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Cruz Isn't Coming to SOTU, But He's Sending a Guest

Cruz is on the campaign trail but he's sending a retired solider as his guest. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Sen. Ted Cruz has proclaimed loudly that he has no interest in attending Tuesday's State of the Union address, but he has invited a guest: a retired soldier wounded during the 2009 terrorist attack on Fort Hood. Army Staff Sgt. Patrick Zeigler Jr. was among the uniformed service members to receive Purple Hearts after the incident, thanks to legislative efforts led by the Texas Republican. Zeigler will be one of many congressional guests seated in the gallery as President Barack Obama delivers his final address. They include:

  • Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has invited fourth-generation coal miner Howard Abshire, who lost his job after his mine shut down — a victim of what McConnell calls “the president’s 'War on Coal.'”
  • Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., is bringing Nevada state Senate Minority Leader Aaron Ford and University of Nevada Las Vegas student Tania Dawood, who serves on the Muslim Students Association and as deputy attorney general for the student government.
  • House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has invited former Republican Sen. Elizabeth Dole, who leads a foundation addressing the crisis facing America’s military and veteran caregivers. In 2016,  Dole will launch the Hidden Heroes Campaign, a national education initiative chaired by actor Tom Hanks.
  • Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., and Keith Ellison, D-Minn., invited Muslim-American constituents to emphasize “how the hate and vitriol against Muslim-Americans has no place in our society.” Wasserman Schultz’s guest is Mohsin Jaffer, a Weston, Fla., doctor who specialized in the medical care of families and seniors for nearly 30 years. Ellison’s guest is his son, Elijah, an active duty combat medic in the Army.
  • Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., has invited Jason Small — president of Boilermakers Local 11, a small-business owner and Northern Cheyenne tribal member and, above all, “a proven leader in standing up against the Obama administration’s devastating anti-coal, anti-energy agenda.”
  • A number of Senate Democrats have invited guests with significant amounts of student debt. For instance, Britney Woods from University of Wisconsin, Parkside, has been invited by Wisconsin's Tammy Baldwin, and Sean McAllister, a Long Island native who is a junior at Syracuse University, is coming as a guest of  Charles E. Schumer of New York. Alexis Ploss, a first-generation college student at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell, will accompany Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.
  • Reps. John B. Larson, D-Conn., and Sam Johnson, R-Texas, will use Tuesday’s events to highlight the Wrongful Convictions Tax Relief Act, which was signed into law in December.  Their guests are James Tillman and Michael Morton who served 18 and 24 years respectively due to wrongful convictions.
  • Rep. Robert J. Dold, R-Ill., is bringing two people who benefitted from the local YouthBuild program, which teaches construction and life skills. Before entering the program, Lavelle Brown was an unemployed high school graduate and Durrell McBride spent eight years in prison.
  • Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., announced that Keenan Reynolds, the record-setting Navy quarterback who just completed his final season, is his guest, while Justin Amash, R-Mich., tweeted that he is bringing University of Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh.

Niels Lesniewski contributed to this report. Related: SOTU Guests Obergefell, Davis Highlight Gay Rights Divide Who's Sitting with the First Lady? Speaker's Guest List Reinforces Focus on Poverty See photos, follies, HOH Hits and Misses and more at Roll Call's new video site. NEW! Download the Roll Call app for the best coverage of people, politics and personalities of Capitol Hill.