Since the speech is delivered during a joint session of Congress, all members of the House and Senate are invited – though not required – to attend. Last year, several GOP lawmakers boycotted the event because of the coronavirus testing requirement. And in 2020, a number of Democrats did not attend former President Donald Trump’s speech as he faced an impeachment vote in the Senate.
The president and first lady Jill Biden can invite family members and other guests, who sit with the first lady in her box in the balcony. The White House has yet to announce who will attend, but guests will likely help the president highlight some of the points in his speech. Last year’s guests included the Ukrainian ambassador to the U.S., Oksana Markarova, and Biden’s sister, Valerie Biden Owens.
Members of Congress can also invite guests this year, after coronavirus protocols prevented them from doing so last year. Rep. Steven Horsford (D-Nev.), the chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, invited RowVaughn and Rodney Wells, the mother and stepfather of Tyree Nichols, the Black man who was beaten to death by Memphis police officers earlier this month. And CNN has reported that Rep. Mike McCaul (R-Texas) will bring Roya Rahmani, former Afghanistan ambassador to the U.S., as his guest to draw attention to Biden’s controversial withdrawal of troops from the country.