CT lawmakers ready for Trump’s first State of the Union

Washington – Connecticut lawmakers are preparing for President Donald Trump’s first State of the Union address by inviting a diverse group of guests from the state to attend what is expected to be a highly politicized event.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3rd District, has invited Dr. Suzanne Lagarde, CEO of the Fair Haven Community Health Care, to highlight the appropriations battles in Congress over community health care funding.

An important grant program for these centers ended on Sept. 30.

Trained as a gastroenterologist, Lagarde is also a a founding member and past president of Project Access-New Haven, a non-profit which provides access to specialty care for the uninsured.

Like many female Democratic lawmakers, DeLauro will be wearing black to the president’s address to Congress and the nation on Tuesday night.

Like the black-gowned actresses at the Golden Globes, the lawmakers aim to show solidarity with the Time’s Up campaign against sexual harassment and express solidary with women who have been sexually harassed or abused.

Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., has invited Caroline Johnson of New Britain. She’s an advocate for early cancer screening and research funding whose husband, Scott Johnson, a New Britain firefighter and a chief petty officer in the U.S. Coast Guard, died of colorectal cancer last year.

“At a time when bad news seems to be ubiquitous, I invited Caroline to be my guest at the State of the Union speech to shed light on the inspiring good news story of her husband’s life and her family’s courageous work to find treatments and cures for the cancer that took Scott’s life,” Murphy said in a statement.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal’s guest will be East Hampton resident Theresa Leonard, co-founder of the Underground and survivor of child sex-trafficking. Blumenthal has introduced legislation with Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, that targets websites that facilitate sex trafficking.

Blumenthal said he also has invited Leonard to attend a Senate dinner before Trump’s speech “where she will have the opportunity to share her story directly with senators and their spouses.”

Rep. Jim Himes, D-4th District, has invited Cindi Bigelow, the CEO of Bigelow Tea.

“Located in Fairfield, Bigelow has been family-owned and operated for three generations and deeply involved in the community with support of local veterans groups and organizations that provide food and shelter for the needy as well as events such as the Bigelow Tea Community Challenge, which has raised more than $1 million for charity,” Himes said.  “As we look for ways to grow and expand businesses in Connecticut and instill a renewed culture of entrepreneurship and innovation, Bigelow’s history and future serve as inspiration and example.”

Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, has invited a Navy officer, Evan Karlick. He is assigned to Rep. Courtney’s office as a Navy fellow for 2018, to assist with the congressman’s duties on the Armed Services panel.

John Harrity, president of the Connecticut State Council of Machinists, will be the guest of Rep. Elizabeth Esty, D-5th District. According to the lawmakers’ spokesman, Phil LaRue, Esty won’t join other Democratic women in wearing black to the event.

When asked why Esty will not be wearing black, LaRue said “she decided several months ago that she wanted the focus of her efforts around the State of the Union to be …on job creation in Connecticut.”

Trump gave a speech to a joint session of Congress last year shortly after his inauguration, but that wasn’t considered an official State of the Union address because the president had not been in office long enough to make that kind of assessment.

Trump will make his first State of the Union speech with the lowest popularity ranking of any recent president at this point in office and as Congress has sunk to new levels of partisan rancor.

Several Democrats, including Rep. John Lewis of Georgia, are boycotting the speech. Lewis said he will skip the address because of Trump’s vulgar comments about Haiti and African nations.

The president will give his speech just days after lawmakers ended a three-day government shutdown and as another spending bill showdown approaches.

It’s not clear yet what Trump will tell the nation. But he’s likely to promote the new GOP tax bill and talk about the state of the U.S. economy and the booming stock market.

He also may mention plans for an infrastructure bill, which many believe is next on his agenda, and promote his immigration plan, which includes a legislative fix for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that protects undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children.

That immigration plan would more than double the number of young immigrants who could apply for protection from deportation and a work permit.

Immigrants eligible for the new program also would be able to apply for citizenship, but the process could take 10 to 12 years.

The Trump plan also would include a massive cut in family-based immigration, limiting petitions to spouses and minor children, and end a diversity visa lottery system that gives preferences to immigrants from under-represented countries.

Trump also wants a $25 billion “trust fund” to build a wall between the United States and Mexico.