WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump won’t be the only one trying to send a message when he delivers his first State of the Union address.
A look at some of the ways lawmakers are using the speech to make a point:
Many female Democratic lawmakers plan to follow the lead of celebrities at this year’s Golden Globe Awards by wearing black to the State of the Union.
Allegations of sexual harassment have had a big impact on Capitol Hill in recent months, forcing resignations and retirements on both sides of the political aisle as well as ongoing Ethics Committee investigations.
“Wearing black to #SOTU isn’t about Trump,” tweeted Rep. Lois Frankel, D-Fla. “It’s about showing solidarity with a movement – from hotels to farm fields, to Congress, we’re standing with workers to end sexual harassment in all workplaces.”
Some lawmakers are also bringing attention to the issue through the guest they have invited to the State of the Union. Rep. Annie Kuster, D-N.H., has invited Chessy Prout, a victim of sexual assault while she attended high school.
“The conversation about sexual harassment and assault in our nation is long overdue, but through the efforts of Chessy and the #MeToo movement, it is finally gaining steam,” Kuster said.
FACES OF IMMIGRATION
Dozens of young immigrants will be sitting in the House gallery overlooking the president as he speaks. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer and other Democratic lawmakers invited them to put a face on an immigration debate that is dominating Congress’ attention.
The guests are among the nearly 700,000 people who received protection from deportation under the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
Trump canceled the program last year but gave Congress until March to come up with a legislative fix.
The “Dreamers” in the gallery include aspiring nurse Karen Bahena of San Diego and Virginia high school student Nicolle Uria, who was brought into the United States as a 1-year-old. Bahena is the guest of Rep. Scott Peters, D-Calif. Uria is the guest of Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va.
“This country is all she has ever known and through her volunteer work she has made our community better,” Connolly said.
Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., is also making a statement on immigration. His guest, Tommy Fisher, is president of a company that was given a contract to develop a prototype wall along the U.S. border with Mexico.
“As Congress develops comprehensive immigrant enforcement legislation, I am proud to know a North Dakota company is a finalist to construct the border wall between our nation and Mexico,” Cramer said.
At least eight Democratic lawmakers have announced they are boycotting the president’s address: Reps. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon, Pramila Jayapal of Washington, John Lewis of Georgia, Frederica Wilson of Florida, Gregory Meeks of New York, Maxine Waters of California and Bobby Rush and Jan Schakowsky of Illinois.
“Rather than listening to yet another destructive and divisive speech by Trump, I will not attend this year’s annual address to Congress,” said Blumenauer, who also skipped the Trump inauguration.
THE SCIENCE GUY
Bill Nye the Science Guy is also on the guest list. The harsh critic of Trump’s environmental policies is the guest of Republican Rep. Jim Bridenstine, Trump’s nominee to serve as the next administrator of NASA.
Nye said he has enjoyed a productive working relationship with Bridenstine on space issues.
Democratic lawmakers have been highly critical of Bridenstine, saying that placing a politician at the head of the agency, instead of someone steeped in the sciences, would be a mistake. A Senate committee approved Bridenstine’s nomination on a party-line vote, but the full Senate hasn’t yet taken it up.
“I hope to hear the president present plans for an ambitious, science-driven space exploration agenda,” Nye said.
Rep. Joe Kennedy of Massachusetts will deliver the Democratic response to the president’s address. He is the grandson of Robert F. Kennedy, the former senator and U.S. attorney general, and the son of former Rep. Joseph Kennedy II, who served in the House from 1987 to 1999. Democratic leaders are pitching Kennedy as someone who can champion Democratic policies to the middle class.
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