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President Donald Trump will deliver his first State of the Union address on Tuesday night from the US Capitol, but not all of Congress will be in attendance.
Trump’s tumultuous first year in office was marked by controversy, leading more than a dozen Democratic lawmakers to announce that they plan to boycott the speech altogether, in what could be the biggest known boycott of a President’s State of the Union.
A large bloc of House Democrats boycotted the President’s first joint address to Congress last year, but It’s unusual for members of Congress to skip the president’s speech, even in times of controversy.
In 2012, Republican Rep. Doug Lamborn of Colorado protested President Barack Obama’s policies by boycotting the State of the Union address, citing Obama’s recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board, his position on the Keystone pipeline and defense cuts.
President Bill Clinton faced a deeply divided Congress as he gave the State of the Union address in 1999 just weeks after being impeached by the House of Representatives. Some Republicans, angered and frustrated with the President, decided not to attend. They included Reps. John Shadegg of Arizona, Bob Schaffer of Colorado, Tom Tancredo of Colorado and Bobb Barr of Georgia. House Judiciary Chairman Rep. Henry Hyde, R-Illinois, missed the address, citing health reasons, though that was viewed with some skepticism given his role in the impeachment trial.
The previous largest known boycott of a president’s address came in 1971 by all 12 African-American members of the House, members of the newly founded Congressional Black Caucus. The members wrote to President Richard Nixon for a meeting, which they said he refused. In turn, they skipped Nixon’s speech. Those members, all Democrats, were: Rep. William Clay of Missouri, Reps. John Conyers and Charles C. Diggs Jr. of Michigan, Reps. Shirley Chisholm and Charles Rangel of New York, Rep. Louis Stokes of Ohio, Reps. Augustus F. Hawkins and Ronald V. Dellums of California, Rep. Robert Nix of Pennsylvania, Reps. George W. Collins and Ralph H. Metcalfe of Illinois, and Rep. Parren J. Mitchell of Maryland.
But typically, lawmakers of both parties attend the annual address, and those from the opposite party tend to save their criticisms of the President for after the speech, releasing statements about the policy pronouncements they disagree with immediately after the address wraps up.
In previous years there was an effort to tamp down on the partisanship on Capitol Hill with members of opposing parties sitting together during the speech to demonstrate their willingness to work across the aisle. But there’s little sign of that sentiment in 2018.
Here’s who’s said they’re planning on skipping the President’s address: 14 Democrats
Democratic Rep. Yvette Clarke’s office said Tuesday evening that Clarke would be boycotting, and the New York congresswoman’s guest, immigrant and activist Ravi Ragbir, would go “in her stead.”
Rep. Juan Vargas, D-California, tweeted Monday afternoon on his decision not to attend: “.@POTUS continues to disrespect women, insult people of color, and attack our immigrant communities. I will not be attending the State of the Union—I stand in solidarity with all the people he has and continues to disrespect. #SOTU”
Following criticism surrounding Trump’s reported vulgar comments about various nations during a closed-door meeting about immigration reform, Rep. John Lewis, D-Georgia, said he would not attend.
“At this junction, I do not plan to attend the State of the Union,” Lewis said on MSNBC.
“I cannot in all good conscience be in a room with what he has said about so many Americans. I just cannot do it,” he added.
Rep. Maxine Waters, D-California, a harsh Trump critic, also said she wouldn’t be going.
When asked on MSNBC if she had plans to go, she said: “Oh, no.”
“Why would I take my time to go and sit and listen to a liar?” she later said. Waters also sat out Trump’s address to Congress last year.
Also from the same state, Rep. Barbara Lee, D-California, is planning to skip the speech, her spokesperson told KQED, a Northern California radio station.
Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Florida, shared a similar sentiment on Twitter, and posted that she could not attend.
“I cannot in good consciousness attend the #SOTU address after the president went so low in his remarks about Haiti & African nations. It would be hypocrisy to go to an event at which he is honored,” she tweeted.
In a Huffington Post op-ed, Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Washington, outlined why she wouldn’t be attending.
“My analysis, however, is that my highest contribution — in these extraordinary times and circumstances where President Trump is himself breaking all established precedents to serve very narrow and self-serving interests — is to stand up to declare that I profoundly disagree with his approach and his unacceptable behavior,” Jayapal wrote.
Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Oregon, said in early January that he would not go.
“Rather than listening to another destructive, divisive speech by Trump, I will not attend this year’s annual address to Congress,” he said on Twitter. “Instead, like I did during his inauguration, I’ll be working at home listening to Oregonians about what they think about the State of the Union! #SOTU.”
Rep. Gregory Meeks, D-New York, tweeted about his decision, writing: “He does not respect me or the communities I represent, so I cannot in good conscience sit idly on the House floor and listen to his scripted speech. #SOTU.”
Democratic Reps. Danny Davis, Jan Schakowsky and Bobby Rush of Illinois all have said they plan to skip Tuesday night’s event, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.
“This has been the most chaotic, divisive, and incompetent first year of any administration and I will not sit and watch as Trump pretends that he’s off to a successful start. He’s not,” Rush said in a statement on Monday.
Schakowsky said Trump has “disrespected millions and millions of Americans and the presidency itself,” according to the Sun-Times, and Davis will be in Chicago during the address.
Democratic Rep. Steve Cohen of Tennessee also said in a statement that he’s planning to skip the speech, according to the Tennessean.
Democratic Rep. Albio Sires of New Jersey is not planning to attend, his spokeswoman told NJ Advance Media on Monday.
CNN’s Adam Levy and Deirdre Walsh contributed to this report.
This story has been updated.
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