President Donald Trump is expected to call for more bipartisan cooperation in his State of the Union address Tuesday night as he stands before a Congress bitterly divided over his demand for border-wall funding that resulted in a 35-day partial government shutdown.
The nationally televised 9 p.m. address in the House chamber - which was delayed a week after Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., withdrew an initial invitation during the shutdown - will offer Trump a chance to showcase his immigration proposals. But aides say he will also highlight areas where he hopes to forge consensus, including around infrastructure projects and cutting the cost of prescription drugs.
Stacey Abrams, the Democratic gubernatorial candidate in Georgia last year, is set to give her party's response.
Posturing over Trump's speech - and what it means for him at this point in his presidency - began long before his scheduled trip to Capitol Hill on Tuesday.
In materials sent to lawmakers' staff ahead of Trump's State of the Union, the White House highlighted excerpts and several key messages of the address. The theme of the speech is "Choosing Greatness."
The White House reminded Hill staffers that, "As always, we would welcome positive statements from your bosses after the speech."
"Together, we can break decades of political stalemate," Trump will say, according to the White House. "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."
The White House says Trump will "cast an inspiring vision of American greatness," "express confidence in this hopeful future" and "encourage Congress to reject the politics of resistance and retribution and instead adopt a spirit of cooperation and compromise."
That's a markedly different tone from the dark vision of America Trump outlined in his 2017 inaugural address.
In an appearance on Fox News Channel early Tuesday evening, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Trump was in a "great mood." His address, she said, would be about "looking forward, a visionary speech about the great things that we can do in this country."
Trump is not going to draw a majority of the Supreme Court for this third address to Congress.
Only four of the nine justices are expected. Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. and Justice Elena Kagan will maintain their perfect attendance records since joining the court, he in 2005 and she in 2010. They will be joined by Trump's choices for the court, Justice Neil Gorsuch, making his second appearance, and Justice Brett Kavanaugh, making his first.
Some on the far right had taken to social media to demand that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg attend, to show the country that she was alive and well. Ginsburg underwent surgery to remove malignant nodules in her left lung on Dec. 21, and was absent for the court's January oral arguments. They were the first hearings the 85-year-old justice has missed since joining the court in 1993, although she has been working from home and will participate in deciding the 11 cases the court heard in that sitting.
Ginsburg made her first public appearance since the surgery Monday night at an event in Washington sponsored by the National Constitution Center.
Justice Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito Jr. stopped going to the State of the Union years ago. Justice Sonia Sotomayor sometimes attends and sometimes doesn't.
The most loyal justice, though, will also be absent. Justice Stephen Breyer has rarely missed the event since he joined the court in 1994 - as this chart shows, in some years he was the only justice who attended. But he is out of the country on a long-scheduled trip.
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., has invited Ronan Byrne, a Long Island air traffic controller who worked without pay for 35 days during the government shutdown, to be his guest for tonight's speech.
In a statement, Schumer called Byrne "a prime example of a dedicated and professional federal worker - doing a vital job for the American public - who was put through the ringer for no good reason."
"This shutdown should never have happened in the first place, and it absolutely should not happen again," he said.
On Monday, Schumer had taken aim at the speech from the Senate floor.
"The president will say - predictably - that the state of our union is strong," Schumer said. "But the truth is, the state of the Trump economy is failing America's middle class, the state of the Trump health-care system is failing American families, and the state of the Trump administration is embroiled in chaos and incompetence. The state of the president's foreign policy is incoherent, inconsistent, cynical in the extreme, and has undermined American power and our national interest. So in sum, the state of our union is in need of drastic repair."
That prompted a tweet from Trump noting his remarks and needling Schumer for Democratic losses in last year's Senate elections.
"I see Schumer is already criticizing my State of the Union speech, even though he hasn't seen it yet. He's just upset that he didn't win the Senate, after spending a fortune, like he thought he would. Too bad we weren't given more credit for the Senate win by the media!," Trump tweeted.
About an hour later, Schumer fired back at Trump about an hour after the president criticized him for panning a speech that had yet to be delivered.
"Thanks for watching my speech," Schumer wrote, "but you must have missed this line: 'Even more empty than his policy promises are President Trump's calls each year for unity.' "
Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., took to the Senate floor in advance of Trump's speech and said the nation has made real progress under Trump despite "Beltway melodrama."
"From historic tax reform and regulatory reform, to huge progress in the fight against ISIS, to landmark progress in the nationwide fight against opioid addiction, the story of the last two years has been one of immense policy progress for our nation," McConnell said, using a different term for the Islamic State. "The American people are less interested in Beltway melodrama and more interested in that classic question - 'Am I better off than I was two years ago?' And on this front - thanks to a few key Republican victories and a number of major bipartisan accomplishments, the State of our Union is strong and growing stronger."
Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., who is seeking the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, announced that she would deliver remarks before Trump speaks.
"In her remarks, Senator Harris will push back on the President's expected message of division, highlight the importance of speaking truth, and outline her vision for a country that works for all its people," an advisory said.
Harris is scheduled to speak on Facebook Live at 7:45 p.m.
In addition, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., plans to deliver a live-streamed response to Trump on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter after the president's remarks.
Also Tuesday, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., who's become a favorite among liberals since her debut on Capitol Hill last month, seemed to suggest in a morning tweet that Trump's speech isn't worth watching.
Ocasio-Cortez posted a CNN news report with this headline: "State of the Union 2019: What to watch."
Her response: "None of it."
As he prepared to deliver his State of the Union address, Trump's first tweet Tuesday was to warn of migrants making their way to the U.S. border.
"Tremendous numbers of people are coming up through Mexico in the hopes of flooding our Southern Border," Trump wrote. "We have sent additional military. We will build a Human Wall if necessary. If we had a real Wall, this would be a nonevent!"
Trump is expected to use his address to make his case for $5.7 billion in border wall funding that led to a protracted partial government shutdown.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders cited infrastructure as an issue on which Trump wants to work with Democrats in the wake of his State of the Union address.
"There are a number of policies that Democrats and Republicans know need to be addressed," Sanders said during an appearance on CNN. "I think infrastructure is one of the easiest ones for us to look at. Everybody in this country knows that we have crumbling bridges and roads that need to be fixed. We also need to have a technology infrastructure that needs to get better. . . . We're hopeful that we can come together and can get something done."
Trump, a Republican who campaigned on addressing the nation's aging infrastructure, unveiled a long-awaited plan last February that received a cool reception from members of both parties, who said the president had not presented a viable way to pay for it.
The plan focused on $1.5 trillion in new spending on infrastructure over the coming decade but relied heavily on states, localities and the private sector to cover the costs of new roads, bridges, waterways and other public works projects.
A plan released earlier by Senate Democrats would have relied far more heavily on direct federal government spending than Trump's plan, which included $200 billion in federal spending with the aim of enticing several times that amount from other levels of government.
During a letter to Democratic colleagues on Monday night, Pelosi also cited infrastructure as a possible issue on which her party could work with Trump.
"Tomorrow, we look forward to welcoming President Trump as a guest in our House Chamber and hearing his report on the State of the Union," she wrote. "I am hopeful that tomorrow, we will hear a commitment from the President on issues that have bipartisan support in the Congress and the Country, such as lowering the price of prescription drugs and rebuilding America's infrastructure."
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)
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