President Donald Trump will talk about “building a safe, strong and proud America” in his State of the Union address on Tuesday, according to the White House. That will be the theme of his speech, which focus on domestic and national security issues.
Additionally, “the tone will be one of bipartisanship and it will be very forward looking,” according to a senior administration official who briefed reporters at the White House on Friday. Trump will be “unifying” and speak “from the heart.”
Rep Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) arrive to a joint session of the U.S. Congress with President Donald Trump, Feb. 28, 2017.
(L-R) Supreme Court Justices John Roberts, Anthony Kennedy, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan look on as President Donald Trump addresses a joint session of Congress, Feb. 28, 2017.
The task of unifying could be a tall one for this president, after several Democratic lawmakers announced plans to skip the speech entirely citing his divisive rhetoric and policies pushed during his first year.
The pressure will also be on Trump to deliver a message Republicans can rally behind headed into the midterm elections, which will be the first national referendum on this presidency. Democrats are hopeful they can regain control of at least one chamber of Congress.
Trump will address five major areas in his remarks: jobs and the economy, infrastructure, immigration, trade and national security.
Few details and little substance were offered about these issue areas. The president’s remarks on immigration are expected to reflect the White House plan released on Thursdaythat will offer a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers, the children brought to this country illegally, in exchange for billions of dollars in border security and tighter restrictions on legal immigration.
Infrastructure has long been touted as an issue both parties can get behind – and Trump will offer a trillion dollar proposal on that – but the issue often gets bogged down in other politics. The president will also emphasize “fair and reciprocal trade,” according to the briefing, and talk about rebuilding the military, using a policy “of peace through strength.”
Trump will also address the opioid crisis affecting the nation. At least one of the guests in the first lady’s box will be reflective of that, while other guests will be people who benefited from the Republicans’ The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.
The speech has been in the works for "many weeks," and has been an effort mainly carried out by the staff secretary's office -- though the official said the process "begins and ends with the president." The annual State of the Union Address is a time for a president to lay out his agenda for the nation.
Tuesday will be Trump’s first formal time at bat. He gave a speech to Congress on February 27, about a month after he was inaugurated, but that occasion is referred to as an address to a joint session given the short amount of time a president is in office at that point.
In his February address, Trump pledged to “soon begin the construction of a great, great wall along our southern border.” He also called on Congress to repeal and replace Obamacare. One of the most memorable moments of the night was when he praised Carryn Owens, the widow of Senior Chief William "Ryan" Owens who died in a raid in Yemen. The crowd in the chamber gave her an extended standing ovation as she shed tears.
Members of Congress, the Cabinet, Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs, members of the Diplomatic Corps and the justices of the Supreme Court attend the speech, which takes place in the U.S. House chamber. Applause from the president’s party and occasional boo from the other party are a normal part of the event, which is televised across all news networks. The members of the court, the military and diplomatic corps traditionally do not clap to show their impartiality.
Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and other female House Democrats will wear black to Tuesday’s speech to show solidarity for victims of sexual harassment. The lawmakers’ move follows the lead of female actresses who wore black to the Golden Globes earlier this month.
“We are supporting the brave women in every industry and every corner of the country who are making their voices heard,” Pelosi said in a statement.
At Trump’s February address, several female Democrats wore white in reference to the suffrage movement.
Several Democrats lawmakers are bringing sexual assault victims and women rights activists as their guests that night. Other Dems are bringing Dreamers and those affected by the immigration debate.
Additionally, at least four members of Congress -- Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Fla., and Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., -- said they will not attend the speech after the president reportedly said African nations were "s---hole countries" in a closed-door meeting at the White House.
Including Trump’s 2017 address, there have been a total of 95 in-person Annual Messages/State of the Union Addresses made to Congress, according to the U.S. House Historian’s office. Additionally, the first radio broadcast was President Calvin Coolidge in 1923.
Harry Truman in 1947 had the first television broadcast and George W. Bush in 2002 had the first webcast on the Internet.
Two presidents -- William Henry Harrison and James Garfield -- didn’t live long enough to give an address.
One Cabinet members skips the speech in order to ensure the continuity of government in case of a disaster. That person is usually announced the day of the address. Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin was the designated survivor for Trump’s February 2017 address.
After the September 11, 2001, attacks, the congressional leadership designated two lawmakers from each house of Congress -- one from each party -- to be absent from the occasion.
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