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Women make history as Pelosi, Harris flank Biden for speech

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WASHINGTON, DC – APRIL 28: U.S. President Joe Biden addresses a joint session of Congress as Vice President Kamala Harris (L) and Speaker of the House U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) (R) look on in the House chamber of the U.S. Capitol April 28, 2021 in Washington, DC. On the eve of his 100th day in office, Biden spoke about his plan to revive America’s economy and health as it continues to recover from a devastating pandemic. He delivered his speech before 200 invited lawmakers and other government officials instead of the normal 1600 guests because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Melina Mara-Pool/Getty Images/AFP (Photo by POOL / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP)

When US President Joe Biden delivered his debut speech to a joint session of Congress Wednesday, history was made behind him, with two powerful women taking their places on the rostrum for the first time.

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Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has been in the position before during presidential speeches.

But with the addition this time of Kamala Harris, the nation’s first female vice president, the two people seated behind and on either side of Biden as Americans tuned in on their TV screens for the primetime address were women.

“Madam Speaker. Madam Vice President,” Biden said proudly, turning to the women and clapping as he began his address.

“No president has ever said those words from this podium,” he added, “And it’s about time.”

The chamber, with a limited number of lawmakers on hand due to coronavirus guidelines, burst into applause, as First Lady Jill Biden and Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff joined in the ovation.

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The moment marked a milestone in the nation’s nearly 245-year history, and female lawmakers noted the symbolism regarding the strides that women have taken to reach positions of American power.

“Like so many women, I feel pride in this moment and seeing this representation,” House Democrat Barbara Lee posted on Twitter. “It’s long overdue.”

It also marked a first of another sort: both the speaker and the vice president were wearing masks, another key plank of policies implemented in Congress beginning last year to guard against the spread of Covid-19.

Harris and Pelosi are the first and second, respectively, in the presidential line of succession.

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