President Biden scored winners and losers of a recent legislative action, took aim at the GOP over immigration and sang “Happy Birthday” to a member of Congress in his address to Washington’s Hispanic establishment Thursday.
Biden delivered the keynote speech at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI) gala, the first such live event since 2019, and the first to host a sitting president since former President Obama’s 2016 appearance.
In his speech, Biden touted the Inflation Reduction Act, calling out the groups who “lost” with the bill.
“For too long, we’ve paid a higher price for prescription drugs than any nation in the world. And for years, as a senator and vice president, many of us have been trying to fix that. We’ve been taking on Big Pharma, but it always stood in the way,” he said.
“But not this year. This year, the American people won and Big Pharma lost.”
Biden also took aim at climate deniers, celebrating the Inflation Reduction Act’s environmental accolades.
“And for decades, climate deniers have blocked any meaningful progress against climate crisis. But not this year. This year, the American people won and the climate deniers lost,” said Biden.
Biden was introduced at the event by the group’s chair, Rep. Nanette Barragan (D-Calif.).
Biden took the stage and turned to Barragan, microphone in hand.
“Folks, this happens to be Nanette’s birthday. It’s hell when you turn 25, but you know,” Biden joked.
“We have a tradition to the Biden family: We sing “Happy Birthday.” So, let’s go. Ready?”
Biden then broke into a short, slightly off-pitch rendition of the popular birthday song, with a beaming Barragan, 46, by his side.
“God love you, kiddo,” Biden closed his musical number.
Biden then introduced some of his Cabinet members present at the dinner: Health Secretary Xavier Becerra, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona and Small Business Administrator Isabella Guzman.
Biden also lauded Homeland Security Secretary Alejando Mayorkas later when he turned to immigration – a touchy subject in a room of politically activated Latinos.
“Instead of working with us on solutions, Republicans are playing politics with human beings, using them as props. What they’re doing is simply wrong. It’s un-American. It’s reckless,” he said.
Biden addressed immigration in an explicitly political lens, framing the issue as one where Democrats hold the keys to progress.
“We need to modernize our laws so businesses can get workers they need and families don’t have to wait decades to be brought back together. It’s time to get it done. That’s why we have to win this off-year election,” said Biden.
Facing a crowd that’s especially sensitive on the issue, it’s likely Biden’s words will be interpreted as a campaign promise should Democrats hold onto control of Congress.
Still, Biden touched on the issue despite having a mixed record on immigration both as president and in his previous positions as vice president and senator.
“Some things have been done, but in my opinion it hasn’t been enough,” said Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D-N.Y.).
Espaillat added that Biden’s actions on immigration should not be tied to midterm results.
“So we gotta do better. If we don’t have the votes in the Senate, then perhaps the president could use his executive order powers to advance some of the low-hanging fruit, obvious ones like [Temporary Protected Status] and ‘Dreamers,’” said Espaillat, referring to immigrants who came to the country illegally as children.
Biden segued quickly from his political pitch on immigration to a topic with broad bipartisan support among Hispanics, the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Latino.
“And one more thing. It’s long overdue for a National Museum of the American Latino, long overdue — I mean it — to take its rightful place here in Washington, where it belongs,” said Biden.