Report: Speaker Pelosi May Cap State of the Union Audience at 25 Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., bangs her gavel before the start of President Joe Bidens address to the joint session of Congress in the House chamber of the U.S. Capitol April 28, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Caroline Brehman – Pool/Getty Images)
By Charles Kim | Tuesday, 01 February 2022 09:49 PM
Axios is reporting that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., may cap the audience for President Joe Biden’s March State of the Union address to just 25 members.
According to the report Tuesday, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., was told by Pelosi that she is considering capping the number of in person Congress members attending the annual address to just 25 due to fears about the spread of the omicron variant of COVID-19.
A spokesman for Pelosi told Axios that no final decisions about the speech, scheduled to take place in the House chamber on March 1, had been made and that her office "will work closely with the Office of the Attending Physician to accommodate as many member requests as safely possible."
Biden’s address in April of last year was attended by 55 House Democrats and 25 House Republicans, along with 35 Senate Democrats and 25 Senate Republicans, Axios reported.
According to the report, Pelosi directly told McCarthy that she was instituting the 25-person cap on the speech, and he notified the Republican leadership.
While a spokesman for McCarthy refused to comment on the report, sources told Axios that McCarthy and others in leadership were “frustrated” by the news, and that McCarthy said that Democrats are flying on planes with more people than what Pelosi wants attending the speech.
While last year’s speech was labeled a “special joint session address,” this year’s speech is Constitutionally mandated, and is his first official State of the Union report to Congress.
The highly contagious omicron variant has caused a new group of restrictions due to the surge in COVID cases around the nation.
Pelosi has a mask mandate in the House that requires members to use N95 or KN95 masks rather than regular cloth or surgical masks.
The New York times reported Tuesday that the number of new COVID cases in Washington, D.C. are “decreasing, but still high,” and that the rate for hospitalizations and deaths continues to decline.
The district recorded 1,071 new cases on Jan. 31, and a rolling daily average of 334 new cases, while also logging a drop of 33% in the number of hospitalizations, and 34 deaths in the last two weeks.
The 334 average of new cases represents an 80% decrease from just two weeks ago, with January being the highest month for infections since the beginning of the pandemic.
Sixty-six percent of the city is fully vaccinated and has a 14-day positivity rate of 9%, according to the Times.