In a letter to Pelosi, the lawmakers noted that Biden’s speech is currently scheduled to take place on April 28, during a week when the House is in a committee work period and most representatives work from their districts. Additionally, the Republicans called on Pelosi to invite all members of both congressional chambers to attend the speech in person amid reports that attendance could be limited due to COVID-19 protocols.
“Scheduling this address for a day when the House is not in session and prohibiting Members of Congress from attending would be unprecedented and undermine the very spirit of our representative, constitutional Republic,” the lawmakers said. “We strongly oppose any effort to deny Members of Congress access to the People’s House and on behalf of those we represent, urge you to reschedule the event for a day the House is actually in session and ensure invitations are extended to all members.”
Republicans who signed the letter included Reps. Claudia Tenney of New York, Lauren Boebert of Colorado, Louie Gohmert of Texas and Madison Cawthorne of North Carolina, among others.
Congressional leaders have yet to say how many lawmakers will be permitted to attend Biden’s speech, which will take place in the House chamber. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) acknowledged likely attendance limits during a call with reporters last week.
“I don’t know specifically and I don’t want to talk about specific numbers but maybe there will be a limited number of members from House, from the Senate, the Supreme Court, the ambassador corps and from other entities,” Hoyer said.
Politico reported attendance at the event could be limited to about 200 people.
The GOP lawmakers that the House chamber is large enough to accommodate nearly 1,000 people under normal circumstances and could “operate at about 50 percent capacity to safely accommodate all members of the House and Senate who attend.”
“In our nation’s history, it is unprecedented to convene a joint session of Congress such as this without extending an invitation to all Members of Congress,” the letter added.
Pelosi issued a formal invitation for Biden’s first speech to Congress last week. The speech is currently slated to occur nearly 100 days in Biden’s term, much later than those of his recent presidential predecessors.