Most of the Supreme Court’s conservative wing to skip State of the Union
Tonight’s State of the Union address will likely be full of many showy “bipartisan” moments. President Obama will likely make a number of statements about reaching across the aisle, and many Republicans and Democrats in Congress will sit with a member of the other party to break up the traditional split seating assignment in the House chambers.
However, there will still be one section of the building where partisan divides are apparent. Six of the nine Supreme Court justices are set to attend tonight’s speech, with all three absentees hailing from the conservative wing of the court.
Kathy Arberg, the Supreme Court’s spokeswoman, said that six justices are planning to attend tonight, though she wouldn’t specify which ones. Justice Samuel Alito is in Hawaii, and two other Republican-appointed justices, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, have strongly suggested in public comments that they won’t go.
Only two Republican appointed justices, Chief Justice John Roberts and Anthony Kennedy, will be in attendance whereas all justices nominated by a Democratic president will be at the speech.
The division between Obama and the conservative justices was readily apparent during last year’s State of the Union. In one segment of his speech, President Obama criticized the court’s ruling in Citizens United, to which Alito visibly responded by shaking his head and mouthing the phrase “not true.” After that interaction, some questioned whether it was proper for the supposedly impartial Supreme Court justices to attend the State of the Union speech. Nevertheless, the absence of the court’s three most conservative members at Obama’s speech will only increase the already-clear divide of the court.