White House via AP
One of the hallmarks of the President’s joint address to Congress is the guest list: In a typical year, the president and first lady invite guests they say embody the administration’s policy agenda and achievements, while lawmakers often choose positives for a political statement about them.
Because personal presence is limited due to the pandemic, most politicians will adjust remotely while President Biden makes his remarks Wednesday night.
But whether they attend in person or not, many continue to pay tribute to individuals from their districts by naming them as their virtual guests.
First Lady Jill Biden held a virtual ceremony to introduce her five invitees, while many Democratic MPs announced their guests of honor in press releases that preceded that address. Many come from communities and industries particularly affected by the pandemic and subsequent relief efforts, and also highlight administrative priorities such as immigration, infrastructure, and arms control.
The committees for democratic policy and communications of the Senate and the House said in a statement that its leaders are leading efforts to name virtual guests as a way to elevate ordinary Americans who profited during Biden’s first 100 days in power.
“While COVID-19 security protocols mean this year’s personal attendance will be limited, DPCC leaders say appointing virtual guests is an important way for Democrats to pay tribute to hard-working men and women across the country who encourage America’s recovery,” they wrote. “Members will upload stories of their virtual guests in local media, share them online using the hashtag #HelpIsHere, and honor their virtual guests in the Congressional record.”
Republican lawmakers do not appear to have launched a comparable campaign of their own. In the past, members of Congress who were not in the president’s party selected guests who signaled reprimands or reflected their own legislative priorities – for example, when dozens of Democrats invited immigrants to former President Donald Trump first address to the 2017 joint session of Congress.
One of the guests of the invited Republicans at the closing address to former President Barack Obama in 2016 was Kim Davis, a Kentucky County clerk who went to jail for her refusal to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
The First Lady met with her invitees – including a DACA recipient working as a nurse, an advocate for gun violence prevention and a transgender teenager – in virtual “viewing frame” on Wednesday afternoon. She said they personify the problems the president worked to address during his first few months in office, from fighting the pandemic to defending LGBTQ rights to improving broadband access for students.
“These are the challenges that shape your life, the things that keep you up at night and he knows you’re counting on him to have real solutions and you can’t wait,” she said. “Every day when he goes down to the Oval Office or to a meeting with his advisers, he takes you with him. Everything he does is for you.”
Top Democrats point out the plus-ones helped by the administration in its efforts to end the pandemic.
Majority leader Steny Hoyer, MD, is an honor A Panamanian immigrant who managed to keep her four Dunkin Donuts open with the help of the Salary Protection Program. Guest of local speaker Nancy Pelosi Dr. Kenneth Tai, a senior health officer at the San Francisco Community Health Center that focuses on Asia-America and the Pacific Islands and low-income patients.
The list of virtual guests of other MPs is long and diverse.
Includes perennials postal service worker, a a teenager from the Navajo Nation distance learning business owner who opened a restaurant during the pandemic, a doctor and pastor who provided grants from the Department of Public Health to seek contacts and efforts to distribute vaccines, mayor City of New Jersey, high school freshman yearn who is a co-founder of a telephone to help senior citizens ensure the appointment of vaccines and more basic workers.
They will all watch from afar as Biden addresses a small crowd of deputies from the House Chamber.
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