Which Illinois Lawmakers Are Boycotting the State of the Union - NBC Chicago
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Which Illinois Lawmakers Are Boycotting the State of the Union

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    WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 28: U.S. President Donald Trump addresses a joint session of the U.S. Congress on February 28, 2017 in the House chamber of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC. Trump's first address to Congress focused on national security, tax and regulatory reform, the economy, and healthcare. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

    Last year's address to a joint session of Congress was not technically a State of the Union, so Tuesday night's speech will mark President Donald Trump's first.

    Members of Congress typically like to send a message with their invited guests, and while this year is no different in that regard - some of Illinois' lawmakers are choosing to make a stronger statement by skipping Tuesday's speech entirely.

    Three Democrats are boycotting the State of the Union, including Reps. Jan Schakowsky, Danny Davis and Bobby Rush.

    "I just could not participate in normalizing President Donald Trump," Schakowsky said of her decision.

    "For a year, over a year now, Americans have been subjected to his racist and erratic and divisive comments," she added.

    "This has been the most chaotic, divisive, and incompetent first year of any administration, and I will not sit and watch as Trump pretends that he’s off to a successful start. He’s not," Rush added in a statement.

    Davis echoed those sentiments, saying he "cannot in good conscience stand silently by and watch generations of struggle for equal rights, for civil, human and voting rights, for the rights of women, for social and economic justice be undone from the highest office in the land."

    As for attending the speech, they're putting their priorities on display with who they've chosen to invite.

    Sen. Dick Durbin, is bringing Cesar Montelongo, a medical PhD student at Loyola University and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipient. Durbin has been at the forefront of negotiations over so-called DREAMers for years, most recently embroiled in the controversy surrounding Trump's reported use of an the word "s--tholes" to describe Haiti and African nations.

    That controversy spurred Rep. Robin Kelly to invite state Sen. Kwame Raoul as her guest to the State of the Union. A candidate for Illinois attorney general, Raoul's parents are from Haiti and was highly critical of Trump's use of that expletive.

    "I thought of him immediately when our president used the word s-hole, I won't say it on TV, to describe Haiti," Kelly said.

    Sen. Tammy Duckworth is bringing Cairo Junior/Senior High School Principal Lisa Childs Thomas, the senator's office said in a statement. Thomas grew up in Alexander County Housing Authority’s McBride public housing complex in Cairo, which Duckworth said the Trump administration shuttered without a plan to rehouse those that will be displaced.

    Like many of her colleagues, Duckworth will be wearing black in solidarity with the #TimesUp and #MeToo movements.

    Those movements were likely part of the decision behind both Reps. Mike Quigley and Dan Lipinski's choices in guests - women who work with sexual assault survivors.

    Lipinski is bringing clinical therapist Faith Ann Rys, an expert witness on sexual assault who specializes in treating high school and college-age survivors, while Quigley selected Erin Walton, executive director of Chicago-area not-for-profit Rape Victim Advocates.

    "We need to change the culture and men have to absolutely step up," Quigley said.

    In a show of bipartisan support, Democrat Brad Schneider and Republican Randy Hultgren are planning to sit together - a sign they can put party differences aside.

    "He and I are going to be sitting together, but also talking together, figuring out things that we can be working on."

    Schneider invited Lake County State’s Attorney Mike Nerheim, citing his work as an “an outspoken leader in his county’s efforts to directly tackle the opioid epidemic afflicting our entire nation," while U.S. Naval Academy Midshipman Alex Vandenberg of Sugar Grove will join Hultgren.

    Their spirit of bipartisanship is what Trump will make an appeal for in his address, the White House said, with the president himself saying Tuesday, "Unity is what I'm striving for."

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