By Moira Warburton
WASHINGTON – The full U.S. Congress will be invited to President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address on March 1, a year after the invitation list to his address to Congress was radically cut back to 200 due to the pandemic, officials said on Thursday.
The White House hopes the sight of a packed House of Representatives chamber, also filled with Senate members and other officials, will help project a return to normalcy. Biden’s handling of the lingering COVID-19 pandemic has dragged heavily on his popularity for months.
Individual members of Congress will not be able to bring guests as they had previously, according to the Capitol’s sergeant at arms. Everyone will be expected to wear a mask.
Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had previously not committed to whether the full membership of Congress would be invited due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Biden’s management of the coronavirus health crisis has the approval of 47% of Americans, according to a Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll conducted Jan 31-Feb 7. That is down from 52% approval in a mid-December poll.
The State of the Union speech is a constitutionally mandated executive update to both chambers of Congress, a vehicle for presidential priorities, pomp and partisan posturing.
In 2020, a bitter feud between the Republican then-President Donald Trump and Speaker Pelosi boiled over with Trump denying her a handshake and Pelosi ripping apart a copy of his remarks behind his back.
In 2009, Republican Representative Joe Wilson shouted, “You lie!” at then-President Barack Obama during a speech to a joint session of Congress to pitch for the Obamacare healthcare bill. Wilson was widely condemned for the breach of protocol by both Republicans and Democrats. He apologized publicly to the president.
(Reporting by Moira Warburton; Editing by Scott Malone and Howard Goller)