is also working on the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, which is — which is critical — (applause) — to providing new legal tools to combat the new assault on the right to vote. 
 
To signify the importance of our efforts, today I’m asking Vice President Harris to help these efforts and lead them, among her many other responsibilities. 
 
With her leadership and your support, we’re going to overcome again, I promise you.  But it’s going to take a hell of a lot of work.
  (Applause.)
 
And finally, we have to — and finally, we must address what remains the stain on the soul of America.  What happened in Greenwood was an act of hate and domestic terrorism with a through line that exists today still. 
 
Just close your eyes and remember what you saw in Charlottesville four years ago on television.  Neo-Nazis, white supremacists, the KKK coming out of those fields at night in Virginia with lighted torches — the veins bulging on their — as they were screaming.  Remember?  Just close your eyes and picture what it was.
 
Well, Mother Fletcher said when she saw the insurrection at the Capitol on January the 9th [6th], it broke her heart — a mob of violent white extremists — thugs.  Said it reminded her what happened here in Greenwood 100 years ago.
 
Look around at the various hate crimes against Asian Americans and Jewish Americans.  Hate that never goes away.  Hate only hides.
 
Jesse, I think I mentioned this to you.  I thought, after you guys pushed through, with Dr. King, the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act — I thought we moved.  But what I didn’t realize — I thought we had made enormous progress, and I was so proud to be a little part of it. 
 
But you know what, Rev?  I didn’t realize hate is never defeated; it only hides.  It hides.  And given a little bit of oxygen — just a little bit oxygen — by its leaders, it comes out of there from under the rock like it was happening again, as if it never went away. 
 
And so, folks, we can’t — we must not give hate a safe harbor. 
 
As I said in my address to the joint session of Congress: According to the intelligence community, terrorism from white supremacy is the most lethal threat to the homeland today.  Not ISIS, not al Qaeda — white supremacists.  (Applause.)  That’s not me; that’s the intelligence community under both Trump and under my administration. 
 
Two weeks ago, I signed into law the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, which the House had passed and the Senate.  My administration will soon lay out our broader strategy to counter domestic terrorism and the violence driven by the most heinous hate crimes and other forms of bigotry. 
 
But I’m going to close where I started.  To Mother Randle, Mother Fletcher, Mr. Van Ellis, to the descendants, and to all survivors: Thank you.  Thank you for giving me the honor of being able to spend some time with you earlier today.  Thank you for your courage.  Thank you for your commitment.  And thank your children, and your grandchildren, and your unc- — and your nieces and your nephews. 
 
To see and learn from you is a gift — a genuine gift.  Dr. John Hope Franklin, one of America’s greatest historians — Tulsa’s proud son, whose father was a Greenwood survivor — said, and I quote, “Whatever you do, it must be done in the spirit of goodwill and mutual respect and even love.  How else can we overcome the past and be worthy of our forebearers and face the future with confidence and with hope?”
 
On this sacred and solemn day, may we find that distinctly Greenwood spirit that defines the American spirit — the spirit that gives me so much confidence and hope for the future; that helps us see, face to face; a spirit that helps us know fully who we are and who we can be as a people and as a nation.
 
I’ve never been more optimistic about the future than I am today.  I mean that.
  And the reason is because of this new generation of young people.  They’re the best educated, they’re the least prejudiced, the most open generation in American history. 
 
And although I have no scientific basis of what I’m about to say, but those of you who are over 50 — how often did you ever see — how often did you ever see advertisements on television with Black and white couples?  Not a joke. 
 
I challenge you — find today, when you turn on the stations — sit on one station for two hours.  And I don’t know how many commercials you’ll see — eight to five — two to three out of five have mixed-race couples in them.  That’s not by accident.  They’re selling soap, man.  (Laughter.)  Not a joke. 
 
Remember ol’ Pat Caddell?  He used to say, “You want to know what’s happening in American culture?  Watch advertising, because they want to sell what they have.” 
 
We have hope in folks like you, honey.  I really mean it.  We have hope.  But we’ve got to give them support.  We have got to give them the backbone to do what we know has to be done.  Because I doubt whether any of you would be here if you didn’t care deeply about this.  You sure in the devil didn’t come to hear me speak.  (Laughter.) 
 
But I really mean it.  I really mean it.  Let’s not give up, man.  Let’s not give up. 
 
As the old saying goes, “Hope springs eternal.”  I know we’ve talked a lot about famous people, but I’m — my colleagues in the Senate used to kid me because I was always quoting Irish poets.  They think I did it because I’m Irish.  They think I did it because we Irish — we have a little chip on our shoulder.  A little bit, sometimes. 
 
That’s not why I did it; I did it because they’re the best poets in the world.  (Laughter.)  You can smile, it’s okay.  It’s true. 
 
There was a famous poet who wrote a poem called “The Cure at Troy” — Seamus Heaney.  And there is a stanza in it that I think is the definition of what I think should be our call today for young people. 
 
It said, “History teaches us not to hope on this side of the grave, but then, once in a lifetime, the longed-for tidal wave of justice rises up, and hope and history rhyme.” 
 
Let’s make it rhyme.  Thank you.

See also:

Biden Uses Occasion of Tulsa Massacre Centennial to Advance Economic Justice Agenda

Biden Bolsters Efforts to Help Americans Return to Work

President Biden announces additional steps to help Americans return to work, saying, “We need to stay focused on creating jobs and beating this pandemic today, and building back better for tomorrow.  The American Rescue Plan is just that: a rescue plan.  It’s to get us out of the crisis and back on the track, but it’s not nearly enough.  That’s why we need the American Jobs Plan, which is an eight-year investment — an eight-year investment strategy to make sure working people of this country get to share in the benefits of a rising economy, and to put us in a position to win the competition with China and the rest of the world for the 21st century.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com via msnbc.

Over the first three full months of the Biden-Harris Administration, the economy added more than 1.5 million jobs, or more than 500,000 jobs per month on average. That compares to an average of 60,000 jobs per month in the three previous months. These three months have seen the strongest first three months of job growth of any administration.

Despite this progress, there’s more work to do to climb out of the economic crisis brought on by the pandemic. The Biden-Harris Administration is acting aggressively to ensure that the millions of Americans who remain unemployed, through no fault of their own, can find safe, good-paying work as quickly as possible. That’s why the President is announcing today that the Administration will take steps to remove barriers that are preventing Americans from returning safely to good-paying work and take steps to make it easier for employers to hire new workers.

And, the President and the Administration will reaffirm the basic rules of the unemployment insurance (UI) program. Anyone receiving UI who is offered a suitable job must take it or lose their UI benefits. A core purpose of the UI program is helping workers get back to work, and UI provides laid-off workers with temporary assistance to help pay bills and relieve hardship. By reaffirming these rules and purposes, the Administration will ensure that the UI program continues to support workers and facilitate hiring.

“Let’s be clear,” President Joe Biden stated, “our economic plan is working.  I never said — and no serious analyst ever suggested — that climbing out of the deep, deep hole our economy was in would be simple, easy, immediate, or perfectly steady.  Remember, 22 million Americans lost their jobs in this pandemic. 
 
“So, some months will exceed expectations; others will fall short.  The question is, ‘What is the trendline?  Are we headed in the right direction?  Are we taking the right steps to keep it going?’ And the answer, clearly, is yes…

“Twenty-two million people lost their jobs in this pandemic through no fault of their own.  They lost their jobs to a virus, and to a government that bungled its response to the crisis and failed to protect them. 
 
“We still have 8 million fewer jobs than we did when the pandemic started.  And for many of those folks, unemployment benefits are a lifeline.  No one should be allowed to game the system and we’ll insist the law is followed, but let’s not take our eye off the ball…

“So we need to stay focused on creating jobs and beating this pandemic today, and building back better for tomorrow.  The American Rescue Plan is just that: a rescue plan.  It’s to get us out of the crisis and back on the track, but it’s not nearly enough. 
 
“That’s why we need the American Jobs Plan, which is an eight-year investment — an eight-year investment strategy to make sure working people of this country get to share in the benefits of a rising economy, and to put us in a position to win the competition with China and the rest of the world for the 21st century.” 
 
Specifically, today the President is:

REMOVING BARRIERS THAT ARE KEEPING AMERICANS FROM RETURNING SAFELY TO GOOD-PAYING WORK

Accelerating the Provision of Assistance to Hard-Hit Child Care Providers to Get More Parents Back to Work

Between February 2020 and March 2021, 520,000 mothers and 170,000 fathers between ages 20 and 54 left the labor force and have not returned. Many need or want to work but cannot because of child care disruptions. At the same time, early childhood and child care providers – nearly all small businesses, overwhelmingly owned by women and disproportionately owned by people of color – have been hit hard by the pandemic. According to one survey, as of December, about one in four child care providers open at the start of the pandemic were closed, hindering access to care, especially for families of color. Child care providers that have stayed open have gone to enormous lengths to do so and are struggling to stay open: two in five providers report taking on debt for their programs using personal credit cards to pay for increased costs and three in five work in programs that have reduced expenses through layoffs, furloughs, or pay cuts. And, there are 150,000 fewer child care jobs today than there were at the beginning of the pandemic.

The American Rescue Plan provides funding to address the child care crisis caused by COVID-19 to help parents who need or want to work to return to their jobs. This includes funding to stabilize the child care industry so that parents can send their children to safe, healthy, stable child care environments and additional funding to help families access affordable, high-quality care, including by providing subsidized care to more than 800,000 families with the greatest need and by providing resources for hard-hit child care providers.

Today, the Department of Health and Human Services is releasing guidance to states, tribes, and territories so that states can start getting the child care stabilization funding to providers immediately. The guidance will encourage states to get funding out quickly and to make it as easy as possible for hundreds of thousands of child care providers, including centers and family-based providers, to receive the funding. It will also encourage states to allow the funds to be used broadly to meet the unique needs of providers so they can reopen or maintain essential services. It will explain, for example, how they can use the funds to bolster their workforce, cover expenses like rent and utilities, and pay for goods and services needed to stay open or reopen. And, it will provide guidance on ways providers can use funds to help them operate according to CDC guidelines, so that as parents return to work, they can have peace of mind their children are in a safe and healthy learning environment. In all, these funds will support child care providers in keeping their doors open, benefiting the parents of more than 5 million children who rely on them to stay in or return to the labor force.

And, thanks to the historic expansion of the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit (CDCTC) in the American Rescue Plan, families can rest assured that they can receive up to half of their child care expenses this year when they file taxes for 2021. A median income family with two kids under age 13 will receive a tax credit of up to $8,000 towards this year’s expenses, compared with a maximum of $1,200 previously.

Directing the Secretary of Labor to Safely Expand States’ Reemployment Services and Workforce Development Boards’ Jobs Counseling for Unemployment Beneficiaries.

States receive federal funding for Reemployment Services and Eligibility Assessments (RESEA) of UI beneficiaries to help them find employment while ensuring they remain eligible for benefits. These services shorten workers’ time on unemployment benefits by helping them match with good jobs and confirm their eligibility for benefits. States significantly and appropriately slowed in-person RESEA meetings in the midst of historic unemployment and the COVID-19 pandemic. With the economy and jobs growing again, the President will direct the Secretary of Labor to issue guidance to states to quickly and safely – consistent with CDC and OSHA guidance – expand their RESEA programs so that more UI beneficiaries can return to work. 

Similarly, the public workforce system’s Workforce Development Boards (WDB) collectively receive hundreds of millions of dollars they can use to provide individualized career counseling, called “individual career services,” to job seekers. However, because of the pandemic’s risks, many WDBs stopped providing in-person services and had to quickly transition to remote services. Now that tens of millions of Americans have been vaccinated, and we know how to operate physical locations safely, the President will direct the Secretary of Labor to work with the public workforce system to provide the maximum level possible of individual career services to UI beneficiaries and other unemployed workers using existing resources, and in a manner consistent with CDC and OSHA guidance.

MAKING IT EASIER FOR EMPLOYERS TO HIRE NEW WORKERS

Supporting Hard-Hit Restaurants and Bars
 
Restaurants, bars, and other small businesses offering on-site food and beverages are vital to our communities and economy. From big cities to small towns, these restaurants and bars offer communities a place to gather, celebrate, and share ideas. They also employed nearly 12 percent of all workers prior to the pandemic. Despite their importance, restaurants and bars have suffered severely during the pandemic. The leisure and hospitality sector, which includes restaurants and bars, had 17 percent fewer jobs this April than in February 2020.
 
Though we have seen significant progress under the Biden-Harris Administration – leisure and hospitality added 331,000 jobs in April, by far the most of any industry and more than it added in March – there is still more work to do to help this critical sector recover. Established through the American Rescue Plan, the Biden-Harris Administration recently launched the Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF) – a program to aid restaurants, bars, food trucks, and other food and drink establishments. These grants will give restaurants and bars the flexibility to hire back workers at good wages. In the first two days of the program, 186,200 restaurants, bars, and other eligible businesses in all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and five U.S. Territories applied for relief.
 
Today, the Administration is sending the first grants under the program to 16,000 hard-hit restaurants. These include restaurants in states and territories throughout the country, and restaurants owned and controlled by women, veterans, and socially and economically disadvantaged individuals.
 
Providing States and Localities with the Resources They Need to Help Return Americans to Work

The American Rescue Plan delivered flexible Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds that will help state and local governments hire back public sector workers; ramp up the effectiveness of their COVID response and vaccination programs to make return to work, school, and care safer; and bolster efforts to help workers negatively affected by the pandemic to train for and secure good-paying jobs. With today’s announcement, the U.S. Department of Treasury is making the first segment of these funds available to states and localities and laying out how these funds can be used to address pandemic-response needs and support the communities and populations hardest-hit by the COVID-19 crisis.

State and local employment remains 1.3 million jobs down since before the pandemic.  Learning from the mistakes of the Great Recession, when state and local government budget cuts were a drag on GDP growth for 23 of the 26 quarters following the crisis, the funds will provide these governments with the resources needed to help address challenges in returning Americans to work. This includes in the public sector, where state and local employment remains down over one million jobs since the start of the pandemic. Fiscal Recovery Funds will help bring firefighters, teachers, school staff, cops, and other public servants back to work.

Helping Employers – Especially Small Businesses – Rehire and Retain Workers Through the Extended and Expanded Employee Retention Credit
 
To help hard-hit employers rehire and retain workers, President Biden extended and expanded the Employee Retention Credit (ERC) in the American Rescue Plan. This year, the ERC offers eligible employers with 500 or fewer employees a tax credit of 70 percent of the first $10,000 in wages per employee per quarter. In other words, this refundable, advanceable credit will cover up to $7,000 in wages per quarter or $28,000 per year for each employee. For example:

  • A small independent retailer in Milwaukee, Wisconsin with 25 employees has $130,000 in payroll expenses per quarter (all for employees earning less than $10,000 in the quarter), and experiences a 25 percent decline in gross receipts in the first quarter of 2021 compared to the first quarter of 2019. The retailer is eligible for the Employee Retention Credit in the first quarter since it experienced a greater than 20 percent decline in gross receipts. The retailer is also eligible for the ERC in the second quarter because of the decline as compared to 2019 in the immediately preceding first quarter.  The retailer can claim a tax credit of $91,000 in both the first and second quarters (for a total of $182,000).  The amount of the tax credit would be applied against the retailer’s quarterly federal payroll tax amount, and then, assuming that the $91,000 was in excess of the total liability for the quarter, the excess would be advanced (or paid by the government directly to the retailer).  If the retailer experienced declines in gross receipts in the third quarter as compared to 2019, it could claim an additional tax credit (in a similar amount) for the third quarter and the fourth quarter. The small retail business could use this advance – which could amount to tens of thousands of dollars – to rehire workers, raise wages, improve facilities, and purchase new inventory.

While more than 30,000 small businesses have already claimed more than $1 billion in ERCs this year, the Biden-Harris Administration is working to increase awareness of and participation in this beneficial program. Specifically, this week, the Treasury Department will disseminate clear and concise steps on how businesses can determine their eligibility and claim the ERC. These and other efforts will help businesses bring employees back sooner and keep them on the job as the economy recovers.
 
Helping Employers Ramp Back Up
 
As businesses ramp back up without knowing how many workers they will need to operate as the economy recovers, some will look to bring workers on part-time. The UI system offers options for these employers and their returning workers.  Workers shouldn’t have to choose between losing their full UI benefits to take part-time work that represents only a portion of their original salary. The Department of Labor will announce this week how unemployed workers who are rehired part-time don’t have to face that choice.  They can work part-time while still receiving part of their UI benefits so they can work and still make ends meet.

There are two programs that can help and the Department of Labor this week will help highlight them:

  • Short-Time Compensation: Short-time compensation was designed to help prevent layoffs by allowing workers to remain employed at reduced hours and still collect a portion of their UI benefits. But it can also be used to help employers rehire their already laid off workers. If an employer brings a laid-off employee back part-time and participates in the short-time compensation program, that worker will receive pro-rated UI benefits to help cover reduced compensation for not working full time, as well as the $300 weekly supplement until that supplement expires September 6th. 

    The Biden-Harris Administration will highlight this program to help employers rehire their laid-off employees in the coming weeks and work to make it as easy as possible for employers and workers to participate. Short-time compensation programs are currently available in . These benefits are fully federally funded through September 6 for those states.
     
  • Partial UI: Another overlooked option for helping employers ramp up is the partial UI program, which allows workers to return to work at a new employer at reduced hours while still receiving some unemployment benefits. This is a good option for workers who may not qualify for short-time compensation because they are not returning to their previous employer. States can enhance the capacity of partial UI by raising the income threshold where workers can both work and receive some UI benefits, and the Department of Labor will be encouraging states to do so.


CLARIFYING RULES OF THE UI PROGRAM

This week, the Department of Labor will reaffirm longstanding UI requirements to make sure everyone, including states, employers, and workers, understands the rules of the road for UI benefits. These clarifications will also help ease a return to work. Specifically, the Secretary of Labor will issue a letter to states to reaffirm that individuals receiving UI may not continue to receive benefits if they turn down a suitable job due to a general, non-specific concern about COVID-19.  In addition, the President is directing the Secretary of Labor to work with states to reinstate work search requirements for UI recipients, if health and safety conditions allow.

  • Clarifying Rules of UI Programs: The Department of Labor will clarify that, under all UI programs including the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program put in place last year, workers may not turn down a job due to a general, non-specific concern about COVID-19 and continue to receive benefits. Under the PUA program, a worker may receive benefits if the worker certifies weekly that one of the few specific COVID-related reasons specified by Congress is the cause of their unemployment. These reasons include, for example, that the worker has a child at home who cannot go to school because of the pandemic or that the worker is offered a job at a worksite that is out of compliance with federal or state health requirements. Moreover, workers may not misreport a COVID-related reason for unemployment.  The President is directing the Department of Labor to take concrete steps to raise awareness about these and other requirements.
     
  • Directing the Secretary of Labor to Work with States on Work Search Requirements: The President is directing the Secretary of Labor to work with states to reinstate work search requirements for UI recipients, if health and safety conditions allow.  As part of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act signed into law last year by the previous Administration, states receiving certain federal relief funds were required to waive their requirements that workers search for work in order to continue receiving unemployment benefits. While 29 states have already reinstated their work search requirements, the President is directing the Department of Labor to work with the remaining states, as health and safety conditions allow, to put in place appropriate work search requirements as the economy continues to rebound, vaccinations increase, and the pandemic is brought under control.

A core purpose of the UI program is helping workers get back to work. UI keeps workers connected to the labor market during spells of unemployment by providing workers with income that allows them to look for a job match commensurate with their skills or prior wages. UI recipients also gain access to crucial reemployment services to help with job search or retraining where necessary. Ensuring a good job match is good for workers, as well as employers who want the best candidates for their jobs.

Returning to work during a pandemic is more complicated than searching for work in ordinary times. The COVID-19 pandemic remains a genuine challenge for our country, with infections, hospitalizations, and deaths down substantially when compared with last year, but still at unacceptably high levels. While vaccinations are on the rise with over half of American adults having received at least one shot, around a quarter of those aged 18 to 29 and around a third of those aged 30 to 39 are fully vaccinated. There is a great deal more to do.

At the same time, our economy is growing again at an annual rate of more than 6% and more than 1.5 million jobs have been created over the last three months. Many more workers would like to return to work if they can overcome the barriers that stand in the way. We can and will continue to ensure workers and their families are protected from COVID-19, while also helping those who are able and available to search for good jobs in safe and healthy workplaces.

‘Key to Getting Funds Into Hands of Providers’

Katie Hamm, acting deputy assistant secretary for Early Childhood Development at HHS’ Administration for Children and Families, stated,  “Today, the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) released guidance to support states, territories, and tribes in distributing $24 billion in relief funds for child care providers. The guidance explains specific requirements related to the child care stabilization funds and identifies opportunities for states, territories, and tribes to leverage these resources to support a wide range of child care providers.

“The guidance is key to getting funds into the hands of providers that employ essential workers and help make child care accessible to working families. These funds essentially help stabilize the industry and spur economic growth in communities hit hardest by the pandemic. Most of these funds will go to providers and can be used for a variety of operating expenses, including wages and benefits, rent and utilities, personal protective equipment and sanitization and cleaning.

“This guidance lays out a roadmap for stabilizing the child care sector.  The document is meant to support and guide child care agencies in awarding grants to child care centers and family child care providers, which are vital to our nation’s economic recovery.”

Global Leaders Respond to Biden’s Call for Action to Address Climate Crisis

Jokulsarlon Glacier, Iceland. Iceland was one of 40 participants at the roundtable at President Joe Biden’s Leaders Climate Summit, responding to the call for action to address the climate crisis. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

This summary of outcomes of President Joe Biden’s historic Leaders on Climate, held April 22-23, 2021, was provided by the White House:

 After fulfilling his promise to bring America back into the Paris Agreement, President Biden convened 40 world leaders in a virtual Leaders Summit on Climate this week to rally the world in tackling the climate crisis and meeting the demands of science. The United States and other countries announced ambitious new climate targets ensuring that nations accounting for half of the world’s economy have now committed to the emission reductions needed globally to keep the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5-degrees C within reach.  Many leaders underscored the urgency of other major economies strengthening their ambition as well on the road to the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 26) in November 2021 in Glasgow.

The Summit, which was the largest virtual gathering of world leaders, convened the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate (the world’s 17 largest economies and greenhouse gas emitters) and included the leaders of other countries especially vulnerable to climate impacts or charting innovative pathways to a net-zero economy.  President Biden was joined at the Summit by Vice President Harris, members of the President’s Cabinet, Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry, and National Climate Advisor Gina McCarthy, as well as senior representatives of other countries and leaders from business and civil society. The full agenda and list of participants is available at https://www.state.gov/leaders-summit-on-climate/.

With the science telling us that the world needs to significantly increase the scale and speed of climate action, President Biden considered it vital to host this Summit within his first 100 days in office to make clear that it is a top U.S. priority to combat the climate crisis at home and abroad.   

Vice President Harris opened the Summit by emphasizing the intertwined imperatives of addressing the climate crisis, creating jobs, and protecting the most vulnerable communities.  Her remarks set the stage for the launch of the Summit’s five sessions, which were live-streamed [https://www.state.gov/leaders-summit-on-climate/].   

President Biden began Session 1 (“Raising Our Climate Ambition”) by framing enhanced climate action as necessary both to address the crisis and to promote economic opportunity, including the creation of good-paying, union jobs.  He told Summit participants that the United States will halve its greenhouse gas emissions within this decade, noting that countries that take decisive action now will reap the economic benefits of a clean energy future.  To enshrine this commitment, the United States submitted a new “nationally determined contribution” (NDC) under the Paris Agreement setting an economy-wide emissions target of a 50-52% reduction below 2005 levels in 2030. Secretary of State Blinken conveyed a strong sense of urgency in tackling the climate crisis, noting that this is a critical year and a decisive decade to take action.  He noted the U.S. resolve to work with other countries to engage in all avenues of cooperation to “save our planet.” 

Participants noted the need to work rapidly over the course of this decade to accelerate decarbonization efforts and are taking a range of actions to that end. Announcements during this Session included, among others:

  • Japan will cut emissions 46-50% below 2013 levels by 2030, with strong efforts toward achieving a 50% reduction, a significant acceleration from its existing 26% reduction goal.
  • Canada will strengthen its NDC to a 40-45% reduction from 2005 levels by 2030, a significant increase over its previous target to reduce emissions 30% below 2005 levels by 2030.
  • India reiterated its target of 450 GW of renewable energy by 2030 and announced the launch of the “U.S.-India 2030 Climate and Clean Energy Agenda 2030 Partnership” to mobilize finance and speed clean energy innovation and deployment this decade.
  • Argentina will strengthen its NDC, deploy more renewables, reduce methane emissions, and end illegal deforestation.
  • The United Kingdom will embed in law a 78% GHG reduction below 1990 levels by 2035.
  • The European Union is putting into law a target of reducing net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030 and a net zero target by 2050.
  • The Republic of Korea, which will host the 2021 P4G Seoul Summit in May, will terminate public overseas coal finance and strengthen its NDC this year to be consistent with its 2050 net zero goal.
  • China indicated that it will join the Kigali Amendment, strengthen the control of non-CO2 greenhouse gases, strictly control coal-fired power generation projects, and phase down coal consumption.   
  • Brazil committed to achieve net zero by 2050, end illegal deforestation by 2030, and double funding for deforestation enforcement.
  • South Africa announced that it intends to strengthen its NDC and shift its intended emissions peak year ten years earlier to 2025.
  • Russia noted the importance of carbon capture and storage from all sources, as well as atmospheric carbon removals. It also highlighted the importance of methane and called for international collaboration to address this powerful greenhouse gas.

Session 2 (“Investing in Climate Solutions”) addressed the urgent need to scale up climate finance, including both efforts to increase public finance for mitigation and adaptation in developing countries and efforts to catalyze trillions of dollars of private investment to support the transition to net zero emissions no later than 2050.  President Biden stressed the importance of developed countries meeting the collective goal of mobilizing $100 billion per year in public and private finance to support developing countries.  He also announced that the Administration intends to seek funding to double, by 2024, annual U.S. public climate finance to developing countries, compared to the average level of the second half of the Obama-Biden Administration (FY 2013-2016). This would include tripling public finance for adaptation by 2024. President Biden also called for an end to fossil fuel subsidies and announced that his Administration will undertake a series of steps to promote the measurement, disclosure, and mitigation of material climate risks to the financial system.

Treasury Secretary Yellen highlighted the role of multilateral development banks in supporting the transition. She also said that the Treasury Department will use all its tools and expertise to help support climate action. Special Envoy Kerry moderated a discussion among leaders from government, international organizations, and multilateral and private financial institutions. These leaders noted the importance of concessional finance to leverage much larger sums of private capital, as well as to provide finance to technologies, activities, and geographies where private capital is not flowing.  They noted the urgent need to increase finance for adaptation and resilience in developing countries.  The participants also recognized the need for governments to embrace key policies, including meaningful carbon pricing, enhanced disclosure of climate-related risks, and phasing out fossil fuel subsidies. Several of the private financial institutions expressed their support for coalitions such as the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero and the Net Zero Banking Alliance.  They also referred to recent commitments by U.S. banks to invest $4.16 trillion in climate solutions over the next ten years.

Session 3 elevated four specific topics for more focused consideration by government officials and, in some cases, a broader range of stakeholders. 

  • The discussion on climate action at all levels, hosted by U.S. EPA Administrator Regan and including participation from a wide range of governors, mayors, and indigenous leaders from around the world, illustrated the importance of marshalling a multi-level “all-of-society” approach to climate action.  The Session showcased States, cities, and indigenous groups that are committed to an equitable vision for advancing bold climate ambition and building resilience on the ground.  Participants discussed the critical importance of building just and inclusive societies and economies as they accelerate efforts to transform their communities in line with limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Participants discussed not only the importance of leadership at all levels of society and government, but also the importance of collaboration between national and subnational governments to catalyze additional ambition.
  • The discussion on adaptation and resilience, hosted by Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack and Secretary of Homeland Security Mayorkas, focused on innovative ways in which countries from a wide variety of regions are responding to climate change in the areas of water and coastal management, food security, and human impacts. On the theme of coastal and water management, panelists offered up innovative solutions to prepare for water-related climate challenges, such as locally-owned disaster insurance instruments, relocation, and the use of green and blue bonds to finance nature-based solutions. Focusing on food security and climate, participants highlighted the need for better technology to address a changing agricultural landscape as well as the importance of supporting small-scale farmers. On human health and security, the discussion centered on scaling up locally-led solutions to climate vulnerability, emphasizing that economic opportunities are key to keeping communities healthy and stable. The session emphasized that adaptation and mitigation go hand in hand. 
  • The discussion on nature-based solutions, hosted by Interior Secretary Haaland, addressed how achieving net zero by 2050 is not possible without natural climate solutions, such as stopping deforestation and the loss of wetlands and restoring marine and terrestrial ecosystems.  She announced U.S. support of a proposal to protect the Southern Ocean through the three marine protected area proposals under the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR). All participants highlighted their support for protecting and conserving land and marine areas to sequester carbon and build climate resilience, and several made announcements.  Seychelles is dedicating a chapter of its enhanced NDC to ocean-based solutions and is committing to protect at least 50% of its seagrass and mangrove ecosystems by 2025 and 100% by 2030, with support. Canada, for its part, is committing $4 billion in its new federal budget for land and ocean protection. In addition, Costa Rica underlined its co-leadership of the High-Ambition Coalition for Nature and People and the intention to have 30% of its ocean under protection by 2022; Peru highlighted that more than a fifth of its NDC measures are associated with nature-based solutions; Indonesia discussed its Presidential decree to permanently freeze new license for logging and peatland utilization, as well as its mangrove rehabilitation program; and Gabon noted that its intact and logged forests absorb four times more CO2 annually than its total emissions across all sectors.  Representatives of the Global Alliance of Territorial Communities and of the Kharia Tribe of India highlighted the need to recognize the contributions and traditional knowledge of local and indigenous communities in ecosystem protection.  
  • The discussion on climate security was hosted by Defense Secretary Austin.  His remarks were followed by remarks from both Director of National Intelligence Haines and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Thomas-Greenfield, who then moderated a panel discussion.  Speakers included NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg, defense officials from Iraq, Japan, Kenya, Spain, and the UK, as well as the Philippines’ finance minister.  A common theme throughout the discussion was how climate impacts exacerbate security concerns and, as a result, affect military capabilities, heighten geopolitical competition, undermine stability, and provoke regional conflicts.  Participants further emphasized that their nations and regions are vulnerable to extreme weather events, including sea level rise, cyclones, typhoons, drought, and increasing temperatures.  All of these intensify underlying political, social, and economic conditions, which in turn can lead to food insecurity and water scarcity, violent extremism, and mass population movement, with disproportionate effects on vulnerable populations, especially women.  Defense officials noted that their ministries are increasingly called upon to respond to disasters, which taxes their resources, thus elevating the need for enhanced disaster preparedness and response.  In looking at their own operations and readiness, they showcased current efforts to decrease their militaries’ emissions, emphasizing how incorporating climate considerations into their operational planning can increase the agility of their forces.  Additionally, they described the benefits of collaboration between defense ministries on shared climate risks. Participants highlighted the NATO climate security action plan and called on countries to incorporate climate considerations more broadly into multilateral fora, including UN peacekeeping missions.  Perhaps most noteworthy, this was the first-ever U.S. Secretary of Defense convening of Secretaries of Defense focused on climate change.  

Session 4 (“Unleashing Climate Innovation”) explored the critical innovations needed to speed net-zero transitions around the world and highlighted the efforts of governments, the private sector, and civil society in bringing new and improved technologies to market. Energy Secretary Granholm and Commerce Secretary Raimondo emphasized the economic rewards from investing in innovation as multi-trillion dollar markets for clean technologies emerge in the coming decades and announced reinvigorated U.S. international leadership on innovation. The discussion underscored the urgent need for innovation: 45% of the emissions reductions needed for a swift net-zero transition must come from technologies that are not commercially available, according to the Executive Director of the International Energy Agency, and Bill Gates urged investment to drive down “green premium” prices of most zero-carbon technologies compared with fossil fuel alternatives. Several leading countries — Denmark, the United Arab Emirates, Israel, Kenya, Norway, and Singapore — described their approaches to investing in mitigation and adaptation technologies. These included clean fuels such as hydrogen, renewables such as offshore wind and geothermal energy, energy storage, clean desalination, carbon capture, advanced mobility, sustainable urban design, and monitoring technologies to verify emissions and stop deforestation. Leaders from the private sector, including from GE Renewables, Vattenfall, and X, as well as from the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, focused on training the diverse innovators of the future and investing in technologies for digitalized, electrified, decarbonized, and resilient energy systems. Special Envoy Kerry closed by emphasizing that raising our innovation ambition enables us to raise the world’s climate ambition. 

Several speakers made announcements during this Session: Denmark announced a technology mission under Mission Innovation to decarbonize the global shipping sector, in collaboration with the United States, and that it will build the world’s first energy islands to produce clean fuels and supply power to Europe. The United Arab Emirates launched the Agriculture Innovation Mission for Climate in partnership with the United States, Australia, Brazil, Denmark, Israel, Singapore, and Uruguay. Bill Gates launched the Breakthrough Energy Catalyst to drive public, private, and philanthropic capital to scale up critical emerging technologies. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute announced the Institute for Energy, the Built Environment, and Smart Systems to decarbonize urban systems. GE Renewable Energy announced that the GE Foundation is committing up to $100 million to increase the diversity of the next generation of engineers. And X, Alphabet’s Moonshot Factory, announced a Moonshot for the electric grid. 

President Biden began Session 5 (“The Economic Opportunities of Climate Action”) by recognizing the opportunity that ambitious climate action presents to countries around the world to create good, high quality jobs. He noted that countries that prioritize policies that promote renewable energy deployment, electric vehicle manufacturing, methane abatement, and building retrofits, among other actions, would likely reap the rewards of job growth and economic prosperity in the years ahead. The U.S. Trade Representative, Ambassador Tai, Transportation Secretary Buttigieg, and National Climate Advisor McCarthy underscored that the climate agenda could be a race to the top for countries that are pursuing the most ambitious methods to tackle the crisis, noting the American Jobs Plan that President Biden has proposed. 

Participants echoed this vision and elaborated their own projects and programs to maximize the economic benefits of their climate actions. Leaders of countries recognized that the economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic presents an opportunity for countries to build back better and invest in the industries of the future. Community, tribal, private sector, and labor leaders also weighed in on the opportunities that decarbonization provided. Panelists noted that climate action presents economic opportunities to all parts of society, from energy workers to vehicle manufacturers, from large businesses to small. In particular, there was general alignment among both country representatives and other participants that governments should promote equitable opportunities for workers and that labor unions can play a key role in promoting high quality employment opportunities for people around the world. To that end, Poland announced that they had just concluded negotiations with coal mine labor unions to ensure a just transition of workers as part of their coal-fired power phasedown. In response to the discussion, President Biden closed by emphasizing that climate action might represent the largest economic opportunity of this century and urging leaders to stay focused.
 
In between the five Sessions, several other speakers provided important perspectives. Youth speaker Xiye Bastida, declaring that climate justice is social justice, underlined that youth need to be a part of decision-making processes and called for a stop to fossil fuel subsidies and extraction. Current and future Conference of Parties Presidents Minister Carolina Schmidt (Chile) and MP Alok Sharma (UK) discussed the urgency of achieving net-zero emissions by 2050. Minister Schmidt noted that COP25 included, for the first time, a mandate to address the ocean-climate nexus, while MP Sharma noted that we must put the world on a path to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 through long-term targets and aligned NDCs, as well as immediate action, such as phasing out coal. Pope Francis, who has been a climate leader for many years, underlined the need to “care for nature so that nature may care for us.” Chair Mallory of the White House Council on Environmental Quality highlighted the Biden Administration’s commitment to environmental justice and introduced Peggy Shepard, Co-Chair of the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council; she underlined the need to build back better to lift up the communities struggling with climate impacts and environmental injustice.  Michael Bloomberg, UN Special Envoy on Climate Ambition and Solutions, noted the key role of cities and businesses in tackling the climate crisis.

Alongside the Summit, Special Envoy Kerry hosted two Ministerial Roundtables to provide a broader group of countries an opportunity to contribute to the discussions.  He heard from representatives of more than 60 countries from all over the world, reflecting a wide range of regions, geographic features, and national circumstances, and summarized their input for leaders on the second day of the Summit.  Many Roundtable participants expressed concern about the inadequacy of global climate action to date and/or shared the unprecedented climate impacts they are experiencing. At the same time, participants enthusiastically reported on the significant, exciting efforts they are undertaking to confront the climate crisis, even while facing the global pandemic. Beyond many commitments to net zero emissions, enhanced NDCs, and innovative adaptation efforts, participants included a carbon-negative country, countries that have successfully decoupled economic growth from carbon emissions, leaders in carbon storage, countries with extensive forest cover, issuers of green bonds, and countries focusing on gender-responsive approaches and the participation of indigenous communities.  It was notable that many of those passionately embracing climate solutions contribute far less than 1% of global emissions.  The Roundtables contributed to the Summit’s sense of urgency as countries rally around increased ambition on the road to Glasgow.

Roundtable participants represented:  Afghanistan, Andorra, Angola, Armenia, Austria, Bahrain, Belgium, Cabo Verde, Cambodia, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Ecuador, Estonia, Federated States of Micronesia, Finland, Georgia, Greece, Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Latvia, Libya, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Maldives, Mali, Malta, Mauritania, Monaco, Mongolia, Montenegro, Nepal, North Macedonia, Oman, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Republic of Congo, Romania, Senegal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sri Lanka, St. Kitts and Nevis, Suriname, Sweden, Switzerland, Tanzania, The Bahamas, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu, and Zambia. 

A list of new climate-related initiatives announced by the United States at or around the Summit can be found in this Fact Sheet [https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2021/04/23/fact-sheet-president-bidens-leaders-summit-on-climate/].  

Biden Declares Way Forward in Afghanistan: ‘It’s time to end America’s longest war. It’s time for American troops to come home’

President Joe Biden pays his respects to the fallen at Section 60 of Arlington National Cemetery where recent war dead are buried, including many of the women and men who died fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq. Biden, announcing that US troops will be withdrawn from Afghanistan, America’s longest war, by September 11, 2021, 20 years after the terror attacks, keeps a tally of how many have died in Afghanistan, 2,448, and 20,722 wounded © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

On April 14, speaking from the Treaty Room in the White House, President Joe Biden declared that American troops would be out of Afghanistan, America’s longest war, by September 11, 2021, 20 years after the terror attacks masterminded by Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda that left 3000 dead New York, Washington DC and Shanksville, PA. here is a highlighted transcript:

Good afternoon.  I’m speaking to you today from the Roosevelt — the Treaty Room in the White House.  The same spot where, on October of 2001, President George W. Bush informed our nation that the United States military had begun strikes on terrorist training camps in Afghanistan.  It was just weeks — just weeks after the terrorist attack on our nation that killed 2,977 innocent souls; that turned Lower Manhattan into a disaster area, destroyed parts of the Pentagon, and made hallowed ground of a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, and sparked an American promise that we would “never forget.”

We went to Afghanistan in 2001 to root out al Qaeda, to prevent future terrorist attacks against the United States planned from Afghanistan.  Our objective was clear.  The cause was just.  Our NATO Allies and partners rallied beside us.  And I supported that military action, along with overwhelming majority of the members of Congress.

More than seven years later, in 2008, weeks before we swore the oath of office — President Obama and I were about to swear — President Obama asked me to travel to Afghanistan and report back on the state of the war in Afghanistan.  I flew to Afghanistan, to the Kunar Valley — a rugged, mountainous region on the border with Pakistan.  What I saw on that trip reinforced my conviction that only the Afghans have the right and responsibility to lead their country, and that more and endless American military force could not create or sustain a durable Afghan government. 

I believed that our presence in Afghanistan should be focused on the reason we went in the first place: to ensure Afghanistan would not be used as a base from which to attack our homeland again.  We did that.  We accomplished that objective. 

I said, among — with others, we’d follow Osama bin Laden to the gates of hell if need be.  That’s exactly what we did, and we got him.  It took us close to 10 years to put President Obama’s commitment into form.  And that’s exactly what happened; Osama bin Laden was gone. 

That was 10 years ago.  Think about that.  We delivered justice to bin Laden a decade ago, and we’ve stayed in Afghanistan for a decade since.  Since then, our reasons for remaining in Afghanistan are becoming increasingly unclear, even as the terrorist threat that we went to fight evolved.

Over the past 20 years, the threat has become more dispersed, metastasizing around the globe: al-Shabaab in Somalia; al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula; al-Nusra in Syria; ISIS attempting to create a  [caliphate] in Syria and Iraq, and establishing affiliates in multiple countries in Africa and Asia. 

With the terror threat now in many places, keeping thousands of troops grounded and concentrated in just one country at a cost of billions each year makes little sense to me and to our leaders.  We cannot continue the cycle of extending or expanding our military presence in Afghanistan, hoping to create ideal conditions for the withdrawal, and expecting a different result. 

I’m now the fourth United States President to preside over American troop presence in Afghanistan: two Republicans, two Democrats.  I will not pass this responsibility on to a fifth.

After consulting closely with our allies and partners, with our military leaders and intelligence personnel, with our diplomats and our development experts, with the Congress and the Vice President, as well as with Mr. Ghani and many others around the world, I have concluded that it’s time to end America’s longest war.  It’s time for American troops to come home. 

When I came to office, I inherited a diplomatic agreement, duly negotiated between the government of the United States and the Taliban, that all U.S. forces would be out of Afghanistan by May 1, 2021, just three months after my inauguration.  That’s what we inherited — that commitment. 

It is perhaps not what I would have negotiated myself, but it was an agreement made by the United States government, and that means something.  So, in keeping with that agreement and with our national interests, the United States will begin our final withdrawal — begin it on May 1 of this year. 

We will not conduct a hasty rush to the exit.  We’ll do it — we’ll do it responsibly, deliberately, and safely.  And we will do it in full coordination with our allies and partners, who now have more forces in Afghanistan than we do. 
 
And the Taliban should know that if they attack us as we draw down, we will defend ourselves and our partners with all the tools at our disposal. 

Our allies and partners have stood beside us shoulder-to-shoulder in Afghanistan for almost 20 years, and we’re deeply grateful for the contributions they have made to our shared mission and for the sacrifices they have borne.

The plan has long been “in together, out together.”  U.S. troops, as well as forces deployed by our NATO Allies and operational partners, will be out of Afghanistan before we mark the 20th anniversary of that heinous attack on September 11th. 
 
But — but we’ll not take our eye off the terrorist threat.  We’ll reorganize our counterterrorism capabilities and the substantial assets in the region to prevent reemergence of terrorists — of the threat to our homeland from over the horizon.  We’ll hold the Taliban accountable for its commitment not to allow any terrorists to threaten the United States or its allies from Afghan soil.  The Afghan government has made that commitment to us as well.  And we’ll focus our full attention on the threat we face today. 
 
At my direction, my team is refining our national strategy to monitor and disrupt significant terrorist threats not only in Afghanistan, but anywhere they may arise — and they’re in Africa, Europe, the Middle East, and elsewhere.

I spoke yesterday with President Bush to inform him of my decision. While he and I have had many disagreements over policies throughout the years, we’re absolutely united in our respect and support for the valor, courage, and integrity of the women and men of the United States Armed Forces who served.  I’m immensely grateful for the bravery and backbone that they have shown through nearly two decades of combat deployments.  We as a nation are forever indebted to them and to their families. 

You all know that less than 1 percent of Americans serve in our armed forces.  The remaining 99 percent of them — we owe them.  We owe them.  They have never backed down from a single mission that we’ve asked of them.

I’ve witnessed their bravery firsthand during my visits to Afghanistan.  They’ve never wavered in their resolve.  They’ve paid a tremendous price on our behalf.  And they have the thanks of a grateful nation.

While we will not stay involved in Afghanistan militarily, our diplomatic and humanitarian work will continue.  We’ll continue to support the government of Afghanistan.  We will keep providing assistance to the Afghan National Defenses and Security Forces. 

And along with our partners, we have trained and equipped a standing force of over 300,000 Afghan personnel today and hundreds of thousands over the past two decades.  And they’ll continue to fight valiantly, on behalf of the Afghans, at great cost.  They’ll support peace talks, as we will support peace talks between the government of Afghanistan and the Taliban, facilitated by the United Nations.  And we’ll continue to support the rights of Afghan women and girls by maintaining significant humanitarian and development assistance.

And we’ll ask other countries — other countries in the region — to do more to support Afghanistan, especially Pakistan, as well as Russia, China, India, and Turkey.  They all have a significant stake in the stable future for Afghanistan. 

And over the next few months, we will also determine what a continued U.S. diplomatic presence in Afghanistan will look like, including how we’ll ensure the security of our diplomats.

Look, I know there are many who will loudly insist that diplomacy cannot succeed without a robust U.S. military presence to stand as leverage.  We gave that argument a decade.  It’s never proved effective — not when we had 98,000 troops in Afghanistan, and not when we were down to a few thousand.

Our diplomacy does not hinge on having boots in harm’s way — U.S. boots on the ground.  We have to change that thinking.  American troops shouldn’t be used as a bargaining chip between warring parties in other countries.  You know, that’s nothing more than a recipe for keeping American troops in Afghanistan indefinitely. 

I also know there are many who will argue that we should stay — stay fighting in Afghanistan because withdrawal would damage America’s credibility and weaken America’s influence in the world.  I believe the exact opposite is true. 

We went to Afghanistan because of a horrific attack that happened 20 years ago.  That cannot explain why we should remain there in 2021. 

Rather than return to war with the Taliban, we have to focus on the challenges that are in front of us.  We have to track and disrupt terrorist networks and operations that spread far beyond Afghanistan since 9/11.

We have to shore up American competitiveness to meet the stiff competition we’re facing from an increasingly assertive China.  We have to strengthen our alliances and work with like-minded partners to ensure that the rules of international norms that govern cyber threats and emerging technologies that will shape our future are grounded in our democratic values — values — not those of the autocrats. 
 
We have to defeat this pandemic and strengthen the global health system to prepare for the next one, because there will be another pandemic. 
 
You know, we’ll be much more formidable to our adversaries and competitors over the long term if we fight the battles for the next 20 years, not the last 20. 
 
And finally, the main argument for staying longer is what each of my three predecessors have grappled with: No one wants to say that we should be in Afghanistan forever, but they insist now is not the right moment to leave. 

In 2014, NATO issued a declaration affirming that Afghan Security Forces would, from that point on, have full responsibility for their country’s security by the end of that year.  That was seven years ago. 

So when will it be the right moment to leave?  One more year, two more years, ten more years?  Ten, twenty, thirty billion dollars more above the trillion we’ve already spent? 
 
“Not now” — that’s how we got here.  And in this moment, there’s a significant downside risk to staying beyond May 1st without a clear timetable for departure. 
 
If we instead pursue the approach where America — U.S. exit is tied to conditions on the ground, we have to have clear answers to the following questions: Just what conditions require to — be required to allow us to depart?  By what means and how long would it take to achieve them, if they could be achieved at all?  And at what additional cost in lives and treasure?

I’m not hearing any good answers to these questions.  And if you can’t answer them, in my view, we should not stay.  The fact is that, later today, I’m going to visit Arlington National Cemetery, Section 60, and that sacred memorial to American sacrifice. 

Section 60 is where our recent war dead are buried, including many of the women and men who died fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq.  There’s no — there’s no comforting distance in history in Section 60.  The grief is raw.  It’s a visceral reminder of the living cost of war. 

For the past 12 years, ever since I became Vice President, I’ve carried with me a card that reminds me of the exact number of American troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.  That exact number, not an approximation or rounded-off number — because every one of those dead are sacred human beings who left behind entire families.  An exact accounting of every single solitary one needs to be had. 

As of the day — today, there are [2,448] U.S. troops and personnel who have died in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Freedom’s Sentinel — our Afghanistan conflicts.  20,722 have been wounded. 

I’m the first President in 40 years who knows what it means to have a child serving in a warzone.  And throughout this process, my North Star has been remembering what it was like when my late son, Beau, was deployed to Iraq — how proud he was to serve his country; how insistent he was to deploy with his unit; and the impact it had on him and all of us at home. 

We already have service members doing their duty in Afghanistan today whose parents served in the same war.  We have service members who were not yet born when our nation was attacked on 9/11. 

War in Afghanistan was never meant to be a multi-generational undertaking.  We were attacked.  We went to war with clear goals.  We achieved those objectives.  Bin Laden is dead, and al Qaeda is degraded in Iraq — in Afghanistan.  And it’s time to end the forever war. 

Thank you all for listening.  May God protect our troops.  May God bless all those families who lost someone in this endeavor.

Biden on Anniversary of COVID-19 Shutdown: ‘ We’ll come out stronger with a renewed faith in ourselves, a renewed commitment to one another, to our communities, and to our country’

“Over a year ago, no one could’ve imagined what we were about to go through, but now we’re coming through it, and it’s a shared experience that binds us together as a nation,” President Biden declared in a public address marking the one-year anniversary since COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic and the nation was shut down. “We are bound together by the loss and the pain of the days that have gone by. But we’re also bound together by the hope and the possibilities of the days in front of us.” (c) Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

President Joe Biden delivered his first public address to the nation on the one-year anniversary of COVID-19 being declared a global pandemic and the nation shut down. He delivered it with compassion and understanding for the turmoil, the loss of lives and livelihoods, that every American has endured, and delivered it with somber but hopeful tone that a better future is just ahead. He even put a date on it, setting a goal of July 4th, when it Americans can once again gather together in celebration of independence. The date was not random or fantastical, but based on the progress made in substantively increasing the supply and distribution of vaccine, and warned that there still could be forces – like more transmissible variants – that could interfere with the July 4th date. He took responsibility in a whole-of-government sense, but also called upon the nation, in unity, to continue to use public health measures – wearing masks, social distancing and hand-washing – so that the July 4th goal could be achieved. He reminded Americans of what it means to be an American – to be optimistic, innovative, heroic.

“Over a year ago, no one could’ve imagined what we were about to go through, but now we’re coming through it, and it’s a shared experience that binds us together as a nation,” President Biden declared. “We are bound together by the loss and the pain of the days that have gone by. But we’re also bound together by the hope and the possibilities of the days in front of us.”

Here are President Biden’s remarks, highlighted: THE PRESIDENT: Good evening, my fellow Americans.

Tonight, I’d like to talk to you about where we are as we mark one year since everything stopped because of this pandemic.

A year ago, we were hit with a virus that was met with silence and spread unchecked.
 
Denials for days, weeks, then months that led to more deaths, more infections, more stress, and more loneliness.


Photos and videos from 2019 feel like they were taken in another era. The last vacation. The last birthday with friends. The last holiday with the extended family.

While it was different for everyone, we all lost something.
 
A collective suffering. A collective sacrifice. A year filled with the loss of life — and the loss of living for all of us.
 
But, in the loss, we saw how much there was to gain in appreciation, respect, and gratitude.


Finding light in the darkness is a very American thing to do. In fact, it may be the most American thing we do.

And that’s what we’ve done.

We’ve seen frontline and essential workers risking their lives — sometimes losing them — to save and help others. Researchers and scientists racing for a vaccine. And so many of you, as Hemingway wrote, being strong in all the broken places.

I know it’s been hard. I truly know.

As I’ve told you before, I carry a card in my pocket with the number of Americans who have died from COVID to date. It’s on the back of my schedule. As of now, the total deaths in America: 527,726. That’s more deaths than in World War One, World War Two, the Vietnam War, and 9/11 combined.

They were husbands, wives, sons and daughters, grandparents, friends, neighbors — young and old. They leave behind loved ones unable to truly grieve or to heal, even to have a funeral.
 
But I’m also thinking about everyone else who lost this past year to natural causes, by cruel fate of accident, or other diseases. They, too, died alone. They, too, leave loved ones behind who are hurting badly.
 
You know, you’ve often heard me say before, I talk about the longest walk any parent can make is up a short flight of stairs to his child’s bedroom to say, “I’m sorry. I lost my job. We can’t be here anymore.” Like my Dad told me when he lost his job in Scranton.

So many of you have had to make that same walk this past year.

You lost your job. You closed your business. Facing eviction, homelessness, hunger, a loss of control, and, maybe worst of all, a loss of hope.
 
Watching a generation of children who may be set back up to a year or more — because they’ve not been in school — because of their loss of learning.
 
It’s the details of life that matter most, and we’ve missed those details.

The big details and small moments.  

Weddings, birthdays, graduations — all the things that needed to happen but didn’t. The first date. The family reunions. The Sunday night rituals.

It’s all has exacted a terrible cost on the psyche of so many of us. For we are fundamentally a people who want to be with others — to talk, to laugh, to hug, to hold one another.

But this virus has kept us apart.

Grandparents haven’t seen their children or grandchildren. Parents haven’t seen their kids. Kids haven’t seen their friends.

The things we used to do that always filled us with joy have become the things we couldn’t do and broke our hearts.

Too often, we’ve turned against one another.
 
A mask — the easiest thing to do to save lives — sometimes it divides us.

States pitted against one other instead of working with each other.
 
Vicious hate crimes against Asian Americans
, who have been attacked, harassed, blamed, and scapegoated. At this very moment, so many of them — our fellow Americans — they’re on the frontlines of this pandemic, trying to save lives, and still — still — they are forced to live in fear for their lives just walking down streets in America. It’s wrong, it’s un-American, and it must stop.

Look, we know what we need to do to beat this virus: Tell the truth. Follow the scientists and the science. Work together. Put trust and faith in our government to fulfill its most important function, which is protecting the American people — no function more important.

We need to remember the government isn’t some foreign force in a distant capital. No, it’s us. All of us. “We the People.” For you and I, that America thrives when we give our hearts, when we turn our hands to common purpose. And right now, my friends, we are doing just that. And I have to say, as your President, I am grateful to you.

Last summer, I was in Philadelphia, and I met a small-business owner — a woman. I asked her — I said, “What do you need most?” I’ll never forget what she said to me. She said — looking me in the eye, she said, “I just want the truth. The truth. Just tell me the truth.” Think of that.

My fellow Americans, you’re owed nothing less than the truth.

And for all of you asking when things will get back to normal, here is the truth: The only way to get our lives back, to get our economy back on track is to beat the virus.

You’ve been hearing me say that for — while I was running and the last 50 days I’ve been President. But this is one of the most complex operations we’ve under- — ever undertaken as a nation in a long time.

That’s why I’m using every power I have as President of the United States to put us on a war footing to get the job done. It sounds like hyperbole, but I mean it: a war footing.

And thank God we’re making some real progress now.

On my first full day in office, I outlined for you a comprehensive strategy to beat this pandemic. And we have spent every day since attempting to carry it out.

Two months ago, the country — this country didn’t have nearly enough vaccine supply to vaccinate all or near all of the American public. But soon we will.

We’ve been working with the vaccine manufacturers — Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson — to manufacture and purchase hundreds of millions of doses of these three safe, effective vaccines. And now, at the direction and with the assistance of my administration, Johnson & Johnson is working together with a competitor, Merck, to speed up and increase the capacity to manufacture new Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which is one shot.

In fact, just yesterday, I announced — and I met with the CEOs of both companies — I announced our plan to buy an additional 100 million doses of Johnson & Johnson vaccines.  These two companies — competitors — have come together for the good of the nation, and they should be applauded for it.

It’s truly a national effort, just like we saw during World War II.

Now because of all the work we’ve done, we’ll have enough vaccine supply for all adults in America by the end of May. That’s months ahead of schedule.

And we’re mobilizing thousands of vaccinators to put the vaccine in one’s arm. Calling on active duty military, FEMA, retired doctors and nurses, administrators, and those to administer the shots.

And we’ve been creating more places to get the shots. We’ve made it possible for you to get a vaccine at any one of nearly 10,000 pharmacies across the country, just like you get your flu shot.

We’re also working with governors and mayors, in red states and blue states, to set up and support nearly 600 federally supported vaccination centers that administer hundreds of thousands of shots per day. You can drive up to a stadium or a large parking lot, get your shot, never leave your car, and drive home in less than an hour.

We’ve been sending vaccines to hundreds of community health centers all across America, located in underserved areas. And we’ve been deploying and we will deploy more mobile vehicles and pop-up clinics to meet you where you live so those who are least able to get the vaccine are able to get it.

We continue to work on making at-home testing available.  
 
And we’ve been focused on serving people in the hardest-hit communities of this pandemic — Black, Latino, Native American, and rural communities.

So, what does all this add up to? When I took office 50 days ago, only 8 percent of Americans after months — only 8 percent of those over the age of 65 had gotten their first vaccination. Today, that number is [nearly] 65 percent. Just 14 percent of Americans over the age 75, 50 days ago, had gotten their first shot. Today, that number is well over 70 percent.

With new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — the CDC — that came out on Monday, it means simply this: Millions and millions of grandparents who went months without being able to hug their grandkids can now do so. And the more people who are fully vaccinated, the CD [CDC] will continue to provide guidance on what you can do in the workplace, places of worship, with friends, and as well as travel.

When I came into office, you may recall, I set a goal that many of you said was, kind of, way over the top. I said I intended to get 100 million shots in people’s arms in my first 100 days in office. Tonight, I can say we are not only going to meet that goal, we’re going to beat that goal. Because we’re actually on track to reach this goal of 100 million shots in arms on my 60th day in office. No other country in the world has done this. None.
 

Now I want to talk about the next steps we’re thinking about.

First, tonight, I’m announcing that I will direct all states, tribes, and territories to make all adults — people 18 and over — eligible to be vaccinated no later than May 1.

Let me say that again: All adult Americans will be eligible to get a vaccine no later than May 1. That’s much earlier than expected.

Let me be clear: That doesn’t mean everyone’s going to have that shot immediately, but it means you’ll be able to get in line beginning May 1. Every adult will be eligible to get their shot.

To do this, we’re going to go from a million shots a day that I promised in December, before I was sworn in, to maintaining — beating our current pace of two million shots a day, outpacing the rest of the world.

Secondly, at the time when every adult is eligible in May, we will launch, with our partners, new tools to make it easier for you to find the vaccine and where to get the shot, including a new website that will help you first find the place to get vaccinated and the one nearest you. No more searching day and night for an appointment for you and your loved ones.

Thirdly, with the passage of the American Rescue Plan — and I thank again the House and Senate for passing it — and my announcement last month of a plan to vaccinate teachers and school staff, including bus drivers, we can accelerate the massive, nationwide effort to reopen our schools safely and meet my goal, that I stated at the same time about 100 million shots, of opening the majority of K-8 schools in my first 100 days in office. This is going to be the number one priority of my new Secretary of Education, Miguel Cardona.

Fourth, in the coming weeks, we will issue further guidance on what you can and cannot do once fully vaccinated, to lessen the confusion, to keep people safe, and encourage more people to get vaccinated.

And finally, fifth, and maybe most importantly: I promise I will do everything in my power, I will not relent until we beat this virus, but I need you, the American people. I need you. I need every American to do their part. And that’s not hyperbole. I need you.

I need you to get vaccinated when it’s your turn and when you can find an opportunity, and to help your family and friends and neighbors get vaccinated as well.

Because here’s the point: If we do all this, if we do our part, if we do this together, by July the 4th, there’s a good chance you, your families, and friends will be able to get together in your backyard or in your neighborhood and have a cookout and a barbeque and celebrate Independence Day. That doesn’t mean large events with lots of people together, but it does mean small groups will be able to get together.

After this long hard year, that will make this Independence Day something truly special, where we not only mark our independence as a nation, but we begin to mark our independence from this virus.

But to get there, we can’t let our guard down.
 
This fight is far from order — from over. As I told the woman in Pennsylvania, “I will tell you the truth.”

A July 4th with your loved ones is the goal. But a goal — a lot can happen; conditions can change.

The scientists have made clear that things may get worse again as new variants of the virus spread.
 
And we’ve got work to do to ensure everyone has confidence in the safety and effectiveness of all three vaccines.

So my message to you is this: Listen to Dr. Fauci, one of the most distinguished and trusted voices in the world. He has assured us the vaccines are safe. They underwent rigorous scientific review. I know they’re safe. Vice President Harris and I know they’re safe. That’s why we got the vaccine publicly in front of cameras so — for the world to see, so you could see us do it. The First Lady and the Second Gentleman also got vaccinated.

Talk to your family, your friends, your neighbors — the people you know best who’ve gotten the vaccine.

We need everyone to get vaccinated. We need everyone to keep washing their hands, stay socially distanced, and keep wearing the masks as recommended by the CDC.

Because even if we devote every resource we have, beating this virus and getting back to normal depends on national unity.

And national unity isn’t just how politics and politicians vote in Washington or what the loudest voices say on cable or online. Unity is what we do together as fellow Americans. Because if we don’t stay vigilant and the conditions change, then we may have to reinstate restrictions to get back on track. And, please, we don’t want to do again.

We’ve made so much progress. This is not the time to let up. Just as we are emerging from a dark winter into a hopeful spring and summer is not the time to not stick with the rules.

I’ll close with this.

We’ve lost so much over the last year.

We’ve lost family and friends.

We’ve lost businesses and dreams we spent years building.

We’ve lost time — time with each other.

And our children have lost so much time with their friends, time with their schools. No graduation ceremonies this — this spring. No graduations from college, high school, moving-up ceremonies.

You know, and there’s something else we lost.

We lost faith in whether our government and our democracy can deliver on really hard things for the American people.

But as I stand here tonight, we’re proving once again something I have said time and time again until they’re probably tired of hearing me say it. I say it foreign leaders and domestic alike: It’s never, ever a good bet to bet against the American people. America is coming back.

The development, manufacture, and distribution of the vaccines in record time is a true miracle of science. It is one of the most extraordinary achievements any country has ever accomplished.

And we also just saw the Perseverance rover land on Mars. Stunning images of our dreams that are now a reality. Another example of the extraordinary American ingenuity, commitment, and belief in science and one another.

And today, I signed into law the American Rescue Plan, an historic piece of legislation that delivers immediate relief to millions of people. It includes $1,400 in direct rescue checks — payments. That means a typical family of four earning about $110,000 will get checks for $5,600 deposited if they have direct deposit or in a check — a Treasury check.
 
It extends unemployment benefits. It helps small businesses. It lowers healthcare premiums for many. It provides food and nutrition, keeps families in their homes. And it will cut child poverty in this country in half, according to the experts. And it funds all the steps I’ve just described to beat the virus and create millions of jobs.

In the coming weeks and months, I’ll be traveling, along with the First Lady, the Vice President, the Second Gentleman and members of my Cabinet, to speak directly to you, to tell you the truth about how the American Rescue Plan meets the moment. And if it fails, I will acknowledge that it failed. But it will not.

About how after a long, dark years — one whole year, there is hope and light of better days ahead.

If we all do our part, this country will be vaccinated soon, our economy will be on the mend, our kids will be back in school, and we will have proven once again that this country can do anything — hard things, big things, important things.

Over a year ago, no one could’ve imagined what we were about to go through, but now we’re coming through it, and it’s a shared experience that binds us together as a nation. We are bound together by the loss and the pain of the days that have gone by. But we’re also bound together by the hope and the possibilities of the days in front of us.

My fervent prayer for our country is that, after all we have been through, we’ll come together as one people, one nation, one America.

I believe we can and we will. We’re seizing this moment. And history, I believe, will record: We faced and overcame one of the toughest and darkest periods in this nation’s history — darkest we’ve ever known.

I promise you, we’ll come out stronger with a renewed faith in ourselves, a renewed commitment to one another, to our communities, and to our country.

This is the United States of America, and there is nothing — nothing — from the bottom of my heart, I believe this — there is nothing we can’t do when we do it together.

So God bless you all.

And please, God, give solace to all those people who lost someone.

And may God protect our troops.

Thank you for taking the time to listen.

I look forward to seeing you.

Biden Takes Aggressive, Immediate Action to Contain COVID-19 Crisis

The President Releases National COVID-19 Strategy and Signs Executive Actions to Expand Testing, Administer Vaccines, Advance Racial Equity, and Safely Reopen Schools and Businesses

 

President Joe Biden released the National Strategy for the COVID-19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness — a comprehensive, 198-page roadmap to guide America out of this pandemic. To jumpstart this strategy, he signed 10 Executive Orders and other directives to move quickly to contain the COVID-19 crisis by expanding testing, administering vaccines, advancing racial equity, and safely reopening schools and businesses © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Today, on his first full day in the White House, President Joe Biden released the National Strategy for the COVID-19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness — a comprehensive, 198-page roadmap to guide America out of this pandemic. To jumpstart this strategy, he signed 10 Executive Orders and other directives and took additional actions to move quickly to contain the COVID-19 crisis by expanding testing, administering vaccines, advancing racial equity, and safely reopening schools and businesses. These steps build on actions President Biden took yesterday to rejoin the World Health Organization, encourage masking, and to create his White House COVID-19 Response Team.
 
Here are more details on the steps that President Biden took today to immediately put his National Strategy into action.
 
IMMEDIATELY EXPAND EMERGENCY RELIEF AND EXERCISE THE DEFENSE PRODUCTION ACT (DPA)
 
Manufacture and Deliver Supplies for Vaccination, Testing, and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
 President Biden is taking immediate action to fill supply shortfalls for vaccination supplies, testing supplies, and PPE, and to ensure that these critical supplies equitably reach American communities, especially communities of color and other underserved communities hit hardest by the virus. The President will issue an Executive Order directing relevant agencies to exercise all appropriate authorities, including the DPA, to accelerate manufacturing, delivery, and administration to meet shortfalls in equipment and supplies needed for the COVID-19 response, beginning with action to increase the availability of critical supplies such as N95 masks, isolation gowns, nitrile gloves, PCR sample collection swabs, test reagents, pipette tips, laboratory analysis machines for PCR tests, high-absorbency foam swabs, nitrocellulose material for rapid antigen tests, rapid test kits, and all the necessary equipment and material to accelerate the manufacture, delivery, and administration of COVID-19 vaccine.
 
Reimburse States So They Can Deploy the Emergency Personnel and Supplies Americans Need
The President will issue a Presidential Memorandum directing the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) to increase federal reimbursement to states and Tribes from 75 percent to 100 percent of the cost for National Guard personnel and emergency supplies, such as PPE, cleaning and sanitizing efforts, and the personnel and equipment needed to create vaccination centers. The order also includes restoring full reimbursement for eligible costs necessary to support safe school reopening through the FEMA Disaster Relief Fund. To help address the health and financial crises faced by Tribal Nations throughout our country and to advance Tribal sovereignty in our COVID-19 response, this Memorandum also expands FEMA resources for Tribal governments.
 
MITIGATE SPREAD THROUGH EXPANDING TESTING, TREATMENT, AND THE PUBLIC HEALTH WORKFORCE, AND ESTABLISHING CLEAR PUBLIC HEALTH STANDARDS
 
Establish the Pandemic Testing Board, Expand Testing, and Strengthen the Public Health Workforce
To control the COVID-19 pandemic and safely reopen schools and businesses, the U.S. must have wide-spread testing. President Biden will issue an Executive Order that establishes the COVID-19 Pandemic Testing Board to bring the full force of the federal government’s expertise to expanding testing supply and increasing access to testing. The federal government will increase testing capacity by directing the use of the DPA and other authorities to procure more tests and expand manufacturing capacity where possible. The Executive Order will promote surge capacity for testing in the United States, onshore test manufacturing, expand the public health workforce, support COVID-19 screening for schools, and ensure that underserved communities, including communities of color, can equitably access tests.
 
Bolster Access to COVID-19 Treatments and Clinical Care
Effective treatments for COVID-19 are critical to saving lives. President Biden will sign an Executive Order directing studies, including large-scale randomized trials, to identify treatments for COVID-19 and to ensure that such studies address the needs of diverse populations. The Executive Order establishes a comprehensive, integrated, equitable, and coordinated preclinical drug discovery and development program to allow therapeutics to be evaluated and developed in response to pandemic threats. The Order also outlines steps to improve clinical care, provide assistance to long-term care facilities and intermediate care facilities for people with disabilities, increase health care workforce capacity, expand access to programs designed to meet long-term health needs of patients recovering from COVID-19, and support access to safe and effective COVID-19 therapies for those without coverage.
 
Improve Data to Combat COVID-19
Metrics and metric-driven public health guidance will be essential to controlling the pandemic. President Biden’s Executive Order will enhance the United States’ collection, production, sharing, and analysis of data to support an equitable COVID-19 response and recovery. The federal government will work with state, local, Tribal and territorial governments to aggregate and analyze data to track access to vaccines and testing, reopen schools and businesses, and address disparities in COVID-19 infections and health outcomes. And, the federal government will create publicly available dashboards with national and state-by-state level information, consistent with privacy protections,  on cases, testing, vaccinations, and hospital admissions to make real-time information available to policymakers and the public.
 
MOUNT A SAFE, EFFECTIVE, COMPREHENSIVE VACCINATION CAMPAIGN
 
Take Immediate Actions to Convert Vaccines into Vaccinations
The Biden-Harris Administration will spare no effort to ensure the public can get vaccinated safely, effectively and equitably. To meet the aggressive vaccination target of 100 million shots by the end of his first 100 days in office, President Biden will take immediate action to improve the vaccination program. Yesterday, he directed FEMA to begin standing up the first federally-supported community vaccination centers, with the goal of standing up 100 centers in the next month. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will also launch the federal pharmacy program — making vaccines available to communities in their local pharmacies beginning next month. And, he tasked the U.S. Public Health Services Commissioned Corps with expanding its workforce and preparing for deployment. Central to this effort will be expanded support and collaboration with state, local, Tribal and territorial governments, including the establishment of COVID Response Liaisons for each state — a model based on the response to Hurricane Sandy.
 
SAFELY REOPEN SCHOOLS, BUSINESSES, AND TRAVEL WHILE PROTECTING OUR WORKERS
 
Direct Action to Support Students & Safely Reopen Schools
President Biden will issue an Executive Order directing the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services (HHS) to provide guidance on safe reopening and operating for schools, child care providers, and institutions of higher education. Ensuring the safety of students and educators and adherence to science will be paramount. And, the Order directs the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services to collect data around reopening and school closures so state and local officials have metrics to inform decision-making and can better understand the impact of closures on students from families with low-incomes, students of color, English-language learners, students with disabilities and others.
 
The COVID-19 Response Team will work to ensure that testing materials, support for contact tracing, and vaccinations for teachers are equitably provided to support in-person care and learning. Finally, the order encourages the Federal Communications Commission to increase connectivity options for students lacking reliable home broadband, so that they can continue to learn if their schools are operating remotely.
 
This work will be supported by the Presidential Memorandum directing FEMA to offer reimbursement for eligible emergency supplies, such as PPE for schools and child care providers.
 
The Administration will engage with educators and their unions, students and their families, state and local education and public health officials, civil rights advocates, and other experts in the field. And, the Department of Education will work with HHS to ensure that guidance for schools is updated based on the latest science and any developments in the pandemic, including the spread of new coronavirus variants that may have a higher transmission rate. The Administration will always be honest about the challenges we face, directly addressing how and whether changes in the pandemic may impact the reopening of schools or the ability of schools to remain open.
 
Help Protect Workers from COVID-19
Millions of Americans, many of whom are people of color, immigrants, and low-wage workers, continue to put their lives on the line to keep the country functioning through the pandemic. President Biden will sign an Executive Order calling on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to immediately release clear guidance for employers to help keep workers safe from COVID-19 exposure. It also asks OSHA and Mine Safety and Health Administration to determine whether to establish emergency temporary standards that require employers to take steps to keep workers safe from COVID-19 and it directs OSHA to enforce worker health and safety requirements, targeting the worst violators. With the goal of protecting all workers from COVID-19, the order instructs agencies to explore ways to protect workers who are not always covered by OSHA standards, such as those who are self-employed.

Promote Safe Travel
To protect travelers from COVID-19, President Biden will issue an Executive Order to require mask-wearing in airports, on certain modes of public transportation, including many trains, airplanes, maritime vessels, and intercity buses. For air travel, this Executive Order also requires international travelers to produce proof of a negative COVID-19 test prior to departing for the United States and to comply with CDC guidelines for self-isolation and self-quarantine upon arrival. The Executive Order also calls for the consideration of additional public health measures in domestic travel and for consultation with foreign governments and other stakeholders to implement public health measures for safe travel, including at land and sea borders.
 
PROTECT THOSE MOST AT RISK AND ADDRESS INEQUITIES FACED BY COMMUNITIES OF COLOR AND OTHER UNDERSERVED GROUPS
 
Advance Health Equity in the Nation’s COVID-19 Response
In order to address the disproportionate and severe impact of COVID-19 on communities of color and other underserved populations, President Biden will issue an Executive Order to ensure an equitable pandemic response and recovery. The order establishes a COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force to provide specific recommendations to the President for allocating resources and funding in communities with inequities in COVID-19 outcomes by race, ethnicity, geography, disability, and other considerations. The federal government will expand equity data collection; increase access to PPE, testing, therapies, and vaccines in underserved communities and high-risk settings; and assess and update pandemic response plans to ensure equity. The health workforce, including community-based workers, will be expanded to assist with contact tracing, vaccination, and linkage to care. Additionally, the Biden Administration will work with states, local jurisdictions, Tribal communities, and territories to address unmet basic needs, including food, housing, and childcare, for individuals and families affected by COVID-19.
 
RESTORE U.S. GLOBAL LEADERSHIP AND BUILD BETTER PREPAREDNESS
 
Advance U.S. Global Leadership, Support the Health and Humanitarian Response to COVID-19, and Protect Against Future Biological Threats
America’s withdrawal from the world stage and retreat from the World Health Organization has impeded progress on the global COVID-19 response and left the United States and the world more vulnerable to future pandemics. Yesterday, President Biden signed letters to the United Nations Secretary General and World Health Organization Director General to cease America’s withdrawal from the organization and to outline U.S. intent to work constructively with the WHO to strengthen and reform it.
Today, President Biden will sign a Presidential Directive to restore America’s leadership, support the international pandemic response effort, promote resilience for future threats, and advance global health security and the Global Health Security Agenda. This directive restores U.S. leadership and seeks to support the international health and humanitarian response to the COVID-19 pandemic and its secondary impacts, global health security and diplomacy, and better biopreparedness and resilience for emerging and future biological threats.
 
RACIAL EQUITY IMPACT
 
The COVID-19 crisis has shined a light on and exacerbated the persistent racial inequities in our healthcare system and our economy. Americans of color are being infected and dying from COVID-19 at higher rates, while workers of color disproportionately put themselves at risk of exposure to COVID-19 on the frontline of this crisis to keep our country running. Changing the course of the COVID-19 crisis requires mobilizing an equitable response across the whole of our government. The new  COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force will intensely focus on these issues. The actions to  expand the availability of testing and vaccines in communities of color, and other underserved communities, ensure that new clinical treatments are developed to serve diverse Americans, and safely reopen our schools so that children who are facing disproportionately high risks of learning loss can get back into the classroom. These actions will also support Native communities and Tribal governments to address the health and economic crises in Indian country.
 
WORKER IMPACT
 
These executive actions will help keep millions of workers healthy and safe from COVID-19. They direct agencies to provide new guidance so that employers and schools know what they need to do to keep workers safe. They’ll increase access to personal protective equipment, testing, and vaccines that will help reduce the spread of COVID-19 in workplaces across the country. They’ll help ensure more people are wearing masks when they travel, immediately providing more protection to many airline workers, bus drivers, and other transportation workers, and providing Americans safe ways to travel to work.
 
With the support of funding from the President’s American Rescue Package, the President’s plan to safely reopen schools will help students engage in in-person learning, parents return to work and prevent more educators from being laid off, as we combat the virus and make schools safe for students and educators again.
 
These measures will help keep workers safe and healthy, get more Americans back to work, and ultimately reduce the spread of the virus.

See: BIDEN ADMINISTRATION IMPLEMENTS A NATIONAL STRATEGY FOR COVID-19 RESPONSE, PANDEMIC PREPAREDNESS