Five things to watch for in Trump’s State of the Union

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump suggests Sotomayor, Ginsburg should have to recuse themselves on 'Trump related' cases Sanders says idea he can't work with Republicans is 'total nonsense' Sanders releases list of how to pay for his proposals MORE will deliver his first State of the Union address on Tuesday, a week after a three-day government shutdown was sparked by a bitter partisan fight over immigration.

The drama over efforts to protect so-called Dreamers is sure to grab some of the spotlight during the highly anticipated address, though Trump is also expected to use the stage to take an economic victory lap and pitch a bipartisan infrastructure plan to Congress.

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The State of the Union also comes against the backdrop of the intensifying Russia probe and other controversies surrounding Trump’s White House — and it’s anyone’s guess whether the unconventional president will stick to the script or shoot from the hip.

 

Here are five things to watch for during Trump’s inaugural State of the Union address.

 


Does Trump move the needle on the immigration debate?

The fate of young immigrants who were brought to the country illegally as children is sure to be a hot topic on Tuesday night.

Trump rescinded the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which allowed Dreamers to work and go to school here, and gave Congress until March 5 to come up with a permanent legal solution.

But Congress has been at an impasse over how to resolve the issue, which led to the shutdown earlier this month.

The White House unveiled a legislative framework last week that would offer 1.8 million people a pathway to citizenship in exchange for $25 billion for Trump’s signature campaign promise of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. It would also eliminate the diversity visa lottery and limit family-based migration.

The plan, however, has faced blowback from both parties, with Republicans balking at the prospect of providing “amnesty” and Democrats worried about the proposed dramatic changes to the U.S. immigration system. 

“It’s got to be bipartisan because the Republicans really don’t have the votes to get it done in any other way, so it has to be bipartisan. But hopefully the Democrats will join us, or enough of them will join us, so we can really do something great, for DACA and for immigration generally,” Trump said Monday.

Trump could use his bully pulpit Tuesday night to ratchet up the pressure on both Democrats and Republicans to get on board with his proposal. 

And Democrats, likewise, will try to keep the heat on the White House and Congress to protect Dreamers from being deported.

Some Democrats are bringing Dreamers as their guests to Trump’s address, while at least one GOP lawmaker, centrist Rep. Carlos CurbeloCarlos Luis CurbeloRepublicans can't exploit the left's climate extremism without a better idea Progressive Latino group launches first incumbent protection campaign The Memo: Bad polls for Trump shake GOP MORE (Fla.), is making the same gesture.

Trump, meanwhile, is inviting parents of girls murdered by the gang MS-13, as well as an Immigration and Customs Enforcement special agent in charge of investigations that have led to MS-13 arrests.

Trump’s decision attracted criticism from Democrats, with Rep. Judy ChuJudy May ChuHouse Democrats launch probe into NIH and FBI suspecting Chinese Americans of espionage Harris, Castro introduce resolution condemning Trump aide Stephen Miller Abortion wars flare up in Congress MORE (D-Calif.) calling it “manipulative,” “exploitative” and “bigoted.”

 


The ‘Me Too’ movement 

There won’t be a red carpet, but the audience at the State of the Union will bear some resemblance to the Golden Globes earlier this month. Female — and some male — lawmakers will be wearing black to show solidarity with victims of sexual misconduct, just as Hollywood actors did at the awards show three weeks ago. 

They had been planning on some sort of gesture after wearing white — the color associated with suffragettes — to Trump’s first address to a joint session of Congress last year. Female members settled on wearing black after seeing the Golden Globes display.

Many legislators are bringing guests associated with the “Me Too” movement highlighting sexual misconduct in the workplace. Rep. Jackie SpeierKaren (Jackie) Lorraine Jacqueline SpeierHouse passes bill paving way for ERA ratification Abortion wars flare up in Congress House Democrats question Secret Service on payments to Trump properties MORE (D-Calif.), for instance, is hosting Travis Moore, a former House aide who organized a letter of other former staffers calling for reforming Capitol Hill’s sexual harassment policies. And Rep. Katherine ClarkKatherine Marlea ClarkJeffries: Trump budget is a 'declaration of war on the American dream' Senate acquits Trump, ending impeachment saga Sanders, Warren battle for progressive endorsements MORE (D-Mass.) is bringing Anny Gonzalez, an airplane cleaner who was sexually harassed at her job.

Tuesday’s address will come a day after the House passed legislation to require athletic organizations to swiftly report sexual abuse and establish policies to prevent it from happening in the first place. Consideration of the bill follows last week’s sentencing of former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar for sexually abusing more than 150 young female athletes.

 


Boycotts

Roughly a dozen House Democrats are skipping Trump’s speech entirely. After watching Trump’s first year in office, they say they have no interest in attending.

“This is a presidency that has been built on racism, stupidity and lies, which has already wasted enough of America’s time, and I will not waste any more of mine,” Rep. Bobby RushBobby Lee RushThe Hill's Morning Report - Sanders steamrolls to South Carolina primary, Super Tuesday This week: House to vote on legislation to make lynching a federal hate crime House to vote on legislation to make lynching a federal hate crime MORE (D-Ill.) said while announcing his boycott.

Only two Democrats, Reps. Maxine WatersMaxine Moore WatersMaxine Waters: Gang members have 'more integrity' than 'street player' Trump Maxine Waters blasts Trump as 'mafia boss' over Stone case Democrats highlight lack of diversity at major banks in new report MORE (Calif.) and Al GreenAlexander (Al) N. GreenChinatown restaurants, shops say business is down due to coronavirus fears Democrats highlight lack of diversity at major banks in new report House passes supplemental disaster relief for Puerto Rico MORE (Texas), made a show of not attending Trump’s address to Congress last year.

But the number of Democratic boycotts this year has spiked, particularly after lawmakers expressed outrage over Trump’s reported comments describing some nations as “shithole countries” earlier this month. 

The members skipping the speech plan to take part in other events. Rep. Pramila JayapalPramila Jayapal22 studies agree: 'Medicare for All' saves money Band Portugal. The Man to join Sanders at campaign event in Tacoma Bloomberg builds momentum on Capitol Hill with new endorsements MORE (D-Wash.), for example, is speaking at a counterevent with liberal activists. 

 


Does Trump stay on script?

Trump mostly stuck to the script last year when he addressed a joint session of Congress, delivering a largely measured speech that earned him positive media coverage and praise from lawmakers.

But one year into his presidency — and with the Russia probes looming large — will Trump stay on message, or will he shake up the format of one of America’s oldest political rituals?

Trump is expected to tout the recently passed GOP tax law and lay out his 2018 agenda, which will center on a $1 trillion infrastructure package.

But Trump is also known to speak off the cuff, and he relishes in going after his critics, especially when he feels attacked.

The president will have plenty of material to choose from on Tuesday, including a bombshell tell-all book that dropped this month and a recent New York Times report that the president tried to fire the special counsel investigating possible connections between his campaign and Russia.

Trump’s speech will also follow a vote by the House Intelligence Committee to release a memo that Republicans say exposes political bias in the FBI probe, a topic that Trump may find difficult to resist.

 


What is the Democratic message?

Rep. Joe KennedyJoseph (Joe) Patrick KennedyKennedy, Markey neck-and-neck in Massachusetts primary: poll Budowsky: Bloomberg-Obama or Klobuchar-Kennedy? Kennedy, Markey spar over experience in first Senate primary debate MORE III (D-Mass.) will be in the spotlight Tuesday night when he delivers the official Democratic Party response to Trump’s address. The rising Democratic star, 37, is expected to speak from Diman Regional Vocational Technical High School in Fall River, Mass., rather than from Washington. 

For Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy’s grandson, it will be a big platform to introduce himself to the American public. Kennedy has served in Congress since 2013.

Other Democrats seeking to boost their own profiles will also be offering rebuttals.

Waters, whose name recognition has skyrocketed in the past year for her no-holds-barred criticism of Trump, is boycotting the president’s speech. 

“What does he have to say that I would be interested in?” she said on MSNBC this month. 

But Waters will speak on BET after the address as part of special network programming, according to BuzzFeed.

Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersSanders says idea he can't work with Republicans is 'total nonsense' Sanders defends Castro comments in wake of backlash from some Democrats Sanders releases list of how to pay for his proposals MORE (I-Vt.), a potential 2020 presidential contender, also plans to deliver a response to Trump’s State of the Union, as he did after the joint session address last year.