Ahead of his first address to a joint session of Congress at 9 p.m. EST this Wednesday, President Joe Biden has failed to name a "designated survivor", or a person in the presidential line of succession.
Typically, the announcement is made by the White House shortly before the speech.
“There does not need to be a designated survivor because the Cabinet will be watching from their offices or home, but they will not be joining him for the speech,” said White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki during a Tuesday briefing.
It was revealed earlier that Biden's speech this year will be limited to 200 lawmakers present in person, due to coronavirus pandemic restrictions.
Accordingly, if some hypothetical major catastrophe were to strike the US Capitol, wiping out all those in attendance, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen would become president of the United States, writes Fox News, citing the White House.
The No. 1 successor, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, will be attending Joe Biden's speech at the Capitol.
This signifies that Yellen would fall next in the line of succession unless Democratic Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy - second-highest-ranking official of the United States Senate, and, accordingly, president pro-tempore, decides not to attend the event in person.
Leahy “will be attending” and is on the escort committee from the Senate, according to a spokesperson for the official cited by Politico.
However, Leahy himself told reporters on Tuesday he needed "to think about" whether he should attend, as if he didn’t, he would automatically become the “designated survivor”.
A “designated survivor” is the top official from the administration chosen not to attend the event, who is required to remain at a secure location to ensure continuity of the presidency in the case a mass casualty event.
A line of succession if the president dies or is incapacitated was created by the Presidential Succession Act of 1947.
First to take office would be the vice president, followed by the speaker of the US House, the president pro tempore of the US Senate, the secretary of state, the treasury secretary, the defense secretary, etc.