In historic first, two powerful women flank US president in joint address to Congress

US Vice President Kamala Harris (left) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi are playing a vital role in the early days of the Biden presidency. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - President Joe Biden's address to Congress broke a historic glass ceiling on Wednesday (April 28), as two women - Vice-President Kamala Harris and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi - sat behind the president for the first time in United States history.

The seating arrangement carried a symbolic meaning for the advancement of US women in recent decades, since Ms Harris and Ms Pelosi stand first and second in the presidential line of succession, respectively.

Harris, the first woman and the first Black and Asian person to serve as vice-president, sat to Mr Biden's right. Ms Pelosi, who became the first woman speaker of the House of Representatives in 2007, sat to his left.

The two women are playing a vital role in the early days of the Mr Biden presidency, with Harris as a close adviser and tie-breaker in an evenly divided Senate and Ms Pelosi helping to marshal the president's legislative agenda through Congress.

Remote video URL
Remote video URL

Mr Biden spoke to a joint session of the House and Senate with attendance restricted to enforce social distancing amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Ms Harris arrived ahead of Mr Biden and Ms Pelosi affectionately took the vice-president's hand as she reached the dais before quickly switching to a pandemic-appropriate elbow bump.

"Madam Speaker, Madam Vice-President," Ms Biden said as he addressed the crowd.

"No president has ever said those words from this podium, no president has ever said those words. And it's about time!"

Remote video URL

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.