BY CRISTINA MARCOS
Abuja (Sundiata Post) – House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) isn’t planning to attend President Biden’s first joint address to Congress on Wednesday and will instead give his ticket to another GOP lawmaker.
Scalise told reporters at the House GOP retreat in Orlando, Fla., on Monday that seating for lawmakers will be limited and that he wants to give an opportunity to first-term Republicans who have never attended a presidential address to Congress.
“There are not many of us that are going to be able to go, because they’re limiting it pretty dramatically,” Scalise said. “There are a lot of people that haven’t been before that want to go.”
Biden’s address to Congress will be significantly scaled back compared with past joint sessions due to COVID-19 health restrictions. Only about 200 people are expected to be in the House chamber during the address, meaning that relatively few of the more than 500 members of the House and Senate will be in attendance.
House and Senate members won’t be allowed to bring guests. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said last week that first lady Jill Biden won’t bring guests either. The first lady does plan to attend the speech in person, however.
A Capitol official said Monday that Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts will represent the Supreme Court, while Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will be in attendance on behalf of the collective body’s military leaders.
Scalise said he hopes Biden will discuss how the two parties can work together on legislation. Biden has been meeting with Republicans in recent weeks on infrastructure proposals, but Democrats also have the option of using the same budget process as they did for the $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package earlier this year that allows them to circumvent a Senate GOP filibuster.
“In the end, what he says is going to be important. And I hope his speech is more focused on unifying as opposed to just having a go-it-alone strategy where they continue to shut Republicans out of the process, even though he promised he would work with everybody, because he’s yet to do that,” Scalise said.