The claim: President Joe Biden was supposed to deliver a State of the Union address by Feb. 20
On Jan. 8, 1790, President George Washington delivered the first – and shortest – annual message from a president to Congress in U.S. history.
His message began a tradition of the president providing information to Congress on the condition of the country, rooted in the U.S. Constitution, that evolved to include legislative proposals. It took until 1947 before it officially was called the “State of the Union.”
A Facebook user, though, recently noted that President Joe Biden has not delivered his first State of the Union address. That user falsely claims that “it was supposed to be done by” Feb. 20.
While the U.S. Constitution says the president “shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient,” it does not set a timeline.
The last six presidents also have not delivered an official State of the Union during the year in which they were inaugurated, according to the Congressional Research Service.
The user did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
USA Today Rating: False
The claim that Biden was supposed to deliver a State of the Union address to Congress by Feb. 20, 2021, is FALSE. The U.S. Constitution requires only that the president update Congress “from time to time,” and does not set a formal deadline. In-person speeches have become the norm since the mid-20th century, but at least the previous six presidents did not deliver a formal State of the Union during the year in which they were inaugurated. Instead, the president has delivered a speech to a joint session of Congress. That has not yet been convened in 2021.
Our fact-check sources:
- The National Constitution Center, accessed Feb. 24: Article II, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution
- Congressional Research Office, Jan. 29, 2020: “History, Evolution, and Practices of the President’s State of the Union Address: Frequently Asked Questions“
- C-SPAN, Feb. 28, 2017: “President Trump Address to Joint Session of Congress“
- U.S. House of Representatives History, Art & Archives, accessed Feb. 24: “State of the Union, The Speech: Where and When“
- Axios, Feb. 16: “No plans for Biden to address a joint session of Congress this month, White House says“
- Roll Call, Feb. 11: “‘Quite a week,’ Pelosi says, previewing more to come“