When President Joe Biden returns to the House chamber to deliver his second State of the Union address, the former longtime senator will be addressing his onetime congressional colleagues as a guest.
The president is invited to address Congress by the House speaker, in accordance with his constitutional duty to “from time to time” deliver a message outlining top issues facing Americans and plans to solve those issues. The newly elected House Speaker, Kevin McCarthy, formally invited Biden in a letter on January 13. The address will take place this year on Tuesday, February 7, at 9 p.m. ET.
Two seats on the dais behind the president are reserved for the vice president and the House speaker. Vice President Kamala Harris, who is also the president of the Senate, will sit to the right behind Biden, McCarthy will be seated to his left.
Presidents and first ladies typically invite about two dozen guests to sit in the House gallery. State of the Union guests help put a human face on a president’s message for both policymakers and viewers at home.
The president’s Cabinet, Supreme Court justices who choose to attend, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, former members of Congress and members of the diplomatic corps are seated in front of lawmakers.
House members aren’t assigned seats. Instead, seats in the chamber are doled out on a first come, first served basis the day of the speech. House members must stay seated in the spot they choose until the address begins, according to the Congressional Research Service.
Senators join their House colleagues in the chamber, sitting at the front, the report from the Congressional Research Service states.
The 535 members of Congress are each granted one guest ticket. The Sergeant at Arms handles seating for the guests, which fills up the remainder of the gallery.
Lawmakers are not required to sit separately based on political party, but they do make their parties known by how they cheer — or jeer — throughout the president’s speech.
Democrats, aligned with Biden’s agenda, will likely stand up, clap and sit back down many, many times during the speech. Republicans, however, will likely do so sparingly.
First lady Jill Biden has invited 26 guests to sit with her during the speech, including the mother and stepfather of Tyre Nichols, RowVaughn and Rodney Wells. Biden has also invited Brandon Tsay, who has been hailed a hero for disarming the Monterey Park, California, shooting suspect at a dance studio during Lunar New Year celebrations.
CNN’s Christopher Hickey, Janie Boschma and Sam Woodward contributed to this report