President Donald Trump almost had to turn in his State of the Union in writing thanks to his government shutdown, but in the end it was just delayed. For some Democrats, though, a written statement would have been more than enough as they're not planning to attend. Trump's State of the Union will be boycotted by a few Democrats while far more have chosen to protest in different ways.
As of Monday morning there were three Democrats who had announced publicly that they would not attend, according to The Hill. Rep. Steve Cohen of Tennessee announced he would not be going in a statement. "I will not attend the State of the Union once again this year," Cohen said. "I’ll come to the House Chamber for the State of the Union the next time I can hear from a president who will tell the truth about the State of the Union."
Also officially skipping are Reps. Hank Johnson and John Lewis, the civil rights icon. Lewis will be skipping for the second year in a row. Last year, he announced he would not attend in response to the president's comments about "sh*thole countries." Lewis was joined by others including Rep. Maxine Waters. In total, more than 10 lawmakers sat it out, according to New York's The Cut.
Though Lewis' opposition is nothing new, Johnson's might be the most outspoken. "I have a problem with defiling the Speaker’s chair in the House of Representatives," Johnson told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "I don’t want to see it lowered, as is what happens when Donald Trump comes to our floor and starts talking about groups of people, particularly Latinos, and disparaging them as a people."
The number skipping could grow, but most shows of defiance from Democrats will come in other forms. For example, on Monday Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand became the fourth lawmaker to announce that she will attend with a transgender service member or vet as a guest in defiance of Trump's trans military ban.
Gillibrand is going with Lt. Commander Blake Dremann, who Gillibrand introduced on Twitter as "the first openly transgender servicemember to be promoted in our military's history." Dremann is also the president of SPΛRT*A , a trans military group advocating for equality in the Armed Forces.
Other lawmakers picked similarly pointed guests. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is attending with Maria Archila, the activist who confronted Sen. Jeff Flake in the elevator during the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearings. Ocasio-Cortez said Archila helped "elevate the stories of survivors everywhere" upon announcing the invite. Archila is co-executive director at the Center for Popular Democracy.
Another show of defiance will come from the Democratic Women’s Working Group. The group's chairman Rep. Louis Frankel has confirmed to The Hill that the group invited women in Congress to wear white, in recognition of the wave of women that were elected in November.
"This is really going to be sending a message — especially to all the women and their families in the country that put us into the majority with all these new women [members] — that a big part of our agenda is going to be promoting the economic security of women and their families," Frankel told Roll Call.
Between the empty seats, the high profile guests, and the many expected to be wearing white, Trump will have plenty to take in when he enters the chamber.