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Some Republicans say they don’t want to attend Biden’s first address to Congress

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Letters to the Editor — April 22, 2021

President Biden will finally deliver his first address to Congress as commander-in-chief next week — and a growing number of Republicans appear ready to miss it.

The address is scheduled for next Wednesday, when the Senate will be in session but the House of Representatives will not, leaving members in the lower chamber of Congress in a bind.

Most of those members will be back home in their districts, when they are scheduled to take part in work for their respective committees virtually.

Logistics for the speech, such as date, time and invitations, are being overseen by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who was sent a letter by a group of GOP lawmakers asking her to reschedule the address to a time when the body is in session.

Additionally, the group, led by Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-NY), requested that Pelosi allow all members to attend, as opposed to only inviting some for the sake of social distancing.

“In our nation’s history, it is unprecedented to convene a joint session of Congress such as this without extending an invitation to all Members of Congress,” the New York Republican wrote. “We understand the need to prioritize the safety of Members and believe strongly that with the right precautions and social distancing measures a space designed to accommodate almost 1,000 individuals can operate at about 50 percent capacity to safely accommodate all members of the House and Senate who attend.”

The group also noted that all members of both chambers were permitted to be present for the Jan. 3 swearing-in at the Capitol.

Reached by The Post on Thursday morning, Tenney spokeswoman Colleen Kennedy said Pelosi had yet to respond to the letter.

Invites for the occasion, evenly distributed between Democrats and Republicans, are being distributed by the leader of each caucus, a Capitol Hill official told The Post.

That means Pelosi has control over who will receive invitations among the House Democrats, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) will decide which House Republicans, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) will pick which Senate Democrats and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) will choose which Senate Republicans get to attend.

Asked by Punchbowl News on Wednesday whether they had any interest in attending Biden’s address, a considerable number said no or declined to answer.

“Not that I’m aware of,” Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), a member of GOP leadership, replied when asked if she planned to go. “I don’t think I’ll probably attend.”

“I don’t know the answer to that,” Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) said, adding, “I haven’t decided.”

Asked if he would go if he could, the Missouri senator replied, “I went to the inaugural, I’ve been to both States of the Union so far … I don’t know if I’ll go to this one or not. We’ll see.”

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) laughed when asked if he planned to go, saying, “No comment.”

Rep. Greg Pence (R-Ind.), the older brother of former Vice President Mike Pence, was adamant that he had other plans.

“I have a Lincoln Day dinner back at home,” he told the outlet when asked if he was going to attend.

“I’m not going to go,” Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.) said. “They announced it late and we already have plans for our week not being here.”

Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC), known as a more moderate figure in this freshman class of lawmakers, said she did not plan to attend either, noting that it was “an in-district week, so I’ll be in the district.”

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rogers (R-Wash.) noted that she hadn’t been extended an invite.

“I did attend his inauguration,” she said. “I made a special trip to come out here — had to come out here two days early to get tested.”

Some told the outlet they did want to go to the address, including some major Biden foes.

“I don’t agree with his policies, but he’s a fine man,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said.

“I would frankly prefer to go. I think the whole House should be there,” Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) argued. “He’s supposed to be talking to Congress.”

Sens. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) both said they planned to attend.

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