Democratic leaders have an important request from congressional members of their party during President Donald Trump’s first address to a joint session of Congress.
Remembering the backlash from the infamous “you lie” that Republican Rep. Joe Wilson uttered during President Obama’s joint address in 2009, Democratic leaders wanted to make sure that their caucus refrains from making the same mistake.
“The only thing we have urged members to be is respectful,” Maryland Congressman Steny Hoyer said during a press briefing in the Capitol.
Hoyer mentioned that fellow Rep. Maxine Waters of California is boycotting the speech noting that her reason for doing so is that she could not guarantee that she would be able to comply.
“Maxine Waters, as you know is not going. She’s announced she’s not going … because she believes people ought to be respectful to the president of the United States and she’s not sure she could be, so she’s not going to go.”
Waters has been among the most vocal opponents of Mr. Trump calling on Congress to initiate impeachment proceedings. She is also one of dozens of congressional members who skipped Trump’s inauguration last month. So far, she is the only member to announce a boycott of Tuesday’s joint address.
Democratic leaders admit that there is no love lost between them and the President. However, they want to assure that they do not cause a scene.
“As much as we have nothing in common with the President, we do respect the office of the presidency,” New York Democrat Joseph Crowley, who is Chair of the House Democratic Caucus, said on Tuesday morning. “I respect the office of the presidency itself. And keeping that in mind, we’ll be polite.”
Acknowledging that Wilson set a precedent, Crowley voiced that the Democrats do not “necessarily need to fall into that.”
“By our lack of enthusiasm, by a lack of applause, but respectfully being there … [we can] send that same message,” he said.
Rep. Linda Sanchez had a little bit of a different message. “Most of us respect the office enough to not be so rude as to shout or otherwise sort of demean the chamber,” she said, adding “But having said that, people do get passionate, and you know, their reactions may be passionate.”