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Address was pandemic politcal theater at best

Address was pandemic politcal theater at best

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WASHINGTON — Wednesday night, Joe Biden delivered both the most expensive, and least attended, presidential address to a joint session of Congress in modern American history. There is a reason for both milestones: His speech was pandemic political theater designed to justify a miasma of government spending.

The House chamber usually is packed to capacity when the president speaks. But Wednesday night, only 200 people were allowed in to watch Biden’s address. Why? Every member of Congress has had the opportunity to be vaccinated. So have the president, vice president and House speaker, as well as Cabinet officials and Supreme Court justices. They could have filled the House chamber with an audience of fully vaccinated officials.

So why were seats roped off to ensure social distancing? Why were the attendees wearing masks? Biden’s own Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued guidance clearly stating that “fully vaccinated people can: Visit with other fully vaccinated people indoors without wearing masks or physical distancing.” While other CDC guidance cautions against large events, that does not contemplate events where every single person is fully vaccinated.

By filling the House chamber with vaccinated people, Biden could have sent a message to millions of Americans who tuned in to watch: The vaccines work. Because we are vaccinated, we are having a normal joint session of Congress. And if you get vaccinated, your lives can return to normal again, too.

Why didn’t Biden listen to his own public health officials? Why didn’t he follow the science? Simple. To have a normal address would have signaled that a return to normalcy is at hand — that the coronavirus crisis is reaching its end. But Democrats need the crisis as a pretext for all the government spending Biden outlined Wednesday night.

In his speech, Biden touted his COVID-19 relief package ($1.9 trillion), his infrastructure plan ($2.3 trillion) and his new “American Families Plan” ($1.8 trillion). That comes to $6 trillion of actual or proposed spending in his first 100 days. No president has tried to spend so much, so quickly, since the founding of our republic.

Democrats know that they will never get bipartisan support for that much spending. They know that with a 50-50 Senate and a six-vote majority in the House, their hold on power is precarious — and they have a limited window to ram through as many of these initiatives as possible. So they are going to try to pass as much of it as possible using the budget reconciliation process, which allows them to pass fiscal legislation with no Republican votes. And the only way to justify that is to paint Republicans as obstructionists who are impeding Biden’s principled response to a pandemic emergency.

That is why, unlike in his inaugural address, there was precious little talk of unity or bipartisanship in Biden’s speech. On Inauguration Day, Biden promised to put his “whole soul” into uniting the country. Wednesday night, he promised to put his whole soul into ramming through a progressive wish list in the name of vanquishing the pandemic.

A lot of Biden’s priorities never will become law so long as Sen. Joe Manchin III, D-West Virginia, and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Arizona, stay resolute against eliminating or weakening the legislative filibuster. You can’t raise the minimum wage, or federalize our elections, or add two Democratic senators by making the District of Columbia a state, or pack the Supreme Court, or restrict gun rights through the budget reconciliation process.

Biden needs 60 votes in the Senate to get anything done other than raising taxes and spending taxpayer money. So tax and spend are what Democrats plan to do.

And if a bunch of vaccinated public officials have to put on a show of wearing masks and social distancing on television to make it happen, so be it.

Follow Marc A. Thiessen on Twitter, @marcthiessen.

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