Citing COVID-19 restrictions, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has made tickets available for President Joe Biden's Wednesday speech before Congress to just a small fraction of lawmakers.
Politico reported that as many as 1,600 people normally turn out for a president's speech before Congress.
That number includes the 535 members of Congress, plus guests and those from the executive and judicial branches.
According to Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., Pelosi’s office has divided up an equal number of tickets for Republicans and Democrats for the event. Thune said it breaks down like this: 40-40 for the House and 30-30 for the Senate.
But many members of the lower chamber, back home in their districts and taking part in committee work virtually, find themselves in a bind, said the New York Post.
Several Republican lawmakers have asked Pelosi to reconsider a time when both the Senate and the House are in session.
According to the Post, Rep. Claudia Tenney, R-N.Y., wrote a letter to Pelosi about the timing of the event. Tenney also asked that Pelosi allow all members to attend, instead of inviting only some from each party in the name of pandemic-appropriate social distancing.
What's more, Punchbowl News reported that a considerable number of lawmakers asked if they wanted to attend said no or offered no answer at all.
"Not that I’m aware of," Sen. Joni Ernst, Iowa Republican and member of the party leadership, replied when asked if she planned to go, the Post article said. "I don’t think I’ll probably attend."
Politico noted that Pelosi is leaving it to each chamber leader to determine who gets a ticket to the speech. The outlet, attributing the information to two sources, said Pelosi is giving preference, as far as her tickets are concerned, to the nearly 20 members of her leadership team.
Meanwhile, attendance by the Supreme Court justices and members of Biden’s Cabinet will also be limited. Chief Justice John Roberts is expected to attend. Army Gen. Mark Milley will represent the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will be there on behalf of Biden’s Cabinet.
A lot of Republican lawmakers appear uninterested in attending — though several dozen will be there, Politico said. Minority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., said he was giving his tickets to a freshman lawmaker. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said he plans to watch from his own couch at home, Politico said. He questioned why Pelosi is restricting vaccinated members of Congress.
"I just think this has gotten to be arbitrary and a little bit silly," he said. Politico pointed out the recommendation came from the House physician.
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