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Government & Politics

Who’s Taking Who to the State of the Union?

President Donald Trump is scheduled to deliver his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at 9 tonight. It will be his first address to a Democratic majority in the U.S. House of Representatives and a message that was delayed by a week as the result of the partial federal government shutdown.

Among the many observers packed in the U.S. House chamber will be Maryland’s congressional delegation and their guests.

Here’s a look at who’s bringing who.

Maryland’s senior Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D) will bring the newly elected Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. (D).

Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D) will bring Lila Johnson of Hagerstown. Johnson, who is raising her two great-grandchildren alone, has worked as a contracted U.S. Department of Agriculture custodian for more than 20 years and will not receive any compensation for the hours she lost during the shutdown because of her status as a contract employee. Van Hollen and Johnson originally met at a roundtable the senator hosted to hear the impacts of the shutdown on federal service contractors.

Rep. John P. Sarbanes (D-Md., 3rd) will bring Baltimore City Councilman Kristerfer Burnett, who led the effort to establish Baltimore’s new small-donor matching system for local campaigns. Sarbanes is the architect a key Democratic initiative in the House ― H.R. 1, the For the People Act ― which would create a small-donor matching system for congressional campaigns.

Congressman Anthony Brown (D-Md., 4th) is bringing Jeffery David Cox Sr., president of the American Federation of Government Employees. Brown introduced a bill last month that would allow essential government workers to apply for unemployment insurance benefits during future government shutdowns.

Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md., 5th) is bringing Glenn Dale resident Jacqueline Beale, who serves as the Maryland state lead ambassador for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. “After surviving cancer twice, Jacqueline is a strong advocate for Marylanders living with pre-existing health care conditions. I am grateful for the work that she does to shed light on the need to improve access to affordable health care for all Americans and defend protections for those with pre-existing conditions,” Hoyer said in a news release.

For his first State of the Union address as a representative, Congressman David Trone (D-Md., 6th) is bringing Kevin Simmers, a former Hagerstown narcotics detective whose daughter Brooke died from a drug overdose in 2015. Trone made the announcement at the grand opening of Brooke’s House, a sober living home for adult women seeking treatment in Western Maryland. “Kevin Simmers has faced the brutal reality of addiction in our country,” Trone said in a news release. “He has taken the tragedy of losing his daughter and turned that into action. The strength and perseverance that Kevin and his wife Dana have shown by building this wonderful facility is truly inspiring. I am honored he will join me at the State of the Union.”
Trone was at the ribbon cutting for Brooke’s House on Tuesday and spoke about his nephew Ian, who died of a fentanyl overdose at the age of 24.

Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md., 8th) will bring environmentalist and author Bill McKibben as his guest. McKibben is a founder of, a climate change movement which has organized 20,000 global rallies, spearheaded the resistance to the Keystone Pipeline and encouraged fossil fuel divestment. Raskin, who has been friends with his guest since college, said McKibben’s 1989 book “The End of Nature” galvanized his own views about climate change. “That book totally shocked me. I’ve understood that climate change is not an issue, but the whole context in which we need to decide every other issue, whether it is infrastructure, trade policy, transportation, or agriculture,” Raskin said in a statement. “… It is an imperative to overcome our political divisions and mobilize the whole country and the nations of the world to overcome our carbon addiction and enact pragmatic renewable energy policies that will save us from rising oceans, cataclysmic weather events, drought and floods, and all the traumas of the era of climate change.”

Rep. C.A. “Dutch” Ruppersberger III (D-Md., 2nd) did not plan to bring a guest.

The offices of Rep. Andrew P. Harris (R-Md., 1st) and Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md., 7th) did not respond to requests for information about their plans for the address.

An old friend of the chamber, former 6th District representative and 2020 presidential candidate John K. Delaney, reiterated a campaign trail promise Tuesday afternoon: promising regular debates in the chamber if he’s elected president, in addition to the annual address.

“The president should regularly debate Congress, as the Prime Minister does in the United Kingdom,” Delaney said in a news release. “We need more substance, more accountability, and more transparency. As president, I will debate Congress once a quarter for three hours, giving the American people the opportunity to see a substantive discussion that moves past applause lines and talking points.”

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Who’s Taking Who to the State of the Union?