Now nearly 100 days into his administration, President Joe Biden will finally deliver a joint address to Congress on Wednesday, an event that typically happens in February but was pushed back by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) over concerns about the coronavirus pandemic and security.
Pelosi has also implemented strict rules regarding mask-wearing inside the Capitol building, but word is that Biden has been granted an exemption from that particular requirement, Breitbart reported.
Biden exempted from mask mandate
Pelosi has insisted that members wear masks while inside the building, and in December strengthened that mandate to include while members spoke on the House floor.
She strengthened it even further after the new session of Congress began in January, imposing a $500 fine for members for a first offense of violating the mask mandate, a fine that increased to $2,500 for additional violations.
But according to an unnamed senior Democratic official, that mandate won’t apply to Biden during the joint address. The official, noting that former Vice President Mike Pence didn’t wear a mask during the Jan. 6 congressional certification of the Electoral College results, told Breitbart, “The mask rule applies to Members of Congress only.”
Joint address will look very different
According to Fox News congressional correspondent Chad Pergram, this year’s joint address to Congress will be quite different from any other in the past, again due to increased security in and around the Capitol building as well as the various pandemic mitigation protocols.
One noticeable change will be the number of people in attendance, which can typically be as many as 1,600 individuals, counting all 435 members of Congress, their guests and staffers, guests and VIPs in the gallery, members of the president’s Cabinet and Supreme Court, the first lady and her guests, and the media reporters, photographers and camera operators.
This year, however, there will only be about 200 individuals total, including just 80 members of the House and 60 members of the Senate. Chief Justice John Roberts will be the only member of the Supreme Court present, Gen. Mark Milley, as chairman, will be the only representative of the military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, and only two members of Biden’s Cabinet will be in attendance, Defense Sec. Lloyd Austin and Sec. of State Anthony Blinken.
Pergram also shared the same information received by Breitbart regarding the mask mandate, namely that it didn’t apply to the president and it was not anticipated that he would wear one during his speech.
Psaki declines to confirm
The question about Biden wearing a mask during the joint address came up during Monday’s press briefing at the White House. Although press secretary Jen Psaki replied that it was a “good question,” she declined to provide a direct answer and said she would need to discuss it first with the president and White House doctors before getting back to reporters with a response.
Psaki was also asked about Biden’s 100-day mask mandate on federal property — which would obviously include the Capitol building — and whether that would be extended. Psaki also deferred on that question to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and any new guidance it would release in the near future.
Breitbart noted that Biden, when delivering remarks at an event, typically wears a mask until he reaches the podium and begins to speak. On occasion, however, he has kept it on while talking and often forgets to put the mask back on after walking away from the podium at the conclusion of his speech.