Outgoing Energy Secretary Steven Chu will not attend the State of the Union, the White House announced Friday.
Because the president, vice president, lawmakers, Cabinet secretaries, Supreme Court justices and members of the military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff are all sitting together in a confined space in the Capitol, one Cabinet member is chosen to skip the speech every year.
The tradition dates back at least to the 1960s and the White House first publicly released the names of designated absentees during the Nixon administration, according to the Senate Historical Office.
What does a “designated survivor” do on their night off? Eat pizza or head to the theater, according to colleague Al Kamen.
Chu resigned two weeks ago after four years in the White House. He will stay in his post until at least the end of the month; President Obama has not named a replacement.
Here’s the full list of absent Cabinet secretaries since 1984, as compiled by the Senate Historian’s Office:
Jan. 24, 2012: Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack
Jan. 25, 2011: Interior Secretary Ken Salazar
Jan. 27, 2010: HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan
Feb. 24, 2009: Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.
Jan. 28, 2008: Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne
Jan. 23, 2007: Attorney General Alberto Gonzales
Jan. 31, 2006: Veterans Affairs Secretary Jim Nicholson
Feb. 2, 2005: Commerce Secretary Donald Evans
Jan. 20, 2004: Commerce Secretary Donald Evans
Jan. 28, 2003: Attorney General John Ashcroft
Jan. 29, 2002: Interior Secretary Gale Norton
Feb. 27, 2001: Veterans Affairs Secretary Anthony Principi
Jan. 27, 2000: Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson
Jan. 19, 1999: HUD Secretary Andrew W. Cuomo
Jan. 27, 1998: Commerce Secretary Bill Daley
Feb. 4, 1997: Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman
Jan. 30, 1996: HHS Secretary Donna Shalala
Jan. 24, 1995: Transportation Secretary Federico Pena
Jan. 25, 1994: Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy
Feb. 17, 1993: Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt
Jan. 28, 1992: Agriculture Secretary Ed Madigan
Jan. 29, 1991: Interior Secretary Manuel Lujan
Jan. 31, 1990: Veterans Affairs Secretary Edward J. Derwinski
Feb. 9, 1989: No absent cabinet member
Jan. 25, 1988: Interior Secretary Donald P. Hodel
Jan. 27, 1987: Agriculture Secretary Richard Lyng
Feb. 4, 1986: Agriculture Secretary John Block
Feb. 6, 1985: Commerce Secretary Malcolm Baldrige
Jan. 25, 1984: HUD Secretary Samuel R. Pierce Jr.