No ‘designated survivor’ cabinet member during Biden speech, in-person audience limited to 200

Biden Congress
Posted at 6:39 PM, Apr 27, 2021

WASHINGTON -- In keeping with recommended coronavirus safety measures, only 200 people will attend President Joe Biden’s address to Congress in-person on Wednesday. This means only a few cabinet members will attend, and the White House says because of this, no designated survivor will be chosen.

The Kiefer Sutherland show of the same name increased awareness of this practice. The administration selects a high-ranking cabinet member, the designated survivor, to stay in a secure location while the president, cabinet officials and others in the presidential line of succession attend the annual address to Congress and other events.

This is to ensure there is a survivor, should something catastrophic happen at the Capitol that kills the president and officials in attendance. The practice started in the 1950s during the Cold War when officials were worried about the risk of a nuclear attack.

In February 2017, former President Donald Trump selected then-Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin to be the designated survivor during his presidential address to Congress.

“There does not need to be a designated survivor because the Cabinet will be watching from their offices or home, but they will not be joining him for the speech,” Press Secretary Jen Psaki saidduring a press briefing Tuesday when asked about it.

A few of the 200 people attending in-person include Vice President Kamala Harris, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court John Roberts, first lady Dr. Jill Biden, and second gentleman Douglas Emhoff.

Watch President Biden's presidential address to a joint session of Congress here on our website or on our Facebook page, Wednesday at 9 p.m. ET