Harris and Pelosi make history at Biden’s first address to Congress
History was written on Wednesday night when Vice President Harris and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) took their seats behind President Biden as he addressed his first joint session of Congress.
It marked the first time both seats on the dais behind a president delivering an address to Congress were filled by women.
The moment comes months after Harris became the first Black American, South Asian American and woman to be vice president.
Biden acknowledged the historic moment shortly after he assumed his place at the podium.
“Madam Speaker. Madam vice president. No president has ever said those words from this podium,” Biden said to claps from those in attendance.
“No president has ever said those words, and it’s about time, and it’s about time,” Biden continued before turning around to join in applauding the two women.
Pelosi remarked on the significance of the moment during an interview ahead of the address on Wednesday.
“It’s wonderful to make history. It’s about time,” said Pelosi, who is the only woman to serve as Speaker and who broke another glass ceiling when she became the first woman on the same dais, sitting behind former President George W. Bush while he addressed Congress in 2007.
“This is just so exciting, but let’s just talk not only about making history but making progress for the American people, and that’s what President Biden will be doing,” Pelosi said before touting some of the Biden administration’s policy actions as the president approaches his first 100 days in office.
The historic moment was not the only first Wednesday night.
William Walker, the first Black House sergeant-at-arms, announced Biden’s arrival and escorted him on the president’s traditional walk down the center aisle.
Other changes also were made for Biden’s first speech this year due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Attendance was much lower than previous presidential addresses due to pandemic restrictions as well as security concerns following the insurrection at the Capitol on Jan. 6, when a pro-Trump mob stormed the building as Congress prepared to certify the Electoral College vote affirming Biden’s victory.
Only about 200 people were expected to be able to attend, whereas almost all 535 members of Congress, Cabinet officials, guests, Supreme Court justices and reporters would fill the House chamber when attending past addresses prior to the pandemic.
First lady Jill Biden was also not accompanied by guests, who previously would be invited to attend presidential addresses to call attention to certain priorities of the administration. Lawmakers also were not allowed to bring guests.
Updated at 9:17 p.m.
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