Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. will not attend President Obama’s speech to Congress tonight, according to an administration official, and will instead serve as the “designated survivor,” or cabinet secretary kept at an undisclosed location to ensure continuity of government in case of a catastrophic event.
Holder is the third attorney general in recent history to stay away from the big event: Alberto Gonzales did not attend the 2007 State of the Union, while John Ashcroft stayed away in 2003.
Since 1984, the interior secretary has skipped the big speech most frequently, according to the Senate Historical Office. Last year Dirk Kempthorne did not attend President Bush’s final State of the Union, Gale Norton stayed away in 2002, Bruce Babbitt did so in 1993, Manuel Lujan was absent in 1991 while Donald P. Hodel served as the appointed no-show in 1988.
Donald Evans, who served as commerce secretary from 2001 to 2005, is the only cabinet secretary to serve as designated survivor twice, in 2004 and 2005. Nobody missed President Bush’s first address to Congress in 1989.
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