Why Biden's address to Congress is not a State of the Union speech

Why Biden's address to Congress is not a State of the Union speech

President Biden will appear Wednesday evening before a joint session of Congress to deliver an address, but unlike most times when a president participates in such an event, the speech is not considered an official State of the Union address.

The event bears the trappings of a State of the Union, with the president discussing pertinent issues facing the nation and his administration, and he’ll be doing so after accepting the necessary invitation from the speaker of the House.

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“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.’  Now, because of your historic and transformative leadership, Help Is Here!” Speaker Nancy Pelosi wrote in a letter to Biden. “In that spirit, I am writing to invite you to address a Joint Session of Congress on Wednesday, April 28, to share your vision for addressing the challenges and opportunities of this historic moment.”

So why is this not a State of the Union address?

While the State of the Union is a tradition dating back to Jan. 8, 1790, when President George Washington delivered his first, a more recent tradition is for new presidents not to give one in their first year.

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As noted by the Congressional Research Service, each of the last six presidents opted not to give official State of the Union address during their first year, as they had recently given inauguration addresses. While they typically ended up delivering addresses not long after taking office, those speeches took on different titles, such as former President Donald Trump’s “Address Before a Joint Session of the Congress” in 2017.

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The speech will give Biden, who is about to mark his first 100 days in office, an opportunity to address his administration’s efforts in combating the coronavirus pandemic,  as well as his infrastructure package and push for more climate-focused legislation.

Biden is expected to speak at 9 p.m. ET.