Mask guidance 'great reason' to get vaccine, says Joe Biden

Why there is no designated survivor for Biden’s Congress address like usual

Cabinet members staying away from Capitol for Covid-restricted speech

Gino Spocchia
Thursday 29 April 2021 02:03

Joe Biden will address Congress for the first time as US president without a designated survivor.

The White House confirmed on Tuesday that no designated survivor will be chosen for the joint session on Wednesday evening, when Mr Biden is expected to deliver a policy agenda and vision for his presidency.

Typically, a member of the US Cabinet is designated survivor to succeed the president, or vice president, or the remainder of the Cabinet, in case of mass casualties during an official occasion.

It includes presidential inaugurations and State of the Union speeches – similar to the first speech by the US president, in a joint session of Congress, being delivered on Wednesday.

According to officials, there is no need for a designated survivor during the ‘Covid-proof’ joint session, with attendance limited to 200, and not including many members of the US Cabinet.

"There does not need to be a designated survivor because the Cabinet will be watching from their offices or their homes,” said Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said at Tuesday's briefing. “They will not be joining him for the speech”.

Those senior officials attending on Wednesday, according to Politico, are Vice President Kamala Harris, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate president pro tempore Patrick Leahy, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

The secretary of the treasury, Janet Yellen, will be the de facto designated survivor for Mr Biden, as the most senior official not attending.

Mr Biden’s appearance in front of a joint session of Congress will be unlike any other first speech from a US president – due to both Covid and the Capitol riot in January.

The president will be addressing members of Congress in the House chamber, with sanitisation, social distancing, and mask wearing.

Security operations surrounding the US Capitol are also tight ahead of the speech, following the insurrection by supporters of former President Donald Trump in January.

Both crises are thought to have delayed the first speech by Mr Biden by two months, with the annual address of US presidents o Congress typically occurring in February.

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