High-profile Dems to boycott Trump's State of the Union Address

Key Points
  • At least eight Democratic House members plan to boycott President Donald Trump's annual State of the Union address Tuesday.
  • Among them will be high profile freshmen Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ayanna Pressley.
  • Trump is expected to draw sharp contrasts between his own governing record and some of the positions held by 2020 Democratic presidential candidates.
U.S. Rep Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) speaks at a news conference after Democrats in the U.S. Congress moved to formally condemn President Donald Trump's attacks on the four minority congresswomen on Capitol Hill in Washington, July 15, 2019.
Erin Scott | Reuters

WASHINGTON — At least eight Democratic House members plan to boycott President Donald Trump's annual State of the Union address Tuesday night to protest Trump's presidency. They include two outspoken freshmen, Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ayanna Pressley, who both attended Trump's speech last year.

"After much deliberation, I have decided that I will not use my presence at a state ceremony to normalize Trump's lawless conduct & subversion of the Constitution," Ocasio-Cortez tweeted Tuesday afternoon. "None of this is normal, and I will not legitimize it. Consequently, I will not be attending the State of the Union."

"The State of the Union is hurting because of the occupant of the White House, who consistently demonstrates contempt for the American people, contempt for Congress & contempt for our constitution," Pressley wrote in her statement, posted Tuesday afternoon on Twitter. "I cannot in good conscience attend tonight's sham SOTU."

Longtime Oregon Rep. Earl Blumenauer has also announced that he will boycott the speech, saying in a statement Monday that he has "chosen not to dignify Trump's parade of lies about health care, his persistent exaggeration, and his personal attacks with my attendance at this year's State of the Union Address."

This is not the first Trump State of the Union boycott for Blumenauer, nor for the five additional progressive lawmakers who have said they plan to skip the speech: Reps. Steve Cohen of Tennessee, Al Green of Texas, Hank Johnson of Georgia, Maxine Waters of California, and Frederica Wilson of Florida. All of them boycotted Trump's State of the Union last year.

The White House has said that Trump's speech Tuesday night will be "relentlessly optimistic," but Trump is also expected to adapt language from his 2020 campaign stump speech to paint a stark contrast between what he sees as his own record, and what he says the future would look like under a Democratic president.

Trump's speech is also being delivered while he is still technically under the cloud of impeachment, with a final vote on whether to convict the president of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress scheduled for Wednesday, less than 24 hours after Trump delivers the State of the Union address.

Trump is all but assured of being acquitted by the Republican-controlled Senate. Nonetheless, it remains to be seen whether the president will attack the House Democratic leadership on Tuesday night, or the House impeachment managers who have spent the past two weeks arguing before the Senate that Trump should be removed from office. Trump has denied any wrongdoing.

White House spokesman Hogan Gidley told reporters Tuesday that the final text of Trump's address did not contain the word "impeachment," although he cautioned that the president frequently makes last-minute edits to his speeches, so there was no guarantee of what he would or wouldn't say.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the boycotts.

The State of the Union address is scheduled to begin at 9 p.m. EST on Tuesday, and will be broadcast live by the major networks.