Psaki: Designated Survivor Unnecessary at Biden House Address

Psaki: Designated Survivor Unnecessary at Biden House Address (C-SPAN)

By Jim Thomas | Tuesday, 27 April 2021 10:14 PM

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said having a designated survivor is unnecessary because only two of Biden's 15 Cabinet secretaries will attend the pandemic-limited event in the House, reports the N.Y. Post.

Just in time for Joe Biden's 100-day mark as president, the commander in chief is set to give his first big speech to Congress on Wednesday night.

The president's Cabinet being locked away during such an address is an obscure but important ritual.

The Constitution does not directly call for a designated survivor. The presidential line of succession is covered in both Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution, which was later amended and clarified by the 20th Amendment, and it is detailed in the Presidential Succession Act. But neither requires the sequestering of officials as a matter of practice, constitutioncenter.org says.

But in practice, it determines who will be president if everyone is killed at the same time, and usually 1 Cabinet member would not attend the event where everyone else is in the same room, and that person is the "designated survivor."

"There does not need to be a designated survivor because the Cabinet will be watching from their offices or home," Psaki said at her daily press briefing.

While it will look and feel like a State of the Union speech, Biden, like other presidents in their first year in office, will give what is known as an address to a joint session of Congress. The president will lay out his big priorities in a prime-time address aimed at connecting directly with his liberal base.

"There will not be a first lady's box as there has been historically," Psaki added, repeating another key distinction. Guests of the first lady often serve as presidential props to underscore and humanize policy objectives.

"While the speech will of course look and feel different from past years, the president will preserve a few traditions, including the walk down the center aisle that we have seen presidents do for many years," Psaki said.

"He will of course be wearing a mask for that. He'll remove the mask when he delivers his speech."

The term "designated survivor" entered the pop lexicon in 2016, when the hit ABC show of the same name first aired. In it, Kiefer Sutherland's character, the secretary of housing and urban development, is tapped to sit out the annual speech — then suddenly becomes the president when the chief executive and every other member of the line of succession are killed in a terror attack. The show ran through 2019, N.Y. Post reported.