Teams inside the Capitol are going to extraordinary lengths to ready the House chamber to keep the participants safe and reduce the risk of the spread of coronavirus for tonight’s presidential joint address to members of Congress.
In a break from tradition, the 200 people allowed into the chamber will be assigned a seat. Between each of the assigned seats will be four empty seats, designed to encourage social distancing in the chamber.
In past years, outside of a few seats reserved for members of the President’s Cabinet and members of the Supreme Court, seating in the chamber was first come, first serve. It often led members of Congress to get to the Capitol hours ahead of time to get prime seating- particular seats by the center aisle where the President enters the room.
In 2021, the center aisle seating will not exist. Instead, there will be three empty seats between the aisle and where the members of Congress’ assigned seats begin. The goal being to prevent members from crowding the area to take advantage of long held traditions like being caught on camera shaking the President’s hand or getting him to sign a copy of his speech.
In another break from past practice, members of Congress will be sitting in the gallery above the floor of the House, not just on the House floor.
This is how the seating arrangement looks for those coveted seat near the aisle President Biden will walk down.
To Biden’s left as he walks into the room, from the row closest to the dais and moving back:
- Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer
- Senate Pro Tempore Patrick Leahy
- House Majority Whip James Clyburn
- Rep. Carolyn Maloney of New York
- Rep. Colin Allred of Texas
To Biden’s right as he walks into the room, from the row closest to the dais and moving back:
- Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell
- Senate Minority Whip John Thune
- House GOP Conference Chair Liz Cheney
- Rep. Mike McCaul of Texas
- Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania
Note: For perspective on the seating, Biden will see Reps. Colin Allred and Brian Fitzpatrick first as he enters the room.