Lawmakers hope to send message with guests to Trump’s speech


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — President Donald Trump will promote some of his policies before Congress Tuesday night and Eyewitness News has learned our local legislators plan to use the big speech to make statements of their own.

Trump’s speech, scheduled for 9 p.m. Tuesday, will be his first formal address to Congress as commander-in-chief.

A newly inaugurated president’s first speech in the House chamber isn’t technically a State of the Union address, but the rules are the same: each member of Congress is allowed to invite one person.

The delegation from Southern New England – all Democrats – say they want their guests to send a message to the Republican president.

Speaking to the nation’s governors on Sunday, Trump previewed some of what he’ll discuss in his upcoming speech, including how he plans to repeal and replace Obamacare.

Rhode Island Sen. Jack Reed is bringing Dr. Nitin Damle of Wakefield, who supports the Obama health law, while alongside Mass. Congressman Joe Kennedy III will be Jen Fox, a former intern in his office who received cancer treatment through the law.

Two other lawmakers are putting the focus on Trump’s immigration policies. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse has invited Hilmy Bakri, president of the board of the Islamic School of Rhode Island, and Congressman Jim Langevin will be bringing Ehsun Mirza, a Muslim-American immigrant.

Lastly, Congressman David Cicilline wants to draw attention to Trump’s campaign trail comments mocking a disabled reporter, so he’s invited Jeannine Chartier, an advocate for people with disabilities.

Officials in the local defense sector also have reason to pay close attention to Trump’s speech, as he’s expected to propose a big hike in federal military spending, offset by cuts to other programs.

The guest list of other Democratic Congressmen and Congresswomen participating includes:

  • Congresswoman Judy Chu – Sara Yarjani, Iranian Graduate Student
  • Congressman Jared Polis – Oscar Juarez-Luna, DACA Recipient
  • Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky – Suzanne Akhras Sahloul, Founder of the Syrian Community Network
  • Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy – Dr. Marc Levy, Pediatric Surgeon on call during Orlando Pulse nightclub shooting
  • Congressman Hank Johnson, Jr. – Asma Elhuni, Student and Activist
  • Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal – Aneelah Afzali, Founder of the American Muslim Empowerment Network (AMEN)
  • Congressman Mark Pocan – Lupe Salmeron, DACA Recipient
  • Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez – Hameed Darweesh, Iraqi Immigrant Impacted by Travel Ban
  • Congressman Jerrold Nadler – Martin Batalla Vidal, DACA Recipient
  • Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence – Fatima Salman, Executive Director, Muslim Student Association (MSA) National
  • Congresswoman Chellie Pingree – Banah Al-Hanfy, a 20 year old Iraqi immigrant whose father served as an interpreter for the U.S. military in Iraq

President Trump’s address is scheduled for 9 p.m. Tuesday. Watch the speech live on WPRI 12 and streaming live on

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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