What to know before Biden’s speech
Because the speech is delivered in a joint session of Congress, all members of the House and Senate are welcome — but not required — to attend. Last year, several GOP lawmakers boycotted the event due to the coronavirus testing requirement. And in 2020, a number of Democrats skipped former President Donald Trump’s speech as he faced an impeachment vote in the Senate.
President and First Lady Jill Biden can invite family members and other guests, who sit with the first lady in her balcony suite. The White House has yet to announce who will attend, but guests will likely help the president emphasize some of the points in his speech. Last year’s guests included Ukrainian Ambassador to the United States Oksana Markarova and Biden’s sister Valerie Biden Owens.
Members of Congress can also invite guests this year, after coronavirus protocols prevented them from doing so last year. Rep. Steven Horsford (D-Nev.), Chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, invited RowVaughn and Rodney Wells, the mother and stepfather of Tyree Nichols, the black man who was beaten to death by Memphis police officers at the beginning of the month. And CNN reported that Rep. Mike McCaul (R-Texas) will bring Roya RahmaniAfghanistan’s former ambassador to the United States, as a guest to draw attention to Biden’s controversial troop withdrawal from the country.