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Fact-checking President Biden's address to Congress, Republican response

Our VERIFY team fact-checked claims made during President Biden's April 28 address to Congress and the Republican response.

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden gave his first address to Congress on Wednesday night, one day before marking 100 days in office. Following Biden's address, South Carolina Senator Tim Scott delivered a Republican response. Our VERIFY journalists fact-checked the claims and statements from both. 

THE CLAIM 

"The buyers of ghost gun kits aren't required to pass a background check. Anyone from a criminal to a terrorist could buy this kit and, in as little as 30 minutes, put together a lethal weapon. But not anymore." -- President Biden  
 

THE ANSWER

This needs context. 

“Ghost guns” are unregulated in most states, except for New York, New Jersey, Washington, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Virginia and California, where local laws subject them to the same scrutiny as other firearms.  

- Mauricio Chamberlin

THE CLAIM 

"Democrats want a partisan wish list. They won't even build bridges to build bridges. Less than 6% of the President's plan goes to roads and bridges, its a liberal wish list of big government waste." -- Senator Scott

THE ANSWER

This is true but needs context.

It’s true that less than less than 6% of Biden’s proposal is specifically for bridges and roads. The American Jobs plan calls for $2.31 trillion in spending over the next eight years, $135 billion of which is dedicated to repairs and improvements to roads, bridges and highways and road safety projects. That's just under 6% of the bill’s total. 

But the bill also allocates money for broader infrastructure projects. About $600 billion is for transportation in general.  

- Mauricio Chamberlin

Read more: Biden’s infrastructure spending plan would cover more than just roads

THE CLAIM

"The economy created more than 1.3 million new jobs in 100 days. More new jobs in the first 100 days than any president on record." -- Pres. Biden

THE ANSWER

This claim is true but needs context.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics has monthly employment reports dating back to 1994. That means we can only compare the jobs added in the first 100 days of the administrations of George W. Bush, Barack Obama, Donald Trump and Joe Biden.

VERIFY researchers added up the jobs data from February and March of each president's first year. January and April were omitted because we cannot break down the numbers to the precise day. BLS data puts Bush's total at +49,000, Obama's at -1,314,000, Trump at +137,000 and Biden at +1,295,000.

It is important to note that the U.S. lost more than 9 million jobs from February to December 2020. The jobs gains made since are a fraction of what was lost.  

- Mia Salenetri

THE CLAIM

"Senior deaths from COVID-19 are down 80% since January. Down 80%." -- Pres. Biden

THE ANSWER

This claim is true.

VERIFY researchers analyzed CDC death data and found that this estimate actually underestimates the decrease in senior deaths. Our calculations found an 86.6% decrease in deaths of Americans aged 65 and older between January 30 and April 3, 2021. 

We looked at the CDC's data on weekly COVID-19 deaths per 100,000 based on age. Data from January 30, the first full week of President Biden's term, reports 36.53 deaths per 100,000 among those 65 and older. Data reported April 3 shows 4.89 deaths per 100,000 in that same age group. We used data from April 3 to control for a possible data reporting delay, as noted by the CDC.

- Mia Salenetri

THE CLAIM

"Just before COVID, we had the most inclusive economy in my lifetime, the lowest unemployment rate ever recorded for African-Americans, Hispanics, and Asians and a 70-year low, nearly, for women. Wages for, hear me, wages were growing faster at the bottom than at the top. The bottom 25% saw their wages go up faster than the top 25%." -- Sen. Scott 

THE ANSWER

This claim is true.

For African Americans, the 24 months with the lowest unemployment rates were reported between 2018 and 2020, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Similarly, for Hispanics, the 10 months with the lowest unemployment rates were in 2019 and 2020. For Asian Americans, four of the five months with the lowest unemployment rates were in 2018, 2019 and 2020. And for women, the months with the lowest unemployment rates were reported in 1952 and 1953 but followed by September 2019 and February 2020.

The available data on unemployment rates is not consistent, though. Unemployment data for women dates back to 1948. However, available data only goes back to 1972 for African Americans, 1973 for Hispanics and 2003 for Asian Americans.

- Nate Hanson 

THE CLAIM 

Biden said his administration will provide over 220 million COVID-19 vaccines in 100 days

THE ANSWER

This is mostly true. 

According to the CDC data tracker, the total number of vaccines administered in the U.S. was 235 million as of April 28.  At the end of President Trump's term, on Jan. 19, just over 20 million vaccine doses had been administered in the U.S., according to the CDC. So the Biden administration has administered just under 220 million COVID-19 vaccines as of April 28. Biden's first 100 days officially ends on April 29 and with the several million doses being administered daily in the U.S., it's possible the Biden administration will top 220 million doses in its first 100 days.  

- Mauricio Chamberlin

THE CLAIM 

"Nearly 90% of the infrastructure jobs created in the American Jobs Plan don’t require a college degree. 75% don’t require an associate’s degree." -- Pres. Biden

THE ANSWER

This claim needs context.

Biden appears to be referencing a report from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce (CEW), an independent, nonprofit research and policy institute. 

In the report, researchers predict the American Jobs Plan would create or save 15 million jobs over 10 years. Of the infrastructure jobs, 75% would be “for people with no more than a high school diploma and some non-degreed short-term training.” 

Of the other 25% of jobs, 10% would require an associate’s degree, 11% would require a bachelor’s degree and 4% would require a graduate degree, according to the report. So, the claim that nearly 90% of infrastructure jobs would not require a college degree is misleading. 

- Nate Hanson 

THE CLAIM

 "In tonight’s Congressional address, for the first time in history, the stage will be 2/3 women." -- Pres. Biden

THE ANSWER

This claim is true.

The two chairs behind the President are for the vice president and speaker of the House. Thursday's address is the first time two of those roles are held by women, Vice President Kamala Harris and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.

 In the recent addresses of Presidents George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump, Speaker Pelosi was the only woman seated on the dais. Before 2007, these positions have only been held by men.  

- Mauricio Chamberlin 

THE CLAIM 

Many people on social media claimed Biden's April 28 address was a State of the Union address. 

THE ANSWER 

This is false. 

Article II, Section 3, Clause 1 of the US Constitution says a president must from "time to time" address congress to provide a state of the country, or Union. Thursday night, it takes a different name.

An address to the Joint Session of Congress is, in essence, the same as a State of the Union according to the Congressional Research Service. CRS notes that "scholars consider these speeches to serve the same ceremonial, rhetorical, and political function as a typical State of the Union."

All U.S. presidents since Ronald Reagan have decided not to give an "official" State of the Union the year they were inaugurated. The Congressional Research Service explains this is because the speech was delivered so soon after their inaugural address.

- Kyley Schultz and Mia Salenetri 

VERIFY
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