When President Joe Biden returns to the House chamber to deliver his second State of the Union address, the former longtime senator will guest address his one-time congressional colleagues.
The President is invited by the Speaker of the House to address Congress, in accordance with his constitutional duty “from time to time” to outline the top issues facing Americans and plans to address those issues. The newly elected House Speaker, Kevin McCarthy, formally invited Biden in a letter dated January 13. The address will take place this year on Tuesday, February 7, at 9pm ET.
Two seats on the dais behind the President are reserved for the Vice President and the Speaker of the House. Vice President Kamala Harris, who is also president of the Senate, will sit to the right behind Biden, with McCarthy to his left.
Presidents and first ladies usually invite about two dozen guests to sit in the House gallery. State of the Union guests help put a human face on the president’s message to both policymakers and viewers at home.
The president’s cabinet, Supreme Court justices who choose to attend, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, former members of Congress and members of the diplomatic corps sit before lawmakers.
Members of the House are not assigned seats. Instead, seats in the chamber are eliminated on a first-come, first-served basis on the day of the speech. According to the Congressional Research Service, members of the House must remain seated until the address begins.
The Congressional Research Service reports that senators are seated in the front of the chamber with their House colleagues.
Each of the 535 members of Congress has been given a guest ticket. The Sergeant at Arms arranges the seating of the guests, filling the rest of the gallery.
Lawmakers don’t have to sit apart by political party, but they let their parties know how cheering they are throughout the president’s speech.
Democrats aligned with Biden’s agenda will likely stand, applaud and sit back several times during the speech. Republicans, however, will likely do less.
First Lady Jill Biden has invited 26 guests to sit with her during the speech, including Tyr Nichols, Rowan and Rodney Wells’ mother and stepfather. Biden has also invoked Brandon Tse, who has been hailed as a hero for disarming a Monterey Park, California, shooting suspect at a dance studio during Lunar New Year celebrations.
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