Democrats urged to be 'respectful' during Trump address

Democrats urged to be 'respectful' during Trump address
© Getty Images

Democratic leaders are asking their members to be gracious during President Trump’s address to Congress on Tuesday night. 

“The only thing we have urged members to be is respectful,” Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said during a press briefing in the Capitol. 

Hoyer said Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) is boycotting the speech because she couldn't guarantee she could comply with that request.


“Maxine Waters, as you know is not going. She’s announced she’s not going ... because she believes people ought to be respectful to the president of the United States and she’s not sure she could be, so she’s not going to go.”

Waters, a California liberal who joined scores of Democrats in skipping last month’s presidential inauguration, is the only lawmaker thus far to announce a boycott of Tuesday’s speech, Trump’s first to a joint session of Congress since he entered the White House. 

Democratic leaders, while quick to vocalize their differences with the president, appear wary of making a scene. They remember too well President Obama’s speech to Congress in 2009, when Rep. Joe WilsonAddison (Joe) Graves WilsonOvernight Defense & National Security — Presented by Raytheon Technologies — Biden backtracks on Taiwan GOP lawmakers worry vaccine mandate will impact defense supply chain Pandora Papers prompt lawmakers to push for crackdown on financial 'enablers' MORE (R-S.C.) shouted “You lie!” as the president discussed healthcare reform. The outburst earned Wilson a reprimand.   

“As much as we have nothing in common with the president, we do respect the office of the presidency,” Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.), chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, said Tuesday morning. “I respect office of the presidency itself. And keeping that in mind, we'll be polite.”

While Wilson set a precedent, Crowley added, “I don't think we necessarily need to fall into that.”

“By our lack of enthusiasm, by a lack of applause, but respectfully being there ... [we can] send that same message,” he said.

Rep. Linda Sanchez (Calif.), vice chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, echoed that message — with an asterisk. 

“Most of us respect the office enough to not be so rude as to shout or otherwise sort of demean the chamber,” she said. “But having said that, people do get passionate, and you know, their reactions may be passionate.”

As some sign of protest, a number of Democrats are bringing undocumented immigrants as their guests to Trump’s speech, while others are bringing people who have benefited from the Affordable Care Act.