The president’s annual address will take place on Tuesday, February 5, starting at 9 pm Eastern time. It will be shown on major television networks, including ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC, and streamed on C-SPAN and, for Spanish speakers, on Telemundo, among other outlets. The White House will also stream the speech.
The lead-up to this year’s address has been unusually contentious, largely because of the partial government shutdown that shuttered nine major government departments and left 800,000 federal workers furloughed or forced to work without pay for five weeks. Trump insisted on $5.7 billion for some 200 miles of wall construction at the US-Mexico border and refused to sign any government funding legislation without it. He finally agreed to a temporary deal to reopen the government on January 25, but that funding only lasts through February 15. Trump says he still wants the wall.
This year’s State of the Union was initially set for January 29, but during the shutdown, Pelosi essentially uninvited Trump from delivering the speech. She cited security concerns and said he could give the address once the government was reopened. Trump initially resisted, saying he had no security concerns and wanted to go ahead with the speech as planned.
He could have done the State of the Union somewhere else, but not in the House of Representatives, where Pelosi, constitutionally, decides what goes and what doesn’t. So he conceded.
As the Shutdown was going on, Nancy Pelosi asked me to give the State of the Union Address. I agreed. She then changed her mind because of the Shutdown, suggesting a later date. This is her prerogative - I will do the Address when the Shutdown is over. I am not looking for an....— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 24, 2019
....alternative venue for the SOTU Address because there is no venue that can compete with the history, tradition and importance of the House Chamber. I look forward to giving a “great” State of the Union Address in the near future!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 24, 2019
After the shutdown ended, Pelosi reinvited Trump.
The shutdown is over, but the issues that caused it still aren’t solved
Tuesday’s State of the Union will take place in the time period in which the White House and congressional leaders are supposedly working out a deal on government funding, border security, and immigration in order to avoid another impasse and shutdown. But it’s not clear lawmakers are any closer to a deal now than they were a week or a month ago.
As Vox’s Li Zhou recently explained, the central conflict that caused the shutdown — the wall — hasn’t been solved. Trump wants money for a wall or physical barrier at the border (he goes back and forth on whether he wants to call it a wall). Democrats say it’s not happening.
Last week, the president tweeted that negotiators are “wasting their time” in trying to get a deal with Democrats, and he has continually floated the idea of declaring a national emergency in an effort to get funding.
Republicans on the Homeland Security Committee are wasting their time. Democrats, despite all of the evidence, proof and Caravans coming, are not going to give money to build the DESPERATELY needed WALL. I’ve got you covered. Wall is already being built, I don’t expect much help!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 31, 2019
A reporter last week asked Trump whether we might expect an announcement on his plans for getting the wall at the State of the Union.
“I’m saying listen closely to the State of the Union,” Trump replied. “I think you’ll find it very exciting.”
Democrats have State of the Union plans too
The State of the Union isn’t just an opportunity for the president to lay out his plans — it’s also a chance for Democrats to get out messages of their own.
Stacey Abrams, the former Georgia Democratic gubernatorial candidate and rising star in the party, will deliver Democrats’ official response to Trump’s speech on Tuesday at the invitation of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. And the House Democratic Women’s Working Group has invited female members to wear white as a symbol of solidarity and a nod to the suffragists.
Lawmakers also bring guests to the State of the Union, often in an effort to highlight an issue or cause. This year is no different. A number of congressional Democrats will bring transgender people with military experience to the speech in protest of Trump’s ban on transgender people serving in the military.
Others will bring immigrants, including Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ), who has invited Victorina Morales, an unauthorized immigrant from Guatemala who worked for five years as a housekeeper at Trump’s New Jersey golf club.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), one of the most high-profile new members of Congress, has invited Ana Maria Archila, one of the two women who confronted then-Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) in an elevator amid the debate over Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination.
This @AnaMariaArchil2, the NY-14 shero that will be accompanying me to the State of the Union tomorrow.— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) February 4, 2019
She wasn’t planning on leaping into that elevator ahead of the Kavanaugh vote, but after hearing the stories of survivors across the country, she went in.
A defining moment. https://t.co/J4J8xCii4n
Trump will talk about “choosing greatness”
Despite the current discord in Washington, the president will attempt a bipartisan approach in his address, whose theme is “choosing greatness,” a senior administration official told reporters during a briefing on Friday.
“Together we can break decades of political stalemate. We can bridge old divisions, heal old wounds, build new coalitions, forge new solutions, and unlock the extraordinary promise of America’s future. The decision is ours to make,” Trump will say.
The speech will focus on five main issues: immigration, workers, rebuilding America (as in, infrastructure), health care and prescription drugs, and national security. It will be “traditional” in nature, the official said. Politico on Monday reported that Trump will also lay out a 10-year strategy to reduce HIV transmissions.
Given the current political climate — and the ongoing stalemate over the wall — it’s unclear how Trump’s bipartisan messaging will play out. But he’s going to try it.
Dylan Scott contributed to this story.