Feb 1, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: McCarthy says Pelosi may cap State of Union crowd

President Biden is seen addressing a social distanced Joint Session of Congress last March.
President Biden is seen addressing a socially distanced Joint Session of Congress last April. Photo: Caroline Brehman/CQ-Roll Call via Getty Images

Each party may be allowed to invite just 25 House members to attend President Biden's State of the Union Address in person, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy told colleagues on Tuesday.

Why it matters: The possible restrictions are yet another reminder the nation is still grappling with the coronavirus pandemic. The president is slated to deliver his first State of the Union address on March 1; attendance for his address to a Joint Session of Congress last April also was capped.

  • A Pelosi spokesman said no final decisions have been made.
  • The spokesman said the Speaker's Office "will work closely with the Office of the Attending Physician to accommodate as many Member requests as safely possible."
  • Biden’s Joint Address last year was attended by 55 House Democrats and 25 House Republicans, along with 35 Senate Democrats and 25 Senate Republicans, according to a Capitol official.

Driving the news: McCarthy told members of the Republican leadership that Pelosi told him she was instituting a 25-member attendance cap, two sources in the room told Axios.

  • McCarthy and other Republican leaders were frustrated by the declaration.
  • McCarthy noted Democrats fly on planes with more people than they planned to allow on the floor, a person in the room told Axios.
  • A McCarthy spokesperson declined to comment.

Flashback: Biden’s Joint Address also was made under strict COVID protocols.

  • On the eve of his 100th day in office, he spoke to a socially distanced audience of roughly 200 individuals.
  • In included a smattering of senators, Cabinet members, Pentagon officials and members of the Supreme Court.

The big picture: The talk of an attendance limit comes amid a raft of new restrictions in the House aimed at combating the highly infectious Omicron variant, which has caused a surge of coronavirus cases.

  • Members have been asked to vote quickly, avoid congregating on the floor and wear KN95 masks rather than cloth or surgical masks.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with details about last year's attendees at the Joint Session of Congress.

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