The Congressional Black Caucus led the opposition, as expected. The roughly 45-member, all-Democrat group vowed early Tuesday to show their discontent with Trump’s policies and his reported derogatory remarks about African nations.
Members during the address chose not to stand when Trump honored Louisiana Republican Rep. Steve Scalise and praised his resolve for returning to work less than four months after he “took a bullet” from a gunman and “almost died.”
And they chose not join in the applause for a 12-year-old boy in the gallery whom Trump praised for putting flags on soldiers’ graves on Veterans Day.
“Democrats are no longer just the party of resistance and obstruction, they are now also the party of sitting on their hands,” said the Republican National Committee. “No matter the issue, Democrats chose to sit on their hands tonight.”
While the CBC members — dressed in Kenta-cloth scarves and ties — were the most hardened, few Democrats applauded any Trump economic policies, including his tax-reform plan that is expected to put at least hundreds more dollars in many workers’ pockets.
The biggest groans from Democrats came during Trump’s vow to end a policy that allows immigrants to bring extended family into the country. That came over the displeasure of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who flung out her arms to signal members of her caucus to stop.
Pelosi, who joined in a chant of “U-S-A, U-S-A,” and did applaud Tuesday night, advised fellow House Democrats earlier in the day to not walk out on Trump’s address.
Sources in the room said Pelosi told members: “If you want to walk out, don’t come.”
Many of the female Democratic members of Congress, including Pelosi, wore black in solidarity with the #MeToo movement and other campaigns to create awareness about sexual misconduct toward women.
First lady Melania Trump and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley wore two-piece, off-white outfits.
Still, some Democrats applauded much of Trump’s address, including West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, who is facing reelection in a conservative-leaning state.
Manchin applauded several of Trump’s proposals including one for the United States to keep up its nuclear arsenal.