February 6, 2019
Democratic 2020 contenders are using President Donald Trump’s second State of the Union Address on February 5 to “put a human face” on their points of contention with the current administration, CNN reports.
New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is bringing a decorated transgender Navy member to the House chambers to view the speech. Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren has invited a labor leader recently furloughed from his job at the Department of Housing and Urban Development. And California Senator. Kamala Harris will attend along with a woman who lost her home in a wildfire.
Gillibrand’s guest is Blake Dremann, a transgender Navy lieutenant commander who has been deployed 11 times. The invitation comes after the Supreme Court allowed Trump’s ban on transgender military service to go into effect.
Gillibrand, who battled the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, told CNN that she will introduce legislation in the Senate later this week that would protect transgender Americans’ ability to serve in the military.
“Transgender service members like Lieutenant Commander Dremann make extraordinary sacrifices every day to defend our freedom and our most sacred values, and President Trump’s decision to ban them from military service is cruel and undermines our military readiness,” she said in a statement on her official website.
Harris invited Trisha Pesiri-Dybvik, whose home was destroyed in the Thomas wildfire that ravaged Southern California last year. What’s more, during a year of adversities, Pesiri-Dybvik and her husband both work for air traffic control and were furloughed during the government shutdown this year, Harris said.
“Trisha’s story is just one of many stories I heard during the shutdown of Americans whose lives were upended and who faced those difficult days with strength and resilience,” Harris said in a statement on her own Senate website. “Washington needs to hear her story and avoid another harmful shutdown.”
Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s guest is Sajid Shahriar, a HUD staffer and labor leader with roles in both the local American Federation of Government Employees and the Massachusetts AFL-CIO.
“It’s time to send a message to President Trump and Senate Republicans: federal and contract workers are the backbone of our economy and their livelihoods should never be used as pawns in Republican political games,” Warren said her February 4 statement.
Others considering presidential runs are also using the State of the Union to advance their political priorities.
Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar is taking aim at prescription drug costs, she said on February 1. Her guest is Nicole Smith-Holt, the mother of Alec Raeshawn Smith, a Type 1 diabetic who died from diabetic ketoacidosis because he couldn’t afford his $1,300-a-month insulin prescription.
Highlighting his advocacy for gun control, California Representative Eric Swalwell invited Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting survivor and gun reform activist Cameron Kasky.
One of the sharpest critics of the Trump administration’s family separations at the US-Mexico border, Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon, invited mother and daughter Albertina Contreras Teletor and Yakelin Garcia Contreras, age 12, who were separated at the southern border last spring.
“This child separation policy came from a dark and evil place within the heart of this administration,” said Merkley in a statement on his official website. “Innocent children suffered because of deeds that were carried out in our names and using our tax dollars as Americans. I’m bringing Albertina and Yakelin as my guests to the State of the Union because we need to bear witness to the suffering that this cruel policy inflicted, and resolve to make sure that nothing like this ever happens in the United States of America again.”
Research contact: @ericbradner