‘Madam Speaker, Madam Vice President’ | Harris, Pelosi make history

Kamala Harris and Nancy Pelosi appeared on the House dais behind President Joe Biden Wednesday night, .marking the first time in U.S. history two women have appeared in that setting.Biden’s first big audience cheer of the evening came seconds into his speech when he said.Madam Speaker, Madam Vice President. No president has ever said those words from this podium and it’s about time, President Joe Biden.The symbolic seating also connotes the first time that women are first and second in the presidential line of succession.a sign of women in power in their respective roles.Harris, 56, made history last year when she became the first woman and first Black and Indian American person elected vice president

Kamala Harris and Nancy Pelosi appeared on the House dais behind President Joe Biden Wednesday night, marking the first time in U.S. history two women have appeared in that setting.

Harris, the first woman and person of color to serve as vice president, while Pelosi, a long-serving Speaker of the House, were present as Biden made his first speech to a joint session of Congress. Harris serves as president of the U.S. Senate.

Biden’s first big audience cheer of the evening came seconds into his speech, when he said, “Madam Speaker, Madam Vice President.

“No president has ever said those words from this podium and it’s about time,” Biden said.

Watch a replay of Biden’s speech below.

“It’s about time,” Pelosi told MSNBC when asked about her view on the historic moment.

White House chief of staff Ron Klain noted the historic nature of the dais seating as he previewed the speech last week., as reported by CNN.

“For the first time in American history, behind the President when he speaks, will be two women: a woman vice president, and woman speaker of the House. Presidents have been addressing Congress since George Washington did it,” Klain said during a conversation with Georgetown University’s Institute of Politics and Public Service, adding, “It wasn’t until 14 years ago that the first time one of those seats was filled by a woman. So it took a long time to get to that milestone. Fourteen years later, for the first time, there’ll be two women behind the President.”

ExploreREAD: Full text of President Joe Biden’s first speech before Congress

The symbolic seating also connotes the first time that women are first and second in the presidential line of succession, a sign of women in power in their respective roles.

The two began the night with another historic moment: An elbow-bump hello, a pandemic spin on the traditional handshake. Pelosi and Harris stood side by side behind the dais in the House chamber, chatting with each other and occasionally waving to lawmakers as the group waited for Biden to arrive.

Vice President Kamala Harris elbow bumps House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., before President Joe Biden speaks to a joint session of Congress. (Doug Mills/The New York Times via AP, Pool)
Vice President Kamala Harris elbow bumps House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., before President Joe Biden speaks to a joint session of Congress. (Doug Mills/The New York Times via AP, Pool)

Credit: Doug Mills

Credit: Doug Mills

Pelosi already knows what it feels like to sit on the rostrum in the House chamber and introduce a president for their speeches. She has sat there for several addresses by Presidents George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump.

Women’s advocates said seeing Harris and Pelosi seated together behind Biden will be a “beautiful moment.” But they noted that electing a woman to sit in the Oval Office remains to be achieved, along with the addition of an equal rights amendment to the Constitution.

Biden helped usher the moment along by pledging to pick a woman for his running mate and selecting Harris, then a U.S. senator from California.

“This is a great start and we have to continue to move forward to give women their equal due,” said Christian Nunes, president of the National Organization for Women.

Pelosi made history by becoming the first female House speaker during Republican Bush’s presidency. He acknowledged the moment by noting during his address to Congress after Pelosi’s election that he had the privilege of being the first president to open with the words “madam speaker.”

Pelosi, 81, reclaimed the powerful leadership post during Republican Trump’s presidency and sat behind him during his final two speeches to Congress, famously ripping up her copy of Trump’s remarks in 2020 as cameras continued to roll after he was finished addressing lawmakers.

Harris, 56, made history last year when she became the first woman and first Black and Indian American person elected vice president. In her role as president of the Senate, she joins Pelosi to preside over the joint session of Congress.

Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, said Wednesday night will show men, women, boys and girls that women can attain and hold high-level positions and that they are as entitled to them as men are.

Walsh also noted Biden’s promise to put a woman on his ticket, and pointed as well to the diversity of his Cabinet. She said Biden was likely to begin the speech by turning around to face Pelosi and Harris and feeling proud — not just personally, “but I also think proud for the country and proud for his party and I think he will clearly see the historic implications of this and the role that he played in making that happen.”

“For all of us who care about women’s public leadership, we still look forward to the day when the person standing at the podium, in front, is a woman,” Walsh added. “But for now this is a particularly gratifying moment.”

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