Millions of Americans are expected to watch President Trump’s upcoming State of the Unionaddress.
Trump formally accepted newly-sworn-in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s invitation to hold the event on Jan. 29 in the House chamber. This year, Trump will be speaking to a Democratic-held House. It’s also possible the partial government shutdown — which started in late December as lawmakers argued over Trump’s $5.7 billion border wall funding — could be ongoing at that time.
From members of Congress to distinguished guests handpicked by the president himself, here are some of the people who are expected to be in the audience.
The first lady
First Lady Melania Trump will have her own viewing box at the State of the Union. (AP)
First lady Melania Trump will have her own viewing box in the gallery of the House chamber.
Guests of the president
A handful of guests will join first Melania Trump in the gallery at the president’s request. It’s a tradition that was started President Ronald Reagan in 1982.
A Marine Corps. veteran, a cop, a welder and the parents of MS-13 victims were among the 15 special guests tapped by the president to attend in 2018.
Members of Trump’s Cabinet, and the heads of 15 executive departments, including the acting attorney general, are also invited to attend.
The White House chief of staff, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, director of the Office of Management and Budget and the U.S. trade representative have typically had reserved seats at the front of the room.
Supreme Court justices
All nine Supreme Court justices will be invited to attend the event, though several will likely skip it.
This will be Brett Kavanaugh’s first SOTU. Kavanaugh, who was accused of sexual misconductand faced a lengthy confirmation hearing as Dr. Christine Blasey Ford brought allegations against the federal judge in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee, was chosen by Trump to fill Anthony Kennedy’s Supreme Court seat after he announced his retirement from the bench. He was confirmed to the nation’s highest court in October with a 50-48 vote.
Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito will probably opt to ditch the SOTU. They haven’t attended the event in years.
Alito last went in 2010, when he was captured on camera shaking his head and mouthing the words “not true” in response to President Barack Obama’s criticism of the court’s ruling in the Citizens United campaign finance case.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg was out of town last year. It’s unclear if she’ll go this year. Ginsburg missed oral arguments for the first time since she joined the court in 1993 on Dec. 7 as she continues to recover from a recent surgery to remove cancerous growths from her lung.
Members of Congress
Members of the House and Senate will also be in attendance, along with one guest of his or her choosing.
There’s no assigned seating for members, with the exception of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Mike Pence, who will sit directly behind Trump on the dais.
“In accord with longstanding custom and to ensure the continuity of government, one Cabinet secretary does not attend the speech,” the Congressional Research Service says. “After Sept. 11, 2001, congressional leadership began designating two members from each house of Congress, representing both parties, to remain absent from the Capitol during the president’s speech.”
Joint Chiefs of Staff
Members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and senior uniformed leaders in the Defense Department who help advise the president and his staff on military matters will also attend the address.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.