No 'designated survivor' for Biden's address to Congress

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Another Washington tradition has fallen by the COVID wayside.

When President Biden addresses a joint session of Congress on Wednesday, there will not be a “designated survivor.”

For decades, State of the Union and similar addresses by new presidents, one member of the Cabinet deliberately stays away from the U.S. Capitol.

The tradition guards against the possibility of some sort of catastrophe wiping out the nation’s leaders in the Constitution’s line of succession.

But this year, press secretary Jen Psaki explained, the coronavirus pandemic and the resulting sparse audience means few Cabinet members will be there.

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

Ms. Psaki said Tuesday that only two of Biden’s 15 Cabinet secretaries — Secretary of State Tony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin — will attend the socially-distanced event in the House of Representatives.

The defined succession order is Vice President Kamala D. Harris, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate President Pro Tempore Patrick Leahy, and then the Cabinet secretaries in order of the founding of their departments.

Ms. Harris, Mrs. Pelosi and Mr. Leahy all are expected to be in the House chamber.

In the event of a catastrophe, the new president would be Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen.

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