With a year of presidency under his belt, President Donald Trump will deliver his first formal State of the Union speech next week. Those of you ready to mark your calendars and queue up the TiVo might be wondering what time the State of the Union will be. Well, now you know: The annual speech is slated to begin at 9 p.m. ET on Tuesday, Jan. 30.
On Thursday, Nov. 30, 2017, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) announced the date. "I'm formally inviting President Trump to address a joint session of Congress on Tuesday, January 30, to report on the state of the union," Ryan said, per Politico. "We look forward to him accepting our invitation." Some networks, like C-SPAN, will be livestreaming the speech.
Last year, there was no formal State of the Union address; rather, just a few weeks into his presidency, Trump gave a speech billed as the President's First Address. The joint address to Congress took place on Feb. 28, 2017.
This year, the stakes are high for the president as he prepares to give his first official SOTU. While members of Congress are generally allowed to invite personal guests, it doesn't look as though they're all planning to attend.
The Congressional Black Caucus signaled on Jan. 17, per The Hill, that they were considering a boycott and even protest of the event. As of Monday, Jan. 22, six Congressional Democrats had stated they would not attend the speech. And while several aren't attending, others are planning to wear black to make a statement. Contributing to the tension was Trump's infamous alleged "sh*thole countries" comment earlier this month.
The address will follow weeks of tension between both parties — and between Capitol Hill and the White House — over the federal budget. On Saturday, Jan. 20, the government officially shut down after Congress failed to pass a short-term spending bill to keep the government open while they continued to debate the 2018 budget. In fact, the shutdown's near coinciding with the SOTU has left the message for this year's speech "in flux," as a source told Politico. In fact, the Washington drama caused Trump to cancel his planned trip to Mar-a-Lago for that weekend. The Senate voted Monday to pass the spending bill to fund the government through Feb. 8, but it was still awaiting a House vote before the shutdown would be officially ended.
Per Politico, White House aides had already been busy drafting out key chunks of the speech for weeks. Given the latest developments in Washington, though, the speechwriters are faced with the task of determining how to address the nation — and the recent shutdown.
The History Of The SOTU
According to the U.S. House of Representatives' History, Art & Archives department, presidents have been making State of the Union speeches since 1913, when President Woodrow Wilson gave the first one. Since then, there have been 82 in-person addresses to a joint session of Congress. The term comes from the Constitution (Article II, Section III, Clause I, for those of you keeping score at home), which states that the president "shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient." The speeches didn't officially adopt the State of the Union title until 1947.
Generally, the speeches have averaged around 10,000 words, ranging from less than 2,000 to upwards of 33,000. The message that freshly seated presidents opt for in their first address varies depending on what's going on at the time. While their address often covers the economy, it's shifted over the years to focus more on recapping the previous year and outlining the president's agenda for the present year.
As for what Trump will say, or in how many words, we'll have to wait until next Tuesday to find out. But given the current climate, the pressure is on for the president.