Sports fans may have their Super Bowl parties and playoff beards, but politicos and policy wonks in Washington have their own traditions this time of year.
Among them are State of the Union watch parties and – for chief speechwriter Cody Keenan – a SOTU beard he grows between Thanksgiving and the night of President Obama’s annual address to Congress and to the nation.
Their eyes will be on the president Tuesday night at 9 p.m. Members of Congress and select guests will watch from inside the House chamber while the rest of the nation views it on television and – for the first time – via a White House webcast that will include charts and other information to flesh out the president’s remarks in real time.
Watch, White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, urges in an online video. “It’s an important moment when the policy that influences the fabric of the American experiment is shaped,” he says.
The president and his advisers have been working on the speech since just after Thanksgiving.
It will focus on “the essential need to expand economic opportunity throughout our country, to reward hard work and responsibility, to move forward to with our economic recovery so that our economy grows faster [and] creates better jobs,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said.
The speech is “coming along” he said.
U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Washington, also is working on a big speech. Chairwoman of the House Republican Conference, she will deliver the GOP response to the president’s address.
“We are grateful to Cathy for lending her voice and perspective to this national occasion,” Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said in an announcement that highlighted policy experience and her home life as mother of three children including one with Downs Syndrome.
“Through the lens of her family’s experiences, Cathy will share our vision for a better America built on a thriving working class,” Mr. Boehner said.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said he expects her to “share an alternative approach to the president’s plans to grow an already enormous federal bureaucracy.”
You can watch the GOP response here Tuesday.