President Joe Biden is addressing a joint session of Congress tonight, February 7, for the annual State of the Union. The speech comes after Republicans regained control of the House of Representatives, which means there’s a change in who is sitting behind him tonight. So while you’re watching the SOTU tonight, you may find yourself wondering: Who’s sitting behind Biden while he’s speaking?
Vice President Kamala Harris & Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy Are Sitting Behind Biden
Tonight, Vice President Kamala Harris and Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy are sitting behind Biden for his 2023 State of the Union speech. They will be there for the entire speech while it’s aired live on TV and streamed online.
It’s a long-standing tradition for the Vice President and Speaker of the House to sit behind the President while he addresses the three branches of government. Other traditions include having cabinet members, Supreme Court justices, and diplomats sit in front of the House chamber, with the First Lady and her guests sitting in the gallery, NBC Washington reported. The press corps also has its own section during the speech, located behind and above the President.
Last year, Nancy Pelosi was seated beside Harris during Biden’s speech. Pelosi was also seated behind former President Donald Trump during his addresses. In 2019 she went viral for a sarcastic clap that she made at him during his speech. Then in 2020, she went viral again when it wasn’t clear if he ignored an attempted handshake, and she later tore Trump’s speech in half while sitting behind him.
This year, McCarthy takes the spot behind Biden after a long battle for the position of Speaker of the House. He was elected speaker after 15 rounds of voting in early January, BBC reported. Some concessions he made included agreeing to lower the requirement for voting on unseating the Speaker to just one member of the House.
McCarthy Said He Won’t Tear Biden’s Speech Tonight
In anticipation of his highly visible seat tonight, McCarthy has said that he won’t rip up Biden’s speech like Pelosi did to Trump in 2020, The Hill reported.
He shared his plans in a video on Twitter, saying: “I don’t believe in the theatrics of tearing up speeches. I respect the other side, I can disagree on policy. But I want to make sure this country is stronger, economically sound, energy independent, secure and accountable.”
He also said that all Republicans will be behaving according to their code of ethics without any “childish games,” Insider reported.
“We’re members of Congress. We have a code of ethics of how we should portray ourselves,” McCarthy said.
Melania Zanona of CNN reported on Twitter that McCarthy was concerned about how Republicans will act tonight and warned them that “mics are hot” and “cameras are on.”
McCarthy also confirmed with Manu Raju of CNN, before the State of the Union, that Rep. George Santos will be facing a House Ethics probe.
Meanwhile, the day before the speech, Harris announced that private companies have pledged nearly $1 billion to support projects in Central America that will help farmers, telecommunications industries, and create jobs, The New York Times reported.
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