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Biden to address joint session of Congress on April 28

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President Biden on Tuesday night accepted House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's invitation to address a joint session of Congress on April 28. The address is not an official State of the Union because a president's first speech before Congress is not considered a State of the Union.

"Nearly 100 days ago, when you took the oath of office, you pledged in a spirit of great hope that 'Help Is On The Way,'" Pelosi wrote in a letter to Mr. Biden. "Now, because of your historic and transformative leadership, Help Is Here!"

Pelosi's letter to Mr. Biden came on the same day the White House announced its plan to withdraw all combat troops from Afghanistan by September 11 — the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Like his inaugural address, Mr. Biden's first speech before Congress will be shaped by the coronavirus pandemic, making it different from past addresses delivered by his predecessors before a joint session. A Capitol official involved in the planning said the number of senators and House members in the chamber will be limited due to COVID-19 protocols, and lawmakers will be seated both on the House floor and in the gallery. Guests for members of the House and Senate will also not be allowed.

The joint session will be designed a National Special Security Event, with the Secret Service designated as the lead federal agency overseeing coordination, planning and security.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Wednesday that Mr. Biden is "eager" to deliver his address and will likely discuss the economic recovery, combatting the coronavirus pandemic and addressing global challenges.

Republicans will likely soon announce who will give their response.

Biden to withdraw all troops from Afghanistan by September 11 02:04

The president typically addresses Congress at the beginning of the year, but the White House had said Mr. Biden was focused on passing the American Rescue Plan. Mr. Biden signed the $1.9 trillion package on March 12, and he gave his first primetime address on March 11 to mark the one-year anniversary of the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. He gave his first press conference on March 25.

The address will be just days before the end of Mr. Biden's first 100 days in office. The first 100 days in office have been used as a marker since at least President Franklin Roosevelt, and Mr. Biden has laid an ambitious agenda for his first 100 days in office.  

Article II, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution dictates the president "shall from time to time give to the Congress information of the state of the union, and recommend to their consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient."  

It was George Washington who set the precedent for what "from time to time" means. The American Presidency Project notes that since 1790, with a couple of exceptions, the State of the Union has been given annually.

The message hasn't always gone by the name "State of the Union," the House of Representatives notes. From 1790 to 1946, it was called the "Annual Message," and then from 1942 to 1946, it became known informally called the "state of the Union." And since 1947, it's been officially known as the State of the Union Address.

Former President Donald Trump's final State of the Union in January 2020 ended in a dramatic fashion when Pelosi ripped up a physical copy of his speech after he finished. 

"I tore it up," she told reporters afterward. "I was trying to find one page of truth on there." When asked why she had ripped it up, she responded, "It was the courteous thing to do considering the alternative."

Nikole Killion and Melissa Quinn contributed to this report

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