President Donald Trump delivered his 2019 State of the Union Address on Tuesday. This constitutionally based tradition has evolved since it was first practiced by President George Washington on January 8, 1790. After Washington and Adams gave their Annual Messages, as they were known until 1947, Thomas Jefferson began the tradition of giving the Annual Message through writing. When Woodrow Wilson revived the tradition of giving the Annual Message in person in 1913, he used it as a mechanism by which to gain and reaffirm support from his base as opposed to a legitimate policy proposal. The same is essentially true today. The State of the Union indicates to Congress and the general population alike what the presidential priorities are. Members of Congress are able to express their priorities through applause and standing ovations, their guest lists and, for members from the opposing party to the president, through the party’s rebuttal after the address is over.|
The State of the Union guest list is the most powerful reflection of personal political agendas, which, when combined with the guests of all members of Congress that attend, as well as presidential guests and the guests of the First Lady, give us a measure of the current political climate. This year, the president’s guests were varied but came from backgrounds that contribute to his policy concerns. For example, he invited the family of an elderly couple who was allegedly murdered by an undocumented immigrant, as well as a Homeland Security special agent in the trafficking in persons unit to argue for his wall, which he asserts will prevent murders and human trafficking. Other guests include former prisoners who have been released through either the First Step Act or a commutation, a Holocaust and Tree of Life synagogue shooting survivor, a 10-year-old cancer survivor and a bullied sixth-grader whose last name is Trump.
While these guests were acknowledged by Trump during his speech, the guests of Republican and Democratic members of Congress alike show deeper insight into our political climate. Democratic guests tended to fall into one of six categories: transgender military members, gun control advocates, Immigrants and immigration advocates, union leaders, #MeToo leaders and people impacted by the government shutdown. Republican members of Congress invited people such as an exile of Venezuela, a father of a school shooting victim who has advocated for more school safety, the director of an opioid treatment center and the director of a border-control task force. Keep an eye out for the topics these individuals represent in the upcoming months as Congress and the president institute more rules and hear more hearings on the topics.
In other news, though the 116th Congress has been in place for a little over a month, there are already five individuals who have decided not to run for re-election, and one who has left office early. In the Senate, Lamar Alexander, Republican from Tennessee, who chairs the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, announced in December that he would not run for re-election once his term is up in 2020. Pat Roberts (R-KS) will also not run for re-election after serving 40 years in Congress. Roberts currently chairs the Agriculture Committee.
In the House, Rob Bishop, chair of the Natural Resources Committee, said before his re-election last cycle that this term would be his last. Walter Jones (R-NC) also decided prior to the 2018 election that he would not seek re-election in 2020. Rep. Rob Woodall (R-GA) narrowly won his re-election in 2018 by 419 votes after Woodall did not seem to actively campaign until the final days because he thought he was safe. It is reported that some unnamed GOP officials were pressuring him not to run again in 2020. Finally, Congressman Tom Marino (R-PA) stepped down on January 23, just 20 days after this session began, to pursue an opportunity in the private sector.
Did you know...Due to limited space, there is a chance that registrations for this event will not be available at the conference, so be sure to go online and register today. The standard registration price is $150. If you are a member of the HUPAC Capitol Club ($1,000 & up), you can purchase your registration for $75 by contacting Anthony Perez. The cost of your registration will count toward your annual HUPAC contribution total and can help you achieve Capitol, Congressional or 365 Club status if you are not there already. Click here to reserve your spot today! You need to log in using your NAHU credentials.
…that you can come mingle, eat and drink with members of Congress and fellow NAHU members at the Annual HUPAC Congressional Reception on Tuesday, February 26, at 5:00 p.m.? Enjoy the view from the top of the Hyatt Regency. We expect between 20 and 25 members of Congress to attend, representing NAHU members across the country.