The activist who confronted a Republican senator in an elevator during the debate over Brett M. Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court will attend President Trump’s State of the Union address as a guest of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.).
Ana Maria Archila made headlines in September after she and another woman blocked the doors of a Capitol Hill elevator to speak with then-Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) about his support for Kavanaugh, who faced several allegations of sexual misconduct. Kavanaugh denied the claims and was confirmed to the high court in early October.
The women described themselves as survivors of sexual assault and tearfully urged Flake to reconsider his position. The encounter was carried live on CNN and became an iconic moment in the national controversy over Kavanaugh’s nomination.
Ocasio-Cortez called Archila a “hero” as she announced the news.
“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,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted Monday.
Another advocate for sexual assault victims, Amanda Thomashow, will attend as a guest of Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.). Thomashow reported now-convicted sexual abuser Larry Nassar to Michigan State University in 2014.
The women’s presence at the State of the Union will invoke the #MeToo movement at a time when cases of sexual harassment and assault have fallen out of the headlines. Last year’s audience included a number of sexual assault victims and more than 50 female lawmakers chose to wear black in solidarity; this year, they are expected to wear white in a nod to the women’s suffrage movement.
Sen. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) gestured to Ocasio-Cortez’s base with his choice of guest: as executive director of the Sunrise Movement, Varshini Prakash rallies young people to fight climate change and advocates for a Green New Deal.
“I thank Varshini for her commitment to climate change action, and look forward to working with her to implement bold and transformational solutions to the climate crisis,” Markey said in a statement.
Another figure from the headlines will attend the speech as a guest of Republican Sen. Thom Tillis (N.C.).
Evangelical pastor Andrew Brunson was detained in Turkey on charges of espionage in 2016, straining U.S.-Turkey relations. He was released last year.
“It’s an incredible feeling that nearly one year after I first met Pastor Andrew Brunson in a Turkish prison, where he faced an effective life sentence, I now have the honor of welcoming him and his wife, Norine, as my special guests to the State of the Union,” Tillis said in a statement.
Tuesday night will mark Trump’s first address to Congress since Democrats took a majority of seats in the House in November. He is expected to use the opportunity to highlight his policy priorities, such as building a wall along the southern border, ahead of the next government funding deadline on Feb. 15.
Some Democratic lawmakers will protest the administration by boycotting the speech.
“The thought of spending Tuesday night in the House Chamber listening to the reckless, self-centered man who occupies the White House holds no interest for me,” Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) said in a statement. “Just like in past years, I plan to skip a speech that will be filled with lies, deception and divisiveness.”
Blumenauer said Nate Mook, executive director of World Central Kitchen, the organization founded by chef José Andrés to provide meals to people in need, would attend in his place.
Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) will not attend the president’s annual speech “until I believe the President will deliver a truthful and honest State of the Union,” he said in a statement to The Washington Post. Cohen said he would watch on television.
Reps. John Lewis (D-Ga.) and Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) have also said they would not attend, according to news reports.
Democrats are eager for Trump’s audience to reflect their policy priorities on guns, immigration, transgender troops and climate change.
At least two people with ties to last year’s mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., will attend the speech — Cameron Kasky, a student survivor, and Manny Oliver, whose son Joaquin was killed.
Oliver, who became an advocate against gun violence after the shooting, will come as a guest of Parkland’s congressman, Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.).
Rep. Lucy McBath (D-Ga.) will bring Jeff Binkley, whose daughter Maura was killed last year in a shooting at a yoga studio in Tallahassee.
McBath was elected in November after a campaign that focused on strengthening gun laws; her son Jordan was fatally shot in 2012.
Democrats who have launched or are weighing presidential bids are also using the speech as a messaging opportunity.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), a newly declared presidential candidate, will bring Navy Lt. Cmdr. Blake Dremann, who is transgender. The Supreme Court recently let Trump’s broad restrictions on transgender people serving in the military take effect, and Gillibrand’s office said she will respond with legislation to protect transgender troops.
At least three other Democratic lawmakers, including Rep. Jackie Speier (Calif.), have also announced that they will bring transgender military personnel.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who has launched a 2020 presidential exploratory committee, will bring a Department of Housing and Urban Development employee and labor activist who was furloughed during the 35-day shutdown. The employee, Sajid Shahriar, helped organize rallies for federal workers in Boston calling for the government to reopen, Warren’s office said.
Another possible presidential contender, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), will bring Rita Lewis of Westchester, Ohio, an advocate for people whose pensions are threatened with cuts, his office said.
Protesting Trump’s immigration policies were a significant theme for Democrats as they selected their guests.
Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D-N.Y.) will bring Yeni Gonzalez Garcia, an immigrant mother who was separated from her three children after crossing the southern border into Arizona last year.
Reps. Donna Shalala (Fla.) and Joe Neguse (Colo.) will bring undocumented students who are protected from deportation under the Obama-era program known as DACA. The Trump administration’s effort to end the program has been thwarted by the courts.
Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-N.Y.) will bring Gerald Michaud, a native of Haiti who has temporary protected status that allows him to remain in the United States. The Trump administration has sought to end the TPS program.
Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) will bring Linda Clark, a native of Liberia who has lived in the United States since 2000 and faces deportation after Trump ended a program that gave her legal status.
Art Gallegos Jr. of Gainesville, Ga., will represent another side of the debate. Invited by Rep. Douglas A. Collins (Ga.), the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, Gallegos advocates for stricter border security as co-founder of the Latinos Conservative Organization.
“The Latino community is one that is, so many times as you well know, portrayed in the mainstream media as being against the president or being against what’s going on at the border, and that’s just not true,” Collins said Monday on Fox News.
The recent partial government shutdown inspired many Democrats to invite government workers.
Senate Minority Whip Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.) will bring air traffic controllers who were affected by the shutdown, their offices said.
Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) will bring Lila Johnson of Hagerstown, Md., a cleaning-services contractor for the Agriculture Department who will not receive pay for hours lost during the shutdown, according to Van Hollen’s office. Van Hollen is co-sponsoring legislation to ensure federal contract workers receive back pay.
Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va.) will bring Amer Al-Mudallal of Fairfax, Va., a chemist with the EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, who was furloughed during the shutdown. Rep. Jimmy Panetta (D-Calif.) will bring Treasury Department employee Anthony Musa, who was also furloughed.
Other Democrats are seeking to call attention to global warming and other environmental problems with their choices.
Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, invited climate scientist Lisa J. Graumlich, who is dean of the University of Washington’s College of the Environment.
Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) will bring Joel Clement, a former official with the Interior Department who has accused the Trump administration of suppressing information about climate change.
Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Fla.) will bring Leon Russell, chairman of the NAACP board of directors. Castor’s office said Russell has been an ally in fighting environmental problems that disproportionately affect people of color.
Some lawmakers, including Sens. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and Reps. Kevin Brady (R-Tex.) and Andy Kim (D-N.J.), used invitations to honor military service members and their families.
Other lawmakers invited guests whose work is relevant to their states or districts: Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.) will bring Tom Mueller, a soybean farmer from Edgington, Ill., whose business has been hurt by Trump’s trade war with China, and Rep. Max Rose (D-N.Y.) will bring Michele Kunz of Staten Island, N.Y., an advocate whose son Bobby struggled with opioid addiction and died in a 2015 accident.