Democrats are sending a political message with their guests for President Trump’s State of the Union address, inviting a government worker who was affected by the shutdown, immigrants who worked for Trump properties while undocumented and a union official who represents employees at an auto plant that is scheduled to be closed this year.
Sandra Diaz, a native of Costa Rica who worked at Trump’s Bedminster, N.J., golf club from 2010 to 2013, will attend the speech as a guest of Rep. Jimmy Gomez (D-Calif.), his office confirmed Thursday. Diaz is a legal permanent resident of the United States but was undocumented at the time of her employment by the Trump Organization, her lawyer said.
Diaz will join Victorina Morales, a Guatemalan who also worked at Trump’s Bedminster property and is attending the speech as a guest of Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.).
The two women met with lawmakers this week as part of a group of immigrants who worked for Trump National Golf Club Bedminster and Trump National Golf Club Westchester, in Westchester County, N.Y., while not legally authorized to do so.
The president’s annual State of the Union address is a major event on Capitol Hill. Lawmakers, members of the Supreme Court and administration officials gather in the House chamber for the speech. Guests of the president, the speaker of the House and other lawmakers sit in the second-floor gallery overlooking the floor.
At the White House on Thursday, Trump said his speech will cover “a lot of territory.” “Unity will be part of it,” he told reporters.
Trump has not yet announced whom he will invite, but presidents’ guests also tend to be chosen to send a political message.
Last year, Trump’s guests included a man who benefited from the Republican tax plan and two couples whose daughters were killed by members of the MS-13 gang, according to the White House.
As Trump speaks Tuesday night, the audience will include federal workers who were affected by the 35-day partial government shutdown and are wondering whether another impasse will trigger a closure of agencies and departments in mid-February.
Freshman Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-Va.) has invited Linda McCray, who works at the Washington Air Route Traffic Control Center and was furloughed during the recent shutdown, Wexton’s office said. Sen. Robert P. Casey Jr. (D-Pa.) will bring a Transportation Security Administration agent from Pittsburgh International Airport, his office said.
Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) has invited Dave Green, president of UAW Local 1112, which represents workers at a General Motors plant in Lordstown, Ohio, that the company has said will close this year.
“Since GM’s announcement to close the Lordstown plant, [Green has] been working around-the-clock to support GM workers and advocate for a new product at the facility. Dave will be representing the hundreds of laid off GM Lordstown workers who deserve to be seen and heard,” Ryan said in a statement.
Some female lawmakers will make a statement by wearing white, a nod to the women’s suffrage movement. “This year, there will be a historic number of Democratic women elected officials sitting in the House Chamber as Mr. Trump gives his State of the Union address,” Rep. Lois Frankel (D-Fla.), chair of the Democratic Women’s Working Group, said in a statement. “Wearing suffragette white is a respectful message of solidarity with women across the country, and a declaration that we will not go back on our hard-earned rights.”
This year, at least four Democrats will host guests whose personal stories intersect with debates about health-care policy.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) has invited Nicole Smith-Holt, an advocate for lower-priced insulin who is based in Richfield, Minn.
Smith-Holt’s son Alec had Type 1 diabetes and died at age 26 after losing health insurance coverage through her plan. She believes he was rationing insulin because of its high cost; the family’s story was covered by The Washington Postlast month.
Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) has invited Donna Beckman of Seabrook, N.H., who received a bill for $1,648 after visiting an emergency room that was in her network under her health insurance but seeing a doctor who was not, as she later learned. Hassan has introduced legislation to alleviate the problem of surprise out-of-network medical bills.
“Members of both parties — including President Trump — have expressed a desire to address this issue, and I’m optimistic that we can make progress to end this absurd practice in the year ahead,” Hassan said in a statement.
Rep. Colin Allred (D-Tex.), who is co-president of the freshman class, has invited Nathan Cortez of Dallas, whose late wife Natalie was an advocate for keeping the patient protections created by the Affordable Care Act, including its ban on lifetime coverage limits. Natalie Cortez died of cancer last year, Allred said last month on the House floor.
Rep. Sharice Davids (D-Kan.) has invited Laura Robeson, an advocate from Prairie Village, Kan., whose son Danny was born prematurely and has several severe medical conditions.
“Laura is passionate about making sure her son Danny, and other kids with medical conditions have access to the care they need,” Davids said in a statement. “Hosting her as my guest for the State of the Union is an opportunity to highlight the dangers of allowing insurance companies to discriminate against people based on their medical histories.”
Other invitations call attention to the debate over offshore drilling and to what advocates have described as a funding shortfall for federal programs for Native Americans.
Freshman Rep. Joe Cunningham (D-S.C.) has invited Tim Goodwin, a Republican and the mayor of Folly Beach, S.C., who supports Cunningham’s effort to ban drilling for oil and natural gas off the Atlantic and gulf coasts. Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-Wash.) will host Fawn Sharp, president of the Quinault Indian Nation in Taholah, Wash., to highlight a recent report by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights that describes federal programs for Native American as “chronically underfunded.”