What is the difference between a State of the Union and joint address?

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Gino Spocchia
·2 min read
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<p>US President Joe Biden</p> (AP)

US President Joe Biden


When Joe Biden speaks in front of both houses of Congress on Wednesday, it will be the first time he does so as US President.

Mr Biden is expected to address the coronavirus pandemic and a range of other issues in front of members of Congress, on what will be the eve of 100 days of being in office.

It follows an invitation for Mr Biden to deliver a "vision for addressing the challenges and opportunities of this historic moment," from House speaker Nancy Pelosi.

It will not be an official State of the Union address, although the two speeches are almost identical, in accordance with tradition for US presidents.

The first speech in front of both houses of Congress — also called a joint session — is not a State of the Union address.

That is scheduled for the years following a president’s inauguration, because in theory, a president is unable to speak about the “State of the Union” after a few weeks of being in office.

Typically, the annual speech from the president to Congress — whether in the form of a joint address or a State of the Union — takes place in February.

But following the 6 January Capitol riot and continuing Covid restrictions, Mr Biden’s first speech was delayed.

Four years ago, former president Donald Trump called for a “new chapter of American greatness” in front of a joint session of Congress.

Because of Covid restrictions, Mr Biden will be speaking in front of a select few members of Congress from both political parties, with social distancing and other restrictions in force.

The address is also designated as a National Special Security Event, with the Secret Service in control of planning and security, in the aftermath of the January insurrection on the Capitol by supporters of Mr Trump.

Following the address from Mr Biden, Republican Sen Tim Scott of South Carolina will deliver a response to the speech. Progressive members of Mr Biden’s party are also expected to deliver their own response.

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