Washington Times

AP FACT CHECK: Claims from Biden’s joint address to Congress

WASHINGTON (AP) – The Associated Press is fact-checking remarks from President Joe Biden’s first address to a joint session of Congress and the Republican response. A look at some of the claims we’ve examined:

BIDEN: “When I was vice president, the president asked me to focus on providing help needed to address the root causes of migration. And it helped keep people in their own countries instead of being forced to leave. The plan was working, but the last administration decided it was not worth it. I’m restoring the program and I asked Vice President Harris to lead our diplomatic effort to take care of this.”

THE FACTS: That’s wrong.

Biden led President Barack Obama’s efforts to address a spike in migration from Central America, but poverty and violence have been endemic for decades. Hundreds of millions of dollars of U.S. aid have gone to Central America annually, even during Donald Trump’s presidency, but migration from Mexico and Central America has continued unabated with periodic spikes.

In March, the number of unaccompanied children encountered by U.S. border authorities reached nearly 19,000, the highest number on record in the third major surge of families and children from Central America since 2014 under both Democratic and Republican administrations.

Biden has proposed $861 million in Central American aid next year as a first installment on a $4 billion plan, compared with annual outlays of between $506 million and $750 million over the previous six years.

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BIDEN, arguing that Congress should authorize Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices. “And by the way, that won’t just help people on Medicare – it will lower prescription drug costs for everyone.”

THE FACTS: There may be a bit of wishful thinking in there.

Under House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s bill, private insurers that cover working-age Americans and their families would indeed be able to get the same discounts as Medicare. But while Pelosi should be able to drive her legislation through the House, the situation in the Senate is different. If just a few Democratic senators have qualms about her expansive approach, Biden may have to settle for less. So there’s no guarantee that a final bill would lower prescription drug costs for everyone.

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REPUBLICAN RESPONSE

SOUTH CAROLINA SEN. TIM SCOTT, in prepared remarks: “This administration inherited a tide that had already turned. The coronavirus is on the run! Thanks to Operation Warp Speed and the Trump administration, our country is flooded with safe and effective vaccines.”

THE FACTS: That’s a real stretch.

Biden took over in the midst of the winter wave of COVID-19, the worst to hit the nation. It’s true that cases and deaths had begun to decline from their peak in the second week of January, but the tide had far from turned. Daily cases were averaging more than three times higher than they are now.

And while the Trump administration shepherded the delivery of two highly effective vaccines, the supply of doses was short of meeting demand and several state governors were complaining about jumbled signals from Trump’s team.

Trump was focused on his campaign to overturn the election results and did not devote much public attention to the pandemic as his term came to an end.

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SCOTT, in prepared remarks: “Just before COVID, we had the most inclusive economy in my lifetime. The lowest unemployment ever recorded for African Americans, Hispanics and Asian Americans. The lowest for women in nearly 70 years. Wages were growing faster for the bottom 25% than the top 25%. That happened because Republicans focused on expanding opportunity for all Americans.”

THE FACTS: His statistics are selectively misleading.

Nothing is false on its face in terms of numbers. Yet the gains reflected the longest expansion in U.S. history – something that started during Obama’s administration and simply continued under Trump without much change in growth patterns.

The labor force participation for women was below its 2001 peak, so the unemployment rate claims by Scott tell an incomplete story. The Black and Hispanic unemployment rates were lower because the total unemployment rate was lower. Yet both still lagged those of white workers by a large degree.

Scott also neglects to credit the Federal Reserve, which kept interest rates near historic lows to support growth and keep the recovery from the Great Recession going.

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Associated Press writers Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, Elliot Spagat and Josh Boak contributed to this report.

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EDITOR’S NOTE – A look at the veracity of claims by political figures.

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Find AP Fact Checks at http://apnews.com/APFactCheck

Follow @APFactCheck on Twitter: https://twitter.com/APFactCheck

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