Eight house Democrats announced Tuesday that they will not attend President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address, citing a lack of trust in the president and the Senate trial that is expected to acquit him of all impeachment charges on Wednesday.
The first five Democrats to announce their boycott were Reps. Al Green (Texas), Steve Cohen (Tenn.), Earl Blumenauer (Ore.), Hank Johnson (Ga.) and Frederica Wilson (Fla.). They were joined later in the day by Reps. Ayanna Pressley (Mass.), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.), and Maxine Waters (Calif.). As the Hill reports, some of the representatives have boycotted Trump’s past addresses in protest against his presidency.
“Because of an impeached, reckless, ruthless, lawless, shameless, corrupt, & unapologetically bigoted president—who is still engaging in a coverup, the state of the House, the state of the Senate, and the #StateOfTheUnion are divided,” Green tweeted. “I will NOT attend #SOTU2020.”
Later Tuesday afternoon, Rep. Ayanna Pressley (Mass.) released a statement announcing that she, too, would be skipping the address, which typically lays out the sitting president’s achievements and vision for the upcoming year. The speech is delivered to both houses of Congress.
“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, and contempt for our constitution—strong-arming a sham impeachment trial in the Senate,” Pressley said. “This presidency is not legitimate.”
The freshman congresswoman called out the president for stoking fear in vulnerable and marginalized populations, including people of color, LGBTQ communities, and low-income families. Pressley will give a rebuttal to Trump’s speech tonight on behalf of the Working Families Party, a progressive grassroots political party.
“He does not embody the principles, the responsibility, the grace, nor the integrity that is required of the President of the United States,” she said.
“On the eve of Senate Republicans covering up transgressions and spreading misinformation, I cannot in good conscience attend a sham State of the Union when I have seen firsthand the damage Donald J. Trump’s rhetoric and policies have inflicted on those I love and those I represent,” Pressley concluded.
Rep. Ocasio-Cortez echoed the concerns of her fellow “Squad” member, saying on Twitter she refused to legitimize “Trump’s lawless conduct & subversion of the Constitution.”
Of the eight Democrats who say they plan to boycott of the State of the Union, five are black. Georgia Democratic Rep. John Lewis, recently diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, was among the Democrats who did not attend the president’s address last year. He hasn’t made any announcement regarding this year’s State of the Union, according to the Hill.
This is far from the first time congressional representatives have boycotted the State of the Union—nor is it the first time they’ve specifically cited concerns about impeachment as part of their rationale for doing so.
The last time this happened, it was Republicans boycotting then-President Bill Clinton’s address in 1999. At the time, the Senate was still conducting an impeachment trial against Clinton concerning his affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.
From the Hill:
Clinton pointedly did not discuss impeachment during his speech and kept a focus on his domestic policy agenda.
Several GOP lawmakers boycotted Clinton’s address that year, arguing that it was inappropriate for him to deliver a State of the Union speech before the end of the impeachment process.
Then-Rep. Bob Barr (R-Ga.), who was one of the 13 House Republicans serving as a prosecutor in the Senate trial, was among the boycotters because he thought it was “inappropriate and awkward for the president to make this speech directly to those sitting in judgment of him and those presenting the case against him in the Senate.”
No congressional Republicans have voiced that concern this year.