Biden’s first congressional address will feature ‘invite-only’ guest list, no first lady’s box

President Joe Biden will finally address Congress next week, three months into his term, though the event will be “invite-only” and will not include all members because of strict COVID-19 protocols.

Biden is scheduled to address the truncated joint session on Wednesday, though it “will be invitation-only for a limited number of members of Congress,” according to a memo from acting House Sergeant at Arms Timothy Blodgett, CBS News reported.

Members who have not been sent an invitation from congressional leaders “will not be permitted in the Capitol after 5 p.m.,” the memo added.

“The sergeant at arms noted the event is restricted due to COVID-19, although it’s unclear exactly how many members, and which ones, will be allowed in the Capitol,” CBS News reported. “Unlike a typical address before a joint session, invited members will not be permitted to bring a guest. First lady Jill Biden will also attend, but will not bring any guests. Mr. Biden is set to deliver his first address to Congress on Wednesday at 9 p.m.”

Some members have expressed disappointment, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.).

“I would love to attend the joint address. Unfortunately, there are very strict COVID provisions that the House has put in place,” Ocasio-Cortez reportedly said during a virtual town hall meeting. “So, I do not believe I will be able to enter the chamber for the joint address.”

Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina is scheduled to give the Republican response to Biden’s address.

There are 535 members of Congress — 100 senators and 435 representatives — and the House chamber can hold 1,100. But only about 200 people will be allowed to attend.

Biden and most, if not all, members of Congress have been vaccinated against the coronavirus. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines issued last month, “indoor visits between fully vaccinated people who do not wear masks or physically distance from one another are likely low risk.”

Also, the nation’s top health agency said it was acceptable for fully vaccinated persons to socialize with unvaccinated people who are not at high risk of catching the disease “without anyone wearing masks.”

“You can gather indoors with fully vaccinated people without wearing a mask or staying 6 feet apart” if you’ve been fully vaccinated, the CDC guidance notes.

At the same time, however, the CDC advises that vaccinated people should “still take steps to protect yourself and others in many situations, like wearing a mask, staying at least 6 feet apart from others, and avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated spaces.”

Critics of the guidance claim that it is hypocritical, while others who have been vaccinated, including lawmakers, have dismissed the agency’s guidance altogether at this point.

For instance, Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) have said that because they’ve gotten a vaccine, they’re not masking up anymore.

“At this point, I’ve been vaccinated. Everybody working in the Senate has been vaccinated,” Cruz told CNN last week. “CDC has said in small groups, particularly with people who were vaccinated don’t need to wear masks.”

Paul has been critical both of the CDC’s vaccine and mask guidance and of Biden’s chief medical adviser, Dr. Anthony Fauci, who is continuing to recommend that even vaccinated people and those who have had the disease continue to mask up in public.

“He is lying because he doesn’t think we are smart enough to make decisions,” Paul told Fox News’s Tucker Carlson in March. “His fear is if the vaccinating – if we quit wearing masks – the vaccinated will say: What the hell, I’m not wearing a mask either.”

“He lies to say the mask makes a difference when in reality he knows better,” Paul added. “He’s wearing two masks for theater. He is immune and he knows he will not get it but he’s not being honest with the American public.

“There are no news reports or scientific studies saying after vaccination that there is some sort of widespread contagion that people vaccinated are spreading the disease. It is just not true,” the Kentucky Republican noted further. “What Fauci won’t tell you is he is telling you a noble lie.”

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Jon Dougherty

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