WORLD / AMERICAS
Empty seats: Biden delivers unique speech to Congress
Published: Apr 29, 2021 06:43 PM
Addressing lawmakers on Wednesday in an eerily unfilled US Capitol, President Joe Biden delivered his first speech to Congress under extraordinary circumstances that highlighted the coronavirus pandemic and January's deadly riot that shook the White House.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of N.Y., stands as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., remains seated as President Joe Biden speaks to a joint session of Congress Wednesday, in the House Chamber at the U.S. Capitol in Washington. Photo: VCG

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of N.Y., stands as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., remains seated as President Joe Biden speaks to a joint session of Congress Wednesday, in the House Chamber at the US Capitol in Washington. Photo: VCG

Barely 200 mask-wearing lawmakers spread out in the House of Representatives chamber - the very body where many were acting to certify Biden's election victory on January 6 when marauders sent members scrambling for their lives. "As we gather here tonight, the images of a violent mob assaulting this Capitol - desecrating our democracy - remain vivid in our minds," he told the hushed chamber in a primetime speech to mark his first 100 days in office. But he turned the reaction to the harrowing attack, and America's response to the coronavirus, as cause for optimism.

"We have stared into an abyss of insurrection and autocracy - of pandemic and pain - and 'We the People' did not flinch," he said.

Evidence of the unrest remains on Capitol Hill. The metal fencing around Congress still stands, and heavily armed National Guard troops ringed the building Wednesday as a precaution.

The building's hallways were nearly empty, the tours that normally bring tourists and other guests to the Rotunda halted. COVID-19 restrictions made Biden's maiden speech to Congress one like no other. Most of the US Supreme Court's nine members usually attend such addresses, but this time Chief Justice John Roberts alone represented the bench.
blog comments powered by Disqus