Who sits where at the State of the Union: A visual guide

When President Joe Biden returns to the House chamber to deliver his third State of the Union address, the former longtime senator will address his onetime congressional colleagues as a guest.

The president is invited to address Congress by the House speaker, in accordance with his constitutional duty to “from time to time” deliver a message outlining top issues facing Americans and plans to solve those issues. House Speaker Mike Johnson invited Biden in a letter on January 6. The address will take place this year on Thursday, March 7.

Two seats on the dais behind the president are reserved for the vice president and the House speaker. Vice President Kamala Harris, who is also the president of the Senate, will sit to the right behind Biden, and Johnson will be seated to his left.

Presidents and first ladies typically invite about two dozen guests to sit in the House gallery. State of the Union guests help put a human face to a president’s message for both policymakers and viewers at home.

The president’s Cabinet, Supreme Court justices who choose to attend, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, former members of Congress and members of the diplomatic corps are seated in front of lawmakers.

House members aren’t assigned seats. Instead, seats in the chamber are doled out on a first come, first served basis the day of the speech. House members must stay seated in the spot they choose until the address begins, according to a report from the Congressional Research Service.

Senators join their House colleagues in the chamber, sitting at the front, the report from the Congressional Research Service states.

The 535 members of Congress are each granted one guest ticket. The Sergeant at Arms handles seating for the guests, who fill up the remainder of the gallery.

A number of the family members of the remaining Israeli-American hostages in Gaza plan to attend the address at the invitation of members of Congress, a source familiar told CNN.

Lawmakers are not required to sit separately based on political party, but they do make their parties known by how they cheer — or jeer — throughout the president’s speech.

Democrats, aligned with Biden’s agenda, will likely stand up, clap and sit back down many, many times during the speech. Republicans, however, will likely do so sparingly.

The guest list for first lady Dr. Jill Biden’s box offers a blueprint for the president’s address as he leans on personal stories to put faces to critical issues facing Americans.

The first lady is expected to invite Kate Cox, the Texas mother of two who had to leave her state to seek an abortion to end a life-threatening pregnancy, as her guest to the address. Maria Shriver, the journalist and women’s health advocate, will also be present. Shriver, who is a cousin of independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr., teamed up with the first lady to launch the White House Initiative on Women’s Health Research.

As Biden highlights a series of executive actions around the prevention of gun violence, Jazmin Cazares of Uvalde, Texas, will be in the first lady’s box. Cazares’ sister, Jackie, was killed at the massacre at Robb Elementary School, and Jazmin has spent the time since “traveling across the country and sharing Jackie’s story,” the White House said.

The White House invited Yulia Navalnaya, the widow of Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny, to attend the address as a guest of the president and first lady, but she was unable to attend, two White House officials said. The White House also confirmed that it had extended an invitation to Ukrainian first lady Olena Zelenska to attend the address but that she declined the invitation.

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