President Joe Biden on Wednesday called on Americans to unify two weeks after a deadly riot rocked the U.S. Capitol, as he pledged in his inaugural address to combat the coronavirus pandemic and rebuild the U.S. economy.
Biden, 78 years old, is taking the reins of the presidency at a perilous time for the U.S. With the country wracked by the pandemic and the economy battered, the new commander-in-chief faces twin crises that he is pledging to confront head-on.
“We’ll press forward with speed and urgency, for we have much to do in this winter of peril and significant possibilities,” Biden said in a speech from the Capitol.
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The former vice president and longtime U.S. senator from Delaware has promised quick action to combat the coronavirus and to bolster the economic standing of American families and businesses. Last week, he proposed a $1.9 trillion rescue plan, and will soon propose spending more on energy and infrastructure. On Tuesday, his Treasury secretary nominee, Janet Yellen, told Congress that the U.S. must “act big” to help struggling Americans.
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The scope of Biden’s plans, however, may be limited by the narrowly divided Congress. Vice President Kamala Harris will hold the tie-breaking vote in the Senate, but Biden could use the so-called budget reconciliation process to pass some of his COVID relief, or other measures, with only Democratic votes.
Utah Republican Sen. Mitt Romney told reporters on Capitol Hill that he thought Biden’s speech was “very strong and very much needed.”
Yet Romney suggested hurdles ahead for Biden’s economic plans among Republicans, saying, “we just passed a program with over $900 billion in it. I’m not looking for a new program in the immediate future.”
Harris, also sworn in Wednesday, became the country’s first female vice president.
were in record territory on Wednesday as Biden took his oath.
Biden in his address discussed the millions of jobs lost due to the pandemic, as well as a need for racial reconciliation in the U.S. The new president said he would rebuild the middle class and appealed to those who did not vote for him to listen to his message.
Biden’s inauguration came two weeks after an angry mob of supporters of then–President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol as Electoral College votes were being counted. Trump, who departed Washington for Florida on Wednesday morning, wished the new administration “great success” but did not mention Biden by name. Trump baselessly disputed the election’s outcome for weeks, and became the first president in U.S. history to be impeached twice.
Biden made reference to the riot at the beginning of his speech, and said that “democracy has prevailed.”
Trump did not attend Biden’s inauguration — the first time in more than 150 years a sitting president has skipped the ceremony.
Biden’s team said the president would sign a raft of executive orders on his first day, including rejoining the Paris climate accords and ending the process of leaving the World Health Organization.
After being sworn in, Biden was expected to sign paperwork in the President’s Room of the Capitol and attend a ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery with former presidents. He’ll arrive at the White House later Wednesday.
Jonathan Nicholson contributed to this story.