President Joe Biden address a joint session of Congress on April 28 (screen shot)

For the LGBTQ community, mention of the Equality Act was the highlight of President Joe Biden’s speech before a limited but joint session of Congress.

According to Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson in a conversation just before the speech, about 200 members of Congress and a few dignitaries were socially distanced in a room that normally holds 1,800 people during a presidential address. She said she was among those in the chamber because Speaker Nancy Pelosi wanted all committee chairs in attendance. Johnson chairs the Science, Space and Technology committee.

Asked whether she thinks Biden’s proposal of our years of college guaranteed to anyone who graduates high school will be funded by Congress, she said, “No.” However, she hopes a proposal to offer two years of community college will fly. She said that’s where so much training for a variety of trades is done and that Dallas College, for example, is doing an exemplary job of signing students to learn a wide variety of occupations.

One proposal Biden made that will affect Johnson’s committee is a new DARPA-like research branch for the National Institute of Health. He proposed new research into curing and preventing cancer and other illnesses.

Also in his speech, Biden pushed his infrastructure plan. Republicans have a scaled down plan that concentrates on traditional infrastructure projects, so there’s room for compromise.

In addition to the Equality Act, Biden pressed for Dreamers legislation and the Violence Against Women’s Act that he originally sponsored in the Senate.

He proposed a tax increase on people earning more than $400,000 per year to pay for some of his proposals.

In the end, what this speech will be remembered for will be the opening when he addressed “Madam Speaker” and “Madam Vice President.” He noted that was the first time in history a president opened a speech with those words.

— David Taffet