Fact Check: Is Biden Required to Give the SOTU Address in Person in His Inaugural Year?

Twitter users discussed the State of the Union address on Thursday, debating whether President Biden, who is in his first year in office, is required or expected to give an address around this time.

The Claim

Some users claimed that President Biden should have given a State of the Union address already.

The President is Constitutionally-mandated to give a State of the Union address which has been Jan/Feb since 1934 by invitation of the Speaker of the House.

This year’s #SOTU has been listed as TBD.

Can we get an update @SpeakerPelosi?

Asking on behalf of the Constitution.

— Tricia Flanagan (R-NJ) (@NewDayForNJ) February 24, 2021

The Facts

Since Ronald Reagan, presidents have delivered an "Address Before a Joint Session of Congress," in the first year of their first term, usually with a focus on administration goals. No president has given a speech in his first year with the official title "State of the Union" since 1964, when Lyndon Johnson was in his first full year as president following the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

Since Reagan, presidents in the first year of their second term have delivered a State of the Union address in addition to their inaugural address.

Article II, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution says: "He 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."

When is Biden going to deliver a State of the Union? Isn’t that typically done...like now?

— Karlyn supports banning critical race theory in NH (@DrKarlynB) February 24, 2021

There is no predetermined timeline by which the president is required to give information on the state of the union. For example, President Gerald Ford gave a State of the Union address in January 1977, eight days before President Jimmy Carter was inaugurated.

Ford's was the last time a State of the Union address was given in the same year a new president was inaugurated. Carter did not give a State of the Union until the following year, when he delivered both a speech and a written address.

In 1945 and 1956, the State of the Union was delivered in writing and later accompanied by a radio address. In 1973, President Richard Nixon delivered six State of the Union speeches on different policy topics.

In 1841 and 1881, no address was given because of a president's death. William Henry Harrison died of illness 32 days after his inauguration in 1841, and James Garfield was assassinated 199 days after he took office in 1881.

From Thomas Jefferson in 1801 to William Howard Taft in 1912, the State of the Union was given only as a written address. The tradition of giving the State of the Union as a speech was restarted by President Woodrow Wilson in 1913.

The name "State of the Union" began informally in 1942, under President Franklin Roosevelt. It has been the official title of the address since 1947. Before Roosevelt, it was known as "The President's Annual Message to Congress."

Biden is expected to give an address before a joint session of Congress, but Press Secretary Jen Psaki said on February 16 that there is no set date.

Newsweek reported Thursday that militia groups connected with the January 6 Capitol riot have discussed plans to "blow up the Capitol and kill as many members as possible with direct nexus to the State of the Union," according to Acting Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman.

The Ruling

False.

Since the 1980s, presidents in the first year of their first term have given an address before a joint session of Congress, but it is not called a "State of the Union" address.

There is no rule that it must be delivered in person, or that it must be delivered by a certain date.

Joe Biden speaks at the White House
President Joe Biden speaks before signing an executive order in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, D.C. Twitter users discussed the State of the Union address on Thursday, debating whether Biden, who is in his first year in office, is required or expected to give an address around this time. SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images/Getty