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Sanders and progressives plan three responses to the State of the Union

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) gives a TV interview about the government shutdown Jan. 19. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

Giving the response to a State of the Union address, a 52-year old tradition, is one of the most fraught and thankless tasks in politics.

This year, there’ll be more responses than ever.

Rep. Kennedy will deliver Democratic response to Trump’s State of the Union speech

As Democrats announced last week, third-term Rep. Joe Kennedy (D-Mass.) will give their official response to the president’s Tuesday night speech, delivering it from his home state and skipping the pomp in Congress. Virginia Del. Elizabeth Guzman, a member of the Democrats’ 2017 landslide class in the state legislature, will give a Spanish-language response — also official.

Va. Democrats cheer Guzman, tapped for Spanish-language response to Trump

There’ll be a response from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), too, differing from the official speeches in that the senator, for the second year, will give a retort to the speech itself. (Typically, respondents write their speeches ahead of time with only vague ideas of what’s in the presidential address.)

And there will be at least two more progressive responses. Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) will respond to Trump at the top of a BET news special, and former Maryland congresswoman Donna F. Edwards, who’s running for Prince George’s County executive, will deliver an address on behalf of the Working Families Party. All of them are to Kennedy’s left on a few issues, such as marijuana legalization.

The rebuttal speech, given after the president speaks at the State of the Union, has been referred to as “the worst job in politics.” (Video: Victoria Walker/The Washington Post)

“The president is going to want to take credit for a tax scam which, in my view, was the biggest heist we’ve seen in recent history,” Edwards said. “He’ll talk about the latest version of his infrastructure plan; I was on the committee that handled that when I was in Congress, and I know something about it. The problem wasn’t that Republicans and Democrats didn’t come together to agree on projects. We disagreed over funding. And what the president is going to do tomorrow is suggest that Wall Street run our infrastructure.”

The details of the president’s much-discussed, much-delayed infrastructure plan are not yet known, but there’s wide speculation it will pitch $200 billion of government grants over a decade to partially match and guide private investment in public works. Last week, Democratic mayors in Washington for a conference said the White House’s idea was a non-starter; many mayors, led by New Orleans’s Mitch Landrieu, skipped a meeting at the White House that was supposed to get into the topic.