Biden lays out plan for America ‘on the move again’ in address to Congress

Biden lays out plan for America ‘on the move again’ in address to Congress
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April 29th, 2021 | ABC News Radio

(WASHINGTON) — President Joe Biden is set to lay out his policy agenda and provide an update to the nation in his first address to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday night.

Biden gave a preview of his speech to ABC News’ David Muir and other network television anchors at the White House Wednesday afternoon, telling Muir that a lot of his focus in office has been on “making my case directly to the American people,” and reflecting on how much of his first 100 days were spent working to “ease the pain” of the pandemic.

On his 99th day in office, Biden made the case for his policy agenda and updated the nation in his first address to a joint session of Congress.

Biden finished his speech with a great message of hope for Americans who overcame a year of tumult, saying that he is “more confident or optimistic about America.”

“Folks, as I told every world leader I ever met with over the years, it’s never ever, ever been a good bet to bet against America and it still isn’t,” Biden said, to a great round of applause. “There is 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.”

Sen. Tim Scott’s Republican response followed.

“Our president seems like a good man. His speech was full of good words,” Scott said. “But three months in, the actions of the president and his party are pulling us further and further apart.”

Following Biden’s first address to a joint session of Congress, Vice President Kamala Harris will sit down for an exclusive interview on ABC’s “Good Morning America” Thursday.

President Joe Biden is no stranger to the State of the Union and joint addresses to Congress after 36 years in the Senate and eight years as vice president, but Wednesday night, he finally got to deliver one of his own — a speech that looked back on the president’s accomplishments and pitched ahead to his future agenda.

The speech looked different than in years past, with COVID-19 keeping the audience confined and putting a larger emphasis on the television audience at home — likely Biden’s biggest audience of the year outside of his inauguration.

One day shy of his 100th day in office, Biden made the case for his future agenda.

Here are the key takeaways from Biden’s first joint address to Congress:

Apr 28, 11:45 pm
Biden champions government’s role — with messages for both parties: ANALYSIS

Of all the sweeping ideas President Joe Biden laid out Wednesday night — trillions in new spending, vast new investments in health care, education, the environment, infrastructure, police reform and more — the most grandiose notion he offered may be the concept that national unity is possible, and maybe even close at hand.

Perhaps more notable is how he sees the nation getting closer to his vision of “one people, one nation, one America.”

The progress Biden sees coming depends on government — new spending, new programs and new opportunities powered by dramatic increases in government spending — even if that means essentially forgoing goals of bipartisanship.

“These are the investments we make together, as one country, and that only the government can make,” the president said.

Biden has at times seemed conflicted between the deal-making lawmaker he was over decades in the Senate, and the opportunity he sees for making transformative changes as president. His first address to a joint session of Congress had him edging toward the latter persona over the former.

More from ABC News Political Director Rick Klein’s analysis:

Apr 28, 11:42 pm
Intraparty divisions on display in progressive response to Biden address

The growing chasm between the splintering factions of the Democratic Party was on full display as Rep. Jamaal Bowman, D-N.Y., delivered a response to Biden’s address from the Working Families Party. He outlined the progressive agenda and magnified intraparty divisions.

Bowman called on Biden to be more aggressive in pursuing progressive policies, citing the Democratic control of the White House and Congress.

“We need to seize this moment. Republicans have made themselves clear. They tried to steal the election, incited an insurrection, and they believe Derek Chauvin is innocent of murdering George Floyd,” Bowman said. “So it’s on us, as Democrats and progressives, to meet the gravity of the moment. And history will judge our actions.”

Bowman outlined policy goals on issues including taxing the rich, climate change and voting rights.

Apr 28, 11:07 pm
Vice President Kamala Harris appears on GMA Thursday

Following Biden’s first address to a joint session of Congress, Vice President Kamala Harris will sit down for an exclusive interview on ABC’s “Good Morning America” Thursday.

Apr 28, 10:50 pm
Scott offers message of hope in closing GOP response

Scott, who drew on his own experience growing up in the South with a single mother, talked about the American dream.

“We are all in this together, and we get to live in the greatest country on Earth, the country where my grandfather, in his 94 years, saw his family go from cotton to Congress in one lifetime,” Scott said.

Scott also offered a message of hope as he closed his speech, looking to America’s future.

“Our best future will not come from Washington schemes or socialist dreams. It will come from you, the American people,” Scott said.

Apr 28, 10:43 pm
Scott says America ‘not a racist country’

Scott, the only Black Republican senator, discussed the issue of race, in a year when America has reckoned with race relations.

“America is not a racist country,” Scott said. “It’s backwards to fight discrimination with different types of discrimination, and it’s wrong to try to use our painful past to dishonestly shut down debates in the present.”

Scott also criticized Democrats, saying that race is “not a political weapon.”

Apr 28, 10:38 pm
Republicans criticize Biden for lack of bipartisanship

Scott said that Biden has not fulfilled his campaign promise of bipartisan collaboration, citing how Democrats passed COVID-19 relief along partisan lines.

“He promised to unite a nation, to lower the temperature, to govern for all Americans, no matter how we voted,” Scott said. “This was the pitch. You just heard it again. But our nation is starving for more than empty platitudes. We need policies and progress that brings us closer together.”

Apr 28, 10:34 pm
Congress’ response to Biden

Following the president remarks, ABC News Senior White House Correspondent Mary Bruce said, “The much smaller crowd still able to keep up the applause lines but also clear that even with masks, it can’t mask the displeasure from the opposition.”

Apr 28, 10:28 pm
Republicans respond to Biden’s address

Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., is delivering the GOP response to Biden’s address to the nation.

Apr 28, 10:19 pm
Biden ends speech with message of hope

Biden finished his speech with a great message of hope for Americans who overcame a year of tumult, saying that he is “more confident or optimistic about America.”

“Folks, as I told every world leader I ever met with over the years, it’s never ever, ever been a good bet to bet against America and it still isn’t,” Biden said, to a great round of applause. “There is 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.”

Apr 28, 10:14 pm
Biden says insurrection was ‘test’ of democracy

Biden said that the insurrection at the Capitol on Jan. 6 was an “existential crisis” and a “test” to democracy, and he said that America’s enemies were betting that Americans could not overcome divisions.

“They believe we’re too full of anger and division and rage,” Biden said. “They look at the images of the mob that assaulted the Capitol as proof that the sun is setting on American democracy. But they’re wrong. You know it. I know it.”

Apr 28, 10:12 pm
Biden takes credit for vaccine rollout, but supply always expected to expand

Biden is correct that his administration has made great strides in the vaccine rollout, but the credit isn’t entirely his. While his numbers are accurate, they miss critical context.

“When I was sworn in on Jan. 20, less than 1% of the seniors in America were fully vaccinated against COVID-19,” he said. “One hundred days later, 70% of seniors in America over 65 are protected.”

When Biden took office on Jan. 20, only two vaccines — Pfizer and Moderna — had been authorized for a little more than a month. Supply was low early on, but always expected to ramp up through spring.

The Trump administration had initiated government contracts with the vaccine makers, and tapped the military to help oversee distribution. Trump aides also set up the program for some 40,000 pharmacies to deliver the vaccinations — a program Biden referenced in his speech.

Biden has since relied on those Trump-era contracts and pharmacy program to expand vaccinations to Americans.

Where Biden can take credit: Expanding government contracts with vaccine makers to buy more doses. He also set up federally run mass vaccination sites, as well as mobile clinics, with a focus on hard-hit areas. And he’s partnered with community centers to help deliver the vaccine in disadvantaged communities.

-ABC News’ Anne Flaherty

Apr 28, 10:08 pm
Biden calls for lowering prescription drug prices

When lowering prescription drug prices and lowering the Medicare age eligibility didn’t make it into the president’s American Families Plan, many in Washington assumed those would not be priorities Biden would push this year — the omission an implicit acknowledgment that he can’t get them done.

But, Biden did include both items in his address, perhaps an olive branch to frustrated progressives like Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt..

“Let’s lower deductibles for working families on the Affordable — in the Affordable Care Act. And let’s lower prescription drug costs,” Biden said.

He even cited former President Donald Trump here, without mentioning him by name.

“We know how to do this. The last president had that as an objective,” he said.

“Let’s give medicare the power to save hundreds of billions of dollars by negotiating lower drug prescription prices,” Biden continued, saying the billions saved could fund an expansion of Medicare.

Apr 28, 9:58 pm
Biden warns he’ll go it alone because doing nothing ‘is not an option’

Biden addressed the fractured nature of Washington, defending his inability to get bipartisan support on his COVID relief bill, or infrastructure plan so far. But Biden offered a warning: that he is still willing to go it alone if compromise can’t be reached.

“I like to meet with those who have ideas that are different, that they think are better,” Biden said. “I welcome those ideas. But the rest of the world is not waiting for us. I just want to be clear, from my perspective, doing nothing is not an option.”

Biden turned to the idea that autocratic leaders believe democracy won’t work in the 21st century, saying passing legislation at home is crucial to disproving the despots.

-ABC News Sarah Kolinovsky

Apr 28, 9:52 pm
Biden calls on wealthy to ‘pay their fair share’

Biden said that he thinks it’s time for corporations and the wealthiest Americans to pay “their fair share,” while acknowledging disagreements within the Democratic Party about taxes on the wealthy.

“Sometimes I have arguments with my friends in the Democratic Party,” Biden said. “I think you should be able to become a billionaire and a millionaire, but pay your fair share.”

Biden added that he will not increase taxes on the middle class, saying that, “they’re already paying enough.”

Apr 28, 9:47 pm
Biden calls for $15 minimum wage

The president briefly turned to an initiative he has already failed to pass: a $15 minimum wage.

After much back-and-forth on Capitol Hill, the Senate parliamentarian ultimately ruled this provision could not be passed under budget reconciliation rules, and was dropped from the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package.

Biden, apparently, thinks the fight isn’t over… despite the fact he will never get 10 Republicans to join Democrats in the Senate to pass it.

“And by the way, while you’re thinking about sending things to my desk, [chuckles] let’s raise the minimum wage to $15,” Biden said. “No one, no one working 40 hours a week, no one working 40 hours a week should live below the poverty line.”

Once again nodding to the historic pair of women behind him, Biden called on Congress to pass the Equal Pay Act.

“We need to ensure greater equity and opportunity for women. And while we’re doing this, let’s get the Paycheck Fairness Act to my desk as well. Equal pay. It’s been much too long.
And if you wonder whether it’s too long, look behind you,” Biden added.

-ABC News’ Sarah Kolinovsky

Apr 28, 9:47 pm
Biden tasks Harris to lead infrastructure push

Biden asked Vice President Kamala Harris to take the lead on his infrastructure, saying that if she does he knows, “it will get done.”

Harris, who already has the monumental task of addressing the root causes of migration on her plate, nodded in the background.

Biden cast his infrastructure bill as a jobs plan, calling it the biggest jobs plan since World War II.

“Look, think about it. There is simply no reason why the blades for wind turbines can’t be built in Pittsburgh instead of Beijing. No reason, none. No reason,” Biden said in another strong line that elicited loud cheers.

-ABC News’ Sarah Kolinovsky

Apr 28, 9:39 pm
Emotional Biden calls for end to cancer

Biden grew emotional as he discussed research to fight diseases like Alzheimer’s, diabetes and cancer. He talked about his moonshot proposal and mentioned his son Beau, who lost his battle to brain cancer in 2015.

“I know of nothing that is more bipartisan, so let’s end cancer as we know it,” Biden said. “It is within our power. It’s within our power to do it.”

Apr 28, 9:37 pm
Biden asks Congress to support right to unionize

Biden called on Congress to pass Protect the Right to Organize Act “so we can support the right to unionize.”

“Wall Street didn’t build this country. The middle class built the country—and unions built the middle class!”

Apr 28, 9:28 pm
‘Jobs, jobs, jobs’: Biden makes big pitch to address climate

While Biden made the pitch to lawmakers and Americans for his infrastructure legislation, he said that the first thing he thinks about when it comes to climate change is jobs.

“For too long, we failed to use the most important word when it comes to meeting the climate crisis: jobs. Jobs. Jobs,” Biden said to a round of applause.

Apr 28, 9:25 pm
Biden sets tone of opportunity, encourages vaccinations

With Democrats working hard in the chamber to match the applause usually generated by 1,600, Biden strode to the podium, turning to Speaker Nancy Pelosi to ask if he could remove his mask, revealing a smile.

Biden turned to the pandemic, acknowledging the unusual surroundings, but setting the theme for the address: Opportunity.

“Tonight, I come to talk about crisis and opportunity. About rebuilding a nation, revitalizing our democracy and winning the future for America,” he said. “After 100 Days of rescue and renewal, America is ready for takeoff. We are working again. Dreaming again. Discovering again. Leading the world again. We have shown each other and the world: There is no quit in America.”

Biden touted the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief plan and the ongoing vaccinations across the country. He then urged Americans to immediately to take advantage of those shots.

“Go get vaccinated, America!” Biden shouted. “Go and get the vaccination. They’re available. You’re eligible now,” he said to a loud round of applause.

-ABC News’ Sarah Kolinovsky

Apr 28, 9:24 pm
Biden touts economic recovery

Biden boasted about the economic record of his tenure so far, saying that his administration has created, “more jobs than the first 100 days than any president on record.”

Biden also discussed the economic benefits of his $1.9 trillion dollar COVID-19 relief bill.

“And, maybe most importantly, thanks to the American Rescue Plan, we are on track to cut child poverty in America in half this year.”

Apr 28, 9:18 pm
‘America is on the move again’: Biden

Biden began his speech by saying that when he took office, “America’s house was on fire,” citing the COVID-19 pandemic and the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

“One hundred 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,” Biden said. “The worst pandemic in a century, the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, the worst attack on our democracy since the Civil War. Now, after just 100 days, I can report to the nation America is on the move again.”

Apr 28, 9:13 pm
‘And it’s about time,’ Biden says about female vice president, House speaker

Biden began his speech by greeting Vice President Kamala Harris and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and then noting the historic nature of having two women seated behind him by saying that it’s “about time.”

“Madam speaker, madam vice president,” Biden said. “No president has ever said those words from this podium.”

Apr 28, 9:11 pm
Biden arrives, fist bumps lawmakers ahead of address

Biden arrived to the House chamber and fist bumped lawmakers as he made his way to the dais to deliver his speech.

Apr 28, 9:11 pm
Gen. Milley, Chief Justice Roberts among those attending address

The guest list for lawmakers and other Washington VIPs was scaled back in keeping with COVID-19 social distancing protocols.

Among those on the guest list is the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley, and Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts — though none of the other military chiefs of Supreme Court justices are in attendance.

Biden’s full Cabinet is also not in attendance, so there is not a designated survivor for the event — another change to the event.

Apr 28, 9:06 pm
Biden to be escorted into chamber by first Black House sergeant at arms

As Biden enters the House chamber to deliver his joint address, the person who is escorting him in and announced his arrival is a newly minted House sergeant at arms, Major General William Walker.

Walker is the first Black man to serve as the House sergeant at arms and is now the top security official of the chamber. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi administered the oath of office to Walker during a pro forma session in the House on Monday.

Walker, the former commander of the D.C. National Guard, is the 38th sergeant-at-arms for the House and it’s now his responsibility to keep the chamber and its members safe.

His appointment came in the wake of the Jan. 6 riot attack at the U.S. Capitol. Pelosi noted in a March statement at the time of his appointment, that “his experience will be an important asset to the House, particularly in light of the January 6 insurrection.”

-ABC News’ Mariam Khan

Apr 28, 8:56 pm
2 women to sit behind Biden in historic 1st

Vice President Kamala Harris and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have arrived in the House chamber, and both will sit behind Biden as he delivers his speech Wednesday, in what will be a historic first.

When Harris arrived at the Capitol, ABC News’ Allison Pecorin asked her about the significance of two women sitting behind the president.

“Normal,” she said and then continued walking.

Apr 28, 8:24 pm
Homecoming for Biden, ‘a man of the Senate’

In previewing the president’s address to the joint session of Congress, White House Correspondent MaryAlice Parks said on ABC News Live that this is a homecoming for Biden, who sat in the audience for more than 30 years as a senator and eight years as vice president.

“Tonight is his night,” she said.

Apr 28, 7:37 pm
Lawmakers reflect on what they want Biden to address

Lawmakers are expecting different things as they tune in to Biden’s joint address Wednesday night.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., told ABC News on Wednesday that she is “delighted” that big progressive pushes like child care made it into the White House’s proposal, calling it a “win.” But aides to moderate Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., told ABC News Wednesday night that the price tag makes him “uncomfortable.”

Republicans, however, want to hear the president commit to working across the aisle on the next piece of legislation. As Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., puts the final touches on his speech responding to Biden’s address, he said he’s hoping to address where Democrats and Republicans can find common ground.

“My goal is to just to be myself and share with the country what I think the priorities are and how we can do those priorities together, as opposed to not,” Scott told ABC News.

-ABC News Congressional Correspondent Rachel Scott

Apr 28, 7:07 pm
Security heightened for joint address after Jan. 6 riot

Biden’s joint address, which under normal circumstances would be a large and celebratory occasion in Washington, has been reshaped by both COVID-19 and lingering security concerns following the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.

It will also be the first time that many House lawmakers will return to the chamber gallery, where some of them sheltered in place in January when pro-Trump rioters swarmed the Capitol.

“I’m sure I will have some strong emotions because that was such a dramatic moment for all of us,” Rep. Ann Kuster, D-N.H., told ABC News. “Most of us … thought we were going to die that day in the chamber.”

-ABC News’ Benjamin Siegel

Apr 28, 6:47 pm
Scott to criticize Biden economy in GOP response

Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., tapped to deliver the GOP response to Biden’s address, is set to tout the success of the economy before the COVID-19 pandemic, according to excerpts released Wednesday night.

Scott will say that the best future from America will not come from “socialist dreams,” but from the American people.

“Just before COVID, we had the most inclusive economy in my lifetime,” Scott said in the excerpt. “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. We passed Opportunity Zones, criminal justice reform, and permanent funding for Historically Black Colleges and Universities for the first time ever. We fought the drug epidemic, rebuilt our military, and cut taxes for working families and single moms like mine.”

Apr 28, 6:16 pm
GOP to rebut Biden, take credit for fighting pandemic

Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., is set to rebut Biden’s address with the argument that many of the successes of the Biden administration are a holdover from former President Donald Trump’s pandemic response, according to excerpts from Scott’s speech released Wednesday.

“This should be a joyful springtime for our nation,” Scott said in the excerpt. “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. Thanks to our bipartisan work last year, job openings are rebounding.”

Apr 28, 5:46 pm
Excerpt: Biden makes pitch for infrastructure plan directly to Americans

In another speech excerpt released by the White House this evening, Biden speaks directly to blue-collar workers in making his pitch for his infrastructure legislation.

“Now, I know some of you at home wonder whether these jobs are for you,” Biden says. “You feel left behind and forgotten in an economy that’s rapidly changing. Let me speak directly to you. Independent experts estimate the American Jobs Plan will add millions of jobs and trillions of dollars in economic growth for years to come. These are good-paying jobs that can’t be outsourced.”

Apr 28, 5:38 pm
Biden speech excerpt: ‘Inherited a nation in crisis’

In a speech excerpt released by the White House this evening, Biden discusses the challenges America faced when he took office.

“As I stand here tonight, we are just one day shy of the 100th day of my administration. 100 days since I took the oath of office—lifted my hand off our family Bible—and inherited a nation in crisis,” Biden said in the excerpt. “The worst pandemic in a century. The worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. The worst attack on our democracy since the Civil War.

Now—after just 100 days—I can report to the nation: America is on the move again. Turning peril into possibility. Crisis into opportunity. Setback into strength,” Biden will say.

-ABC News’ Sarah Kolinovsky

Apr 28, 5:13 pm
First lady holds virtual reception in lieu of traditional box of guests

While there will be no invited guests in the ‘First Lady’s Box’ in the House gallery tonight because of pandemic restrictions, first lady Jill Biden hosted a virtual version this afternoon with five invited guests that the White House said “personify some of the issues or policies that will be addressed by the president in his speech.”

The guests, included a DACA recipient, the first transgender teen to testify before Congress and a gun violence prevention advocate, highlighting a sharp contrast with former President Donald Trump, who awarded Rush Limbaugh the Presidential Medal of Freedom at his final State of the Union address.

-ABC News’ Molly Nagle

Apr 28, 3:56 pm
Biden to deliver address amid heightened security at Capitol

Security on Capitol Hill is tight in anticipation of Biden’s joint address, especially following the violent assault on the Capitol Jan. 6 and the driver who struck and killed a U.S. Capitol Police officer before ramming a barricade outside the Capitol less than a month ago. High fencing remains in place and National Guard troops are on standby.

Acting Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman in February warned of threats to disrupt Biden’s speech during a House committee hearing, but officials have not disclosed any specific warnings or details since then. The U.S.Secret Service is coordinating security among multiple law enforcement agencies with the address designated a National Special Security Event.

-ABC News’ Luke Barr

Apr 28, 3:30 pm
Biden to urge Congress to act on immigration, gun reform legislation

Biden tonight will call on lawmakers to pass key elements of his policy agenda, including an immigration reform bill he sent to Congress earlier this year and three gun reform bills that have passed the House, according to White House officials.

Biden’s immigration reform bill includes a pathway to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants. He’ll also urge lawmakers to bring relief to undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, holders of “Temporary Protected Status” and farmworkers. Biden will urge Congress to pass three bills already passed by the House that strengthen background checks, ban assault weapons and ban high capacity magazines, according to a different White House official.

However, Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin, the Democrat who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, has already thrown cold water on the notion of passing the immigration reform bill this year, although other immigration issues have some hope of moving through the evenly-split Senate. Moderate Democrat and key Senate vote, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., has opposed the gun reform bills, leaving little hope for a passage.

-ABC News’ Benjamin Gittleson and Trish Turner

Apr 28, 3:16 pm
Biden says he’s looked to ‘ease the pain’ in his 1st 100 days

Ahead of his speech, Biden met with network television anchors, including ABC News World News Tonight Anchor David Muir at the White House Wednesday afternoon. He told the anchors how he decided to “proceed on all issues” that faced him when he took office.

“First one: ease the pain, save lives, put people in a position where they have reason to believe that they could actually get back and earn a living and provide for their families,” Biden said. “That’s how I looked at the first 100 days.”

-ABC News’ Esther Castillejo

Apr 28, 3:07 pm
Biden reflects on ‘certain things worth losing over’ ahead of address

Ahead of his address to a joint session of Congress Wednesday night, Biden detailed his long view of democracy and unity to a small group of network anchors at the White House.

“There are certain things that are worth losing over,” Biden told ABC News World News Tonight Anchor David Muir. “There are certain things that — and I really mean it — certain things worth losing over, particularly at this moment. Because if we go four more years like we had in the last four, I really, honest to God, believe we’re in real jeopardy as a nation.”

The president’s comments come as he is under pressure from forces in his own party who want move as quickly to advance a progressive agenda, including making changes to the filibuster and Supreme Court. Despite those forces, Biden is looking at a much bigger picture: the health of a democracy and our two-party system more than just his own legacy.

-ABC News’ Jordyn Phelps

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