Politico

Trump's first speech to Congress: A guide

Written by Lisa

President Donald Trump will give his first speech to a joint session of Congress Tuesday in the House Chamber in the Capitol Building. It is functionally the same as a State of the Union address — but it isn’t called that because a president’s first formal joint address is not historically given that title.

Instead of reflecting on the state of the United States in the past year like a State of the Union address, the first joint session speech is typically used to outline a new president’s goals for his administration. President Trump will do exactly that — and try to downplay the chaos that has plagued his first 40 days in office.

What time is President Trump’s speech to Congress?

President Trump’s first joint address is scheduled for Feb. 28, 2017 at 9 p.m.

How can I watch President Trump’s speech to Congress?

POLITICO will livestream the event and all the major networks will all carry it live. The White House will also stream the speech on its website and Facebook page.

Who is attending?

Every member of Congress is invited to attend the speech, and most bring a guest. This year, several Democrats, including Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), and Reps. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), Jared Polis (D-Colo.) and Mark Pocan (D-Wisc.) will bring undocumented immigrants who are living in the United States under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program — which allows people who were brought to the United States as children to remain in the country. Democrats are also bringing Muslim community leaders, a physician from Flint, Michigan, and the mother of a Pulse shooting victim. Tom Perez, the new chair of the Democratic National Committee, will attend the speech as the guest of Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) — his recently defeated rival.

Elizabeth Snyder, the wife of a slain St. Louis County police officer, will be the guest of Reps. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.) and Ann Wagner (R-Mo.), while Montana’s state Attorney General Tim Fox will accompany Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.)

Who are President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump’s guests?

The White House has announced six guests who will sit with the first lady during President Trump’s first address to a joint Congress. They include Megan Crowley — a college sophomore who is the daughter of a health care entrepreneur, Jessica Davis and Susan Oliver — widows of California police officers killed by an undocumented immigrant in 2015, Denisha Merriweather — a woman who was the first in her family to graduate from high school and college, late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s widow Maureen McCarthy Scalia, and Jamiel Shaw Sr. — a father whose son was shot by an undocumented immigrant in 2008.

Traditionally, the president and the first lady guests’ are personifications of policy initiatives that that administration wants to focus on from the president’s speech.

Are the Democrats planning on boycotting or protesting Trump’s speech?

Many House Democrats boycotted President Trump’s inauguration, but don’t expect to see too many empty seats this time around. Instead, Democrats are using his speech as a platform to needle the president over his controversial policy choices. Democrats are bringing DACA recipients and immigrants from countries that were included in Donald Trump’s travel ban on seven majority-Muslim countries. Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.) invited an Iraqi interpreter who worked with the U.S. military and was detained due to the travel ban. Many Democrats on the Energy and Commerce Committee are bringing Americans who would be negatively affected by the repeal of Obamacare, while Rep. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.) and a couple of his colleagues are bringing guests that are law enforcement officials and first responders to highlight gun control.

But Democrats won’t exactly be happy to see President Trump, either. They usually clamored for a coveted center aisle seat so they can jockey for the opportunity to shake hands with Trump’s predecessor, former President Barack Obama. This go around, they’re less enthusiastic about shaking hands with the commander-in-chief.

What will President Trump say?

The White House circulated 11 talking points about the president’s speech the day before his speech, saying President Trump “will lay out an optimistic vision for the country that crosses the traditional lines of party, race and socioeconomic status.” The highlights promised a focus on national security, tax and regulatory reform, “saving American families from the disaster of Obamacare” and education. President Trump also previewed his speech in an interview with Breitbart News, the alt-right website that was previously helmed by Steve Bannon, one of his top aides. Trump promised to talk about the border and strike an “uptone,” despite “the fact that I inherited a mess.”

Senior officials also gave a background briefing to reporters on the eve of the speech to trumpet core themes — despite the White House’s recent attacks on anonymous sources. The officials said the speech’s theme will be a “renewal of the American spirit” and focus on economic opportunity and protecting Americans. The officials say that much of the speech is based off listening sessions the president has held. They said the same team that worked with President Trump on his inaugural address is also working on this address.

The officials also said that Trump will present a list of his campaign promises — and highlight the ones that he has kept so far. Regardless of how voters feel about Trump’s promises, a majority of Americans believe that Trump is following through with his campaign message, and nearly two-thirds say Trump has accomplished what they expected of him in a new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll.

His party is hoping that Donald Trump will have a strong speech that can provide them with some much needed release from the pressure and infighting the GOP has faced since he took office. “He’s got a bully pulpit, not only with the country, but with members of Congress,” Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, told POLITICO. “If you want to start getting a convergence of thought and direction up here, the president can do a lot to make that happen.”

Who is giving the Democratic rebuttal to Trump’s speech?

The party who doesn’t hold the White House historically gives a rebuttal speech immediately following the president’s joint addresses to Congress. During former President Obama’s tenure, Republicans like Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and then-Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels gave their party’s response.

This year, the Democrats gave the nod to two people — former Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear will give a response in English, and Astrid Silva, a “Dreamer” and immigration activist, will give a response in Spanish.

Who will introduce President Trump?

The sergeant at arms of the House of Representatives traditionally introduces the president to the chamber by announcing “Mister Speaker, the president of the United States.” The current sergeant at arms is Paul Irving.

Who will sit behind Trump?

The Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Vice President Mike Pence, acting in his role as president of the Senate, will sit behind President Trump while he gives his speech.

Who is the designated survivor?

The designated survivor is a member of the Cabinet who watches the speech remotely from a secured, undisclosed location to ensure that at least one person in the chain of succession survives in the case of a national disaster. The designated survivor is typically not announced until a couple of hours before the speech.

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