As is custom, multiple members squatted Tuesday in the House chamber to reserve seats, preferably on the aisle, so they can either get their mug on TV or shake hands with President Obama when he comes into the chamber for the State of the Union.
They include: Reps. Steve Rothman, D-N.J., Dale Kildee, D-Mich., Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, Frederica Wilson, D-Fla., Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, Al Green, D-Texas, Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, Elijah Cummings, D-Md., and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla.
Kucinich, Ros-Lehtinen and Jackson Lee are old hands at this craft.
A couple of factors in the mix. Due to redistricting, Kucinich and Rothman face primaries against fellow members so it may help them to get on TV.
Kildee is retiring. But in the fall, he had to fend off never-proven charges by an alienated, distant family member that he sexually abused him in the 1960s.
Expect a lot of attention on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., who will be sitting between Reps. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., and Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz.
Last year, the State of the Union fell just weeks after Giffords was shot. This year, we are told that Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., will keep a seat open for Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., who suffered a stroke over the weekend. Kirk’s seat is President Obama's old Senate seat (with former Sen. Roland Burris, D-Ill., in between).
It would not be beyond the pale for the president to say something about his Illinois colleague.
At 8:53 pm ET, Deputy Sergeant at Arms Kerry Hanley will announce the dean of the diplomatic corps (ambassadors from other countries to the U.S.). That’s Ambassador Roble Olhaye of Djibouti. The dean of the diplomatic corps is the longest-tenured ambassador to Washington. Olhaye has served as Djibouti’s ambassador to the United States since 1988.
A total of 160 members of the diplomatic corps are expected to be in attendance.
The House has a new sergeant at arms who just took office last week. So this year, Paul Irving will declare “Mr. Speaker, the president of the United States!” around 9:01:30.
There are 440 permanent seats in the House chamber. But for tonight, they are bringing in about 90 additional seats. Expected are seven representatives from the Joint Chiefs of Staff, 22 Cabinet-level officials and five Supreme Court justices, including Chief Justice John Roberts.
There are 623 permanent seats in the public viewing gallery above, not including seats for press.
One Cabinet official is always left out, in case of a major security issue. This year, that's Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.
The president will deliver his speech from the second level of three on the dais in the House chamber in front of a lectern.
That’s traditionally where the House reading clerk typically reads communications to the House during routine sessions. It is one level lower than where the speaker of the House and the vice president (in his dual capacity as president of the Senate) will sit.
That’s because the president is a guest of the Congress.
It’s the same location where other dignitaries deliver their speeches before Joint meetings of Congress, such as French leader Nicolas Sarkozy and others.