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Marty Walsh is State of the Union designated survivor

Biden faces divided Congress in State of the Union
Biden faces divided Congress in State of the Union 02:49

Labor Secretary Marty Walsh is the designated survivor for the State of the Union, or the person who will take over as president if there is a mass casualty event while most of the government is at the Capitol. 

Walsh was taken to an undisclosed location before the State of the Union by the Secret Service, where he will watch the address on television. Walsh will be cleared to leave after President Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and the members of the line of succession have safely returned to their homes after the speech. 

The Presidential Succession Act of 1947 created a line of succession if the president dies or is incapacitated. First to take office would be the vice president, followed by the speaker of the House (Kevin McCarthy), and the president pro tempore of the Senate (Patty Murray). 

Next in line are Mr. Biden's Cabinet officials, in the order in which the agency was created: The secretary of state (Antony Blinken), treasury secretary (Janet Yellen), defense secretary (Lloyd Austin), attorney general (Merrick Garland), secretary of the interior (Deb Haaland), secretary of agriculture (Tom Vilsack) and so on. Because all of these officials are expected to be present for the speech, the White House names a designated survivor to take over the government if there is an incident. 

Walsh is eleventh in the presidential line of succession. 

Labor Secretary Marty Walsh speaks during a briefing at the White House in Washington, May 16, 2022. Walsh is expected to leave the Biden administration to run the National Hockey League Players' Association, according to two people familiar with his plans. Susan Walsh / AP

The practice of naming a designated survivor began in the 1960s, or possibly earlier, to coincide with the Cold War era, because of the threat of nuclear attacks. But the identity of the designated survivor was not regularly made public until the 1980s, according to the Senate Historical Office. The first time a designated survivor was publicly identified was in 1981, when the White House chose then-Education Secretary Terrel Bell. Since then, a designated survivor has been named during the president's joint session addresses, State of the Unions and inaugurations — whenever a mass-casualty event could threaten nearly all the government leaders. 

Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo was the designated survivor in 2022. There was no designated survivor in 2021, since Mr. Biden's address before the joint session of Congress only had about 200 attendees because of the pandemic. In 2020, then-Interior Secretary David Bernhardt was the designated survivor.

The designated survivor has been portrayed on an episode of "The West Wing" and was the basis of the television show "Designated Survivor," in which a fictional Housing and Urban Development secretary, played by Kiefer Sutherland, is the sole survivor when a terrorist attack takes out the president and the rest of his Cabinet during a State of the Union address.

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