Transcript for Biden tackles immigration, gun control in presidential address
Tonight, the presidential address in a time of covid. President Biden delivering his first speech to a socially distant joint session of congress, reflecting on the key issues dividing the country and unity. For the latest we go to ABC's Rachel Scott reporting from our nation's capital. Reporter: It is an ambitious agenda, unclear whether or not president Joe Biden has the support in his own party to get it done. Tonight the president laying out a plan to address infrastructure, child care, health care. The total price tag on this, $8 trillion. A number that is too high for Republicans. The president saying tonight, doing nothing is not an option. But he is under immense pressure to try and find common ground with Republicans on his next legislative push. One of the areas he said he is making progress on is the issue of police reform. He says he'd like to get something done by the month of while much of the focus was on president Joe Biden, the two women behind him made history for the first time, two women sitting behind a president of the United States during a joint session of congress. Thank you, Rachel. For more on the highlights of the presidential address, here's ABC's Trevor Ault. 100 days since I took the oath of office and lifted my hand off our family bible and inherited a nation, we all did, that was in crisis. The worst pandemic in a century. The worst economic crisis since the great depression. Now, after just 100 days, I can report to the nation, America is on the move again. Reporter: In his first address to congress, the 46th president of the United States embodying the slogan, go big or go home. We also need to make a once in a generation investment in our families and our children. Reporter: Proposing the largest expansion of government programs in more than 50 years. $1.8 trin for the American families plan that provides universal preschool, creates a paid family leave program, and makes two years of community colleges free. No one should have to choose between a job and a paycheck, or taking care of themselves and their loved ones, a parent or spouse or child. Reporter: The president focusing on his vision for the economy, tying his American jobs plan to everything from union organizing -- The middle class built the country, and unions built the middle class. Reporter: To climate change -- I think climate change, I think jobs. Reporter: And his ambitious agenda paid for by raising taxes on corporations and the 1%. I'm not looking to punish anybody, but I will not add a tax burden, additional tax burden, on the middle class in this country. They're already paying enough. During his remarks the president sort of skirted the actual massive price tags for these plans. But he was clear who he thought should pick up the bill. He has said repeatedly and he said again during his speech, he thinks that corporations should be paying more. And he thinks that high-income earners should be paying more. Reporter: President Biden spent eight years sitting behind president Obama for these speeches, and for 35 years before that, listening in the audience as a senator. Now, at 78, he believes his moment has come. America's ready for a takeoff, in my view. We're working again. Dreaming again. Discovering again. And leading the world again. Reporter: As the paralysis from a national pandemic slowly lifts, the president celebrating the bipartisan effort to get the country on the road to recovery. Together we pass the American rescue plan. One of the most consequential rescue packages in American history. We're already seeing the results. Reporter: Highlighting the role of government in the country's mass vaccination drive. Thanks to all the help of all of you. We're marshaling, with your help, everyone's help, we're marshaling every federal resource. We've gotten vaccines to nearly 40,000 pharmacies. Reporter: According to the most recent ABC news/"washington post" poll, the public gives the president his highest marks for handling the pandemic, with 64% approving. But the country remains bitterly divided, beset by intractable problems like immigration. Immigrants have done so much for America during this pandemic and throughout our history. The country supports immigration reform. We should act. Reporter: Tonight, president Biden calling on congress to pass the immigration reform bill he sent to congress his first day in office. For more than 30 years, politicians have talked about immigration reform. And we've done nothing about it. It's time to fix it. Reporter: This comes in the face of a record increase in migrants. 172,000 stopped along the southwest border just in March, the largest total since the early 2000s. And unaccompanied children are the faces of this latest crisis, with right now about 22,118 unaccompanied migrant minors in U.S. Custody. Biden came into office pledging to usher in a new era of U.S. Immigration policy by rolling back trump's hardline agenda. As part of one of his early executive orders, Biden established a task force to locate and reunite migrant parents and children who remain separated at the southern but as of early April, the task force was yet to reunite a single family. Another divisive issue the president thinks he can get both sides to work together on, gun We need more senate Republicans to join the overall majority of Democrat colleagues and close the loopholes required in background check purchases of guns. We need a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. And don't tell me it can't be done. Reporter: Already in 2021 there's been more than 13,000 deaths from gun violence and more than 160 mass shootings. The flag at the white house is still flying at half mast for the eight victims of the mass shooting in Georgia. When ten more lives were taken in the mass shooting in California. And in the week in between those two events, 250 other Americans were shot dead in the streets of America. 250 shot dead. Reporter: Biden also urging senators to pass the George Floyd justice in policing act before the first anniversary of his death. We have to come together to rebuildrust between law enforcement and the people they serve, to root out systemic racism in our criminal justice system. To enact police reform in George Floyd's name. While the setting tonight is familiar, this gathering is just a little bit different. A reminder of the extraordinary times we're in. Reporter: The usually packed house chamber was sparse, just 200 senators and members of congress, some picked in a lottery instead of the usual packed crowd. No guests with the first lady Jill Biden. But there was a new and historic visual. Madam speaker, madam vice president. No president has ever said those words. From this podium. No president has ever said those and it's Abo time. Reporter: For the first time, two women, the vice president and the house speaker, number two and three in the line of succession, sitting right behind the president. It was such a powerful image, a moment that this country has never seen before. And you could tell the president wanted to relish in it. Reporter: Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, the only black Republican senator and a rising star in the GOP, delivered his party's response to the address. We also heard about a so-called family plan. Even more taxing, even more spending, to put Washington even more in the middle of your life, from the cradle to college. Reporter: Criticizing the president's big wish list. A president who promised to bring us together should not be pushing agendas that tear us apart. Reporter: But for the president, standing in the space under attack just months ago, affirming his faith in democracy, his eternal optimism for what the country can accomplish. It's never, ever, ever been a good bet to bet against America, and it still isn't. We're the United States of America. There's not a single thing, nothing, nothing beyond our capacity. We can do whatever we set our minds to, if we do it together. So let's begin to get together. God bless you all, and may god protect our troops. Thank you for your patience.
This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.