How will Democrats handle Trump's speech to Congress? Here's what you need to watch for.

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On Tuesday evening, President Donald Trump will enter the Capitol Building in Washington, DC, and make his first-ever address to a joint session of Congress. While the speech isn't technically a State of the Union, it will serve the same function, meaning that it's arguably the biggest speech of Trump's presidency so far.

All of this presents a unique challenge to any Democrats who will be in attendance. Caught between the traditional ideas of how to behave during a presidential address and the pressure to resist every action by Trump, they have a tricky needle to thread. Do they pretend like everything is normal, even though it's not, or do they go the Rep. Joe "you lie!" Wilson route, and disrupt the proceedings in some way?

Here's what you should be watching for when the speech starts at 9 PM ET.

Very pointed guests

Some congressional Democrats are bringing as guests members of the communities that the Trump administration has targeted.


Among those in attendance will be Jaqueline and Angel Garcia de Rayos, who were invited by Arizona congressmen Raúl Grijalva and Ruben Gallego. Guadalupe García de Rayos, the siblings' mother, was deported earlier this month by ICE officials, after having lived in the United States for over two decades.

In a statement announcing the decision, Rep. Gallego explained that, "Congressman Grijalva and I invited Angel and his sister Jaqueline to the address because we believe it is important for Donald Trump to face the people who have been victimized by his disastrous policies."


Ohio native Kevin Rhodes will be the guest of Democratic Rep. Joyce Beatty. Rhodes, who has Type 1 diabetes, is attending in an effort to highlight the importance of the Affordable Care Act, Beatty explained in a press release.

Texas Representative Marc Veasey (D–33) will be joined by Syrian refugee Bothina Matar and her family, while Michigan congressman Dan Kildee (D–5) has invited Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, the Flint pediatrician who helped to expose the Flint water crisis, as his guest.


Spanish-American celebrity Chef José Andrés will be the guest of Texas representative Filemon Vela in what is a particularly pointed jab at the president—Andres and Trump are currently embroiled in a $10 million dollar breach of contract lawsuit after Andres canceled plans to open a restaurant in the Trump International Hotel following Trump's hateful campaign rhetoric.

In addition to representatives from refugee and immigrant communities, newly elected Democratic National Committee chair Tom Perez will also be in attendance as a guest of his new deputy, Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison. Perez narrowly defeated Ellison in the DNC race and his attendance on Tuesday is intended as a message of unity.


To clap or not to clap?

For some Democrats, however, resistance isn't so much about reaction to the president's speech, as it is about inaction.


In an article posted to, Illinois Rep. Luis Gutiérrez explained that he plans to watch Trump "with rapt attention, but zero enthusiasm."

"This year, I do not plan to applaud this President or leap to my feet to give him a standing ovation — even in the unlikely event he says something I agree with," Gutiérrez wrote. "No, I am not boycotting, but I am planning to essentially sit on my hands."


Gutierrez, a fierce and frequent critic of President Trump, urged his fellow representatives to join in his silent protest. It remains to be seen how many will take him up on the request.

The aisle issue

For years, certain congresspeople have made a point of locking down a coveted seat on the aisle of the Congress floor. That way, they're in prime position to shake the president's hand as he walks in. The most famous aisle hoarder is Texas Democrat Sheila Jackson-Lee, who's been sure to get a good seat for two decades.

The second-most famous is New York Democrat Eliot Engel.

On Tuesday, Engel announced that he would break with tradition and wouldn't shake Trump's hand. Will others follow suit?


The clothes

A group of Democratic congresswomen are reportedly planning to show up for Trump's address wearing all white—a subtle nod to the woman's suffrage movement of the last century. The coordinated clothes are a callback to a similar effort this November, when women across the country rallied around the #WearWhiteToVote hashtag on election day.


The response speakers

The opposition party always gets to air an official response to the president's address. This year, Democrats have chosen Astrid Silva, an undocumented Mexican immigrant whose work as an immigrants rights activist and address at the 2016 Democratic National Convention made has made the DREAMer a rising star in the party, to give their Spanish-language response. It's a very pointed choice, considering Trump's actions on immigration.