Just the Facts

Five Facts on What to Expect From the State of the Union

By Emma Petasis
February 5, 2019 | Blog

After several weeks of political maneuvering and one postponement spurred by the recent government shutdown, President Trump will deliver his second State of the Union address tonight. Here are five facts on what to expect from the State of the Union.

President Trump is expected to focus heavily on immigration.

The president will deliver his second State of the Union in the midst of a heated debate over immigration and border wall funding that precipitated the longest government shutdown in U.S. history. While early reports suggest that the president will not use the occasion to go so far as to declare a national emergency in order to secure funds for a border wall, he is expected to strongly urge Congress to reach an agreement that provides adequate funding for a wall.

The president is also expected to call for unity and bipartisanship in Washington.

While bipartisanship has been sparing in Washington over the past several years, the president is expected to highlight the need for unity and potential areas for cooperation. Look for the president to call on congressional Democrats and Republicans to work with him on new infrastructure plans, as well as lower prescription drug and health care costs.

Several women lawmakers will dress in white in honor of the suffragette movement.

According to Rep. Lois Frankel (D-FL), the House Democratic Women’s Working Group invited all female lawmakers to wear white as a statement of their “hard-earned rights.” In so doing, they will pay tribute to suffragists from the early 20th Century, who wore white dresses to generate media attention for their cause. Over the past several years, female lawmakers have used the color of their clothing to draw attention to important causes on several occasions. For example, in 2018 many female lawmakers wore black to the State of the Union in recognition of the #MeToo movement.

Both the president and members of Congress can invite guests, many of whom are chosen to reward bravery or highlight a political issue.

President Ronald Reagan started the tradition of acknowledging presidential guests in 1982, when he invited Lenny Skutnik, a man who pulled a plane crash victim from an icy Potomac River. This year, lawmakers have invited a wide variety of guests, such as service workers affected by the shutdown, survivors of mass shootings, and border patrol representatives. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who as speaker of the House is allowed more invitees, will be accompanied by several prominent guests, including Planned Parenthood President Leana Wen, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, and Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez. President Trump will also have several guests in attendance, such as Timothy Matson, a Pittsburgh police officer who suffered multiple gunshot wounds while responding to a shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue; Ashley Evans, a woman recovering from opioid addiction; and Joshua Trump, an 11-year-old who was bullied in school because of his last name.

Stacey Abrams, who narrowly lost the 2018 Georgia gubernatorial race, will deliver the Democratic response to the State of the Union.

Abrams, who despite her loss is considered a rising star within the party, was invited by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Speaker Pelosi to deliver the official Democratic rebuttal to President Trump’s speech. The invitation will give Abrams a national spotlight as she mulls a potential Georgia Senate run in 2020. In an interview with Axios, Abrams opened up about what the opportunity means to her, stating, “”I’m terrified, not because I might make a mistake, but because so many want the opportunity to rebut what they’ve seen over the past few years…My responsibility is to not only give voice to those who don’t believe they’ve been seen or heard, but to offer remedies … and do that all in 10 minutes.”

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