House Republicans ask Pelosi to reschedule Biden’s address to Congress
A group of GOP lawmakers on Monday asked Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to reschedule President Biden’s address to Congress set for next week to a time when the House is in session.
They further called on Pelosi to extend invitations to all members of Congress, instead of limiting it to a smaller number due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Scheduling this address for a day when the House is not in session and prohibiting Members of Congress from attending would be unprecedented and undermine the very spirit of our representative, constitutional Republic,” GOP Reps. Claudia Tenney (N.Y.), Tom McClintock (Calif.), Randy Weber (Texas), Russ Fulcher (Idaho), Lauren Boebert (Colo.), Louie Gohmert (Texas), Dan Bishop (N.C.), Madison Cawthorn (N.C.), Greg Steube (Fla.) and Van Taylor (Texas) wrote in a letter to Pelosi.
The House is scheduled to be in a committee work period next week, meaning that most members will be working in their districts while conducting hearings and markups virtually. The Senate, meanwhile, is expected to be in session next Monday through Thursday.
A limited number of lawmakers are expected to attend Wednesday’s address, which will come a day before Biden’s 100th day in office. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told reporters last week that the House would remain in a committee-work week because “relatively few” members will be present for the address anyway.
Aside from members of Congress, Hoyer said there will be a “limited number” of Supreme Court justices, members of Biden’s Cabinet, and members of the Ambassador Corps. But unlike past joint addresses, lawmakers will not be allowed to invite guests.
“We will not feel it necessary to have a session because there will be relatively few House members who will be in attendance,” Hoyer said.
“And, of course, we are working that week. We’re just working in committee,” he added.
But the GOP lawmakers noted that the House chamber can accommodate about 950 people and argued it would only be at 50 percent capacity if all 535 members of the House and Senate were in attendance.
“In our nation’s history, it is unprecedented to convene a joint session of Congress such as this without extending an invitation to all members of Congress. As you know, the House Chamber and House Gallery can accommodate about 950 individuals. We understand the need to prioritize the safety of members and believe strongly that with the right precautions and social distancing measures a space designed to accommodate almost 1,000 individuals can operate at about 50 percent capacity to safely accommodate all members of the House and Senate who attend,” they wrote.
It’s estimated that most members of Congress have been vaccinated for COVID-19. As of last month, the Capitol physician’s office estimated that about 75 percent of House members had been vaccinated.
A CNN survey last month also found that all Senate Democrats and all but a few Senate Republicans had been vaccinated.
A growing number of congressional staff have also received vaccines after the Capitol physician’s office began distributing the shots more widely last month.