WASHINGTON – At least five House Democrats plan to boycott President Donald Trump's State of the Union address next week as other lawmakers bring guests as diverse as science advocate Bill Nye, Miss America Cara Mund, young undocumented immigrants, and Ricky Taylor, a Trump supporter known on Twitter as "Deplorable Vet."
Signaling heightened tensions following Trump's "shithole" comments about Haiti and African nations, Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D., Ore.), Pramila Jayapal (D., Wash.), John Lewis (D., Ga.), Maxine Waters (D., Calif.), and Frederica Wilson (D., Fla.) have announced they will not attend the speech.
"I cannot in all good conscience be in a room with what he has said about so many Americans," Lewis said on MSNBC after news of the Trump comments broke. "I just cannot do it. I wouldn't be honest with myself."
Jayapal said the group will hold its own meeting Tuesday night to discuss "these racist policies that are being put out of the White House" in a video posted to social media.
Nye will attend as a guest of Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R., Okla.), whose nomination for head of NASA has languished for months in the Senate. At his confirmation hearing, Bridenstine was pressed on his lack of scientific background. The Oklahoma congressman would be the first elected official to lead NASA, if confirmed.
Among the House's many Trump critics, some plan to bring guests whose presence will underscore their arguments with the White House rather than skip the speech altogether.
Democrats had not identified as of Thursday the leader who will be responsible for their rebuttal, which is carried live on television following the president's speech.
Several House Democrats plan to bring guests affected by the immigration debate, including at least three who have invited so-called "dreamers," who received legal protection under the now-canceled Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Two invited women with a family member who was deported by the Trump administration.
One of those women, Cindy Garcia, received national attention this month after her husband of 15 years, Jorge Garcia, was deported to Mexico from Detroit. He was brought to the United States as a 10-year-old and had sought legal status for years, the family said.
The opposite side of the debate will also be represented in the visitors' gallery: Rep. Kevin Cramer (R., N.D.) will bring Tommy Fisher, president and CEO of Fisher Industries, whose parent company is constructing a prototype for Trump's desired U.S.-Mexico border wall.
Each rank-and-file lawmaker is allowed one guest pass for the address, and it's common for them to use their invitations to make political statements.
Female Democrats' protest of sexual harassment and assault will be evident in their clothing: At least two dozen are planning to wear black, as female actors did at the recent Golden Globe Awards.
Choices of guests will reflect the same concerns.
Rep. Jackie Speier (D., Calif.), a vocal critic of the policies governing sexual harassment in congressional offices, will bring the president and CEO of the National Women's Law Center, Fatima Goss Graves. The group manages a legal-defense fund for women who face sexual misconduct in the workplace.
Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D., Mich.) will bring Danielle McGuire, a historian and author who has written about the late Recy Taylor, a black woman in Abbeville, Ala., who was raped by six white men in 1944. Taylor's assailants were never indicted.
In a tribute to Taylor, who died in December, members of the Congressional Black Caucus will also wear red pins.
Ricky Taylor, who identifies himself as a medically retired Army veteran on Twitter, told his more than 17,000 followers earlier this month that he wanted to take Waters' seat. A subsequent Fox News segment featuring Taylor led Rep. Sean Duffy (R., Wis.) to invite him.
"It's outrageous that Maxine Waters and other Democrats aren't going to actually attend the State of the Union," Duffy said in an interview on Fox and Friends.