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Opposition Responses to the State of the Union Address


The first official, televised opposition response to a president's annual message came in 1966, when Senate Minority Leader Everett Dirksen (R-IL) and House Minority Leader Gerald R. Ford (R-MI) offered a critique of President Lyndon Johnson's annual message. The practice continued sporadically over the next decade and varied in format. Since 1982, members of the opposition party have provided a response to the annual message, usually in a televised format, that directly follows the president's speech.

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1966

On January 17 Senate Minority Leader Everett Dirksen (R-IL) and House Minority Leader Gerald R. Ford (R-MI) responded to President Lyndon Johnson's State of the Union address (which had taken place on January 12) in the Old Senate Chamber. Their speeches were recorded and broadcast later that evening by several networks, becoming the first organized and televised response to the annual message.


1967

On January 10, following President Lyndon Johnson's State of the Union address, Senate Minority Leader Everett Dirksen (R-IL) and House Minority Leader Gerald R. Ford (R-MI) responded in a televised news conference.


1968

On January 23, from the auditorium of the New Senate Office Building (Dirksen Building), Republican members of Congress participated in a televised rebuttal to President Lyndon Johnson's State of the Union address (which had taken place on January 17). The program included comments from eight Republican senators and nine representatives.


1969

No response. President Lyndon Johnson delivered his State of the Union message on January 14. Richard Nixon was inaugurated on January 20, 1969.


1970

On February 8 Democratic members of Congress responded to President Richard Nixon's annual message (which had taken place on January 22) with a 45-minute televised program that included comments from Senators William Proxmire (D-WI), Mike Mansfield (D-MT), Henry "Scoop" Jackson (D-WA), Edmund Muskie (D-ME), Albert Gore (D-TN), Ralph Yarborough (D-TX), and Philip Hart (D-MI), and Representatives Donald Fraser (D-MN), Patsy Mink (D-HI), Carl Albert (D-OK), and John McCormack (D-MA), and informal discussions by senators and representatives with voters in various sections of the country.


1971

On January 26 Majority Leader Mike Mansfield (D-MT) responded to President Richard Nixon's annual message (which had taken place on January 22) in an interview-style format, with four network correspondents asking questions.


1972

On January 21 Democratic members of Congress responded to President Richard Nixon's annual message (which had taken place on January 20) with a 53-minute television program that included a panel of senators and representatives (Senators William Proxmire (D-WI), Frank Church (D-ID), Thomas Eagleton (D-MO), and Lloyd Bentsen (D-TX), and Representatives Leonor Sullivan (D-MO), John Melcher (D-MT), John Brademas (D-IN), Martha Griffiths (D-MI), Ralph Metcalfe (D-IL), Carl Albert (D-OK), and Hale Boggs (D-LA)) answering phone calls from the public asking unrehearsed questions.


1973

President Richard Nixon presented the State of the Union report to Congress in writing as a series of messages, rather than in person. There was no opposition response.


1974

On February 1 Majority Leader Mike Mansfield (D-MT) delivered a nationally televised response to President Richard Nixon's annual message (which took place on January 30) from his desk in his office.


1975

Senator Hubert Humphrey (D-MN) and Representative Carl Albert (D-OK) responded to President Gerald R. Ford's State of the Union message (which took place on January 15) in two separate televised speeches. Albert's speech aired on Monday, January 20, and Tuesday, January 21, and Humphrey's speech aired Wednesday, January 22.


1976

On January 21 Senator Edmund Muskie (D-ME) responded to President Gerald R. Ford's annual message (which took place on January 19) in a televised speech recorded in Majority Leader Mike Mansfield's office.


1977

No opposition response to President Gerald R. Ford's State of the Union message delivered on January 12, 1977.


1978

On January 26 Senate Minority Leader Howard Baker Jr. (R-TN) and House Minority Leader John Rhodes (R-AZ) responded to President Jimmy Carter's State of the Union message (which took place on January 19) in a televised 30-minute question-and-answer program.


1979

On January 24 Senate Minority Leader Howard Baker Jr. (R-TN) and House Minority Leader John Rhodes (R-AZ) responded to President Jimmy Carter's State of the Union message (which took place on January 23) in a televised news conference from Representative Rhodes' office. Later that evening, Baker and Rhodes, together with Senator Robert Dole (R-KS) and Representative Barber B. Conable Jr. (R-NY) were interviewed for half an hour on NBC television.


1980

On January 28 Acting Senate Minority Leader Ted Stevens (R-AK) and House Minority Leader John Rhodes (R-AZ) responded to President Jimmy Carter's final annual message (which took place on January 23) in a prerecorded, 30-minute program that aired on ABC at 10:30 p.m. Eastern time.


1981

No Democratic response followed President Ronald Reagan's economic message delivered on February 18, 1981.


1982

On January 26 Democrats responded to President Ronald Reagan's State of the Union message with a 28-minute prerecorded, documentary-style program, televised on major networks following President Reagan's address, offering a Democratic review of the speech and man-on-the-street interviews. Participants included California governor Jerry Brown, Senators Donald Riegle (D-MI), James Sasser (D-TN), Robert Byrd (D-WV), Edward Kennedy (D-MA), Gary Hart (D-CO), Paul Sarbanes (D-MD), J. Bennett Johnston (D-LA), and Alan Cranston (D-CA); House Speaker Thomas P. O'Neill (D-MA), and Representative Albert Gore Jr. (D-TN).


1983

On January 25 Democrats responded to President Ronald Reagan's State of the Union message with a 28-minute prerecorded program that aired on all major networks following the president's speech. Participants included Senators Robert Byrd (D-WV), Paul Tsongas (D-MA), Bill Bradley (D-NJ), and Joe Biden (D-DE); Representatives Tom Daschle (D-SD), Barbara Kennelly (D-CT), George Miller (D-CA), Les AuCoin (D-OR), Paul Simon (D-IL), Timothy Wirth (D-CO), and W. G. "Bill" Hefner (D-NC); and House Speaker Thomas P. O'Neill (D-MA).


1984

On January 25 Democrats responded to President Ronald Reagan's annual message with a televised response, partly taped and partly live, that aired following the president's speech. Moderated by Massachusetts governor Michael Dukakis, participants included: Senators Joe Biden (D-DE), David Boren (D-OK), Carl M. Levin (D-MI), Max S. Baucus (D-MT), Robert Byrd (D-WV), Clairborne Pell (D-RI), and Walter Huddleston (D-KY), Representatives Dante B. Fascell (D-FL), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), and William Gray (D-PA), and House Speaker Thomas P. O'Neill (D-MA).


1985

On February 6 Democrats responded to President Ronald Reagan's State of the Union address with a prerecorded program featuring discussions of randomly selected Democratic voters in four sites around the country, interspersed by remarks from party leaders. The moderator was Governor Bill Clinton (D-AR). Other speakers included Governor Bob Graham (D-FL), House Speaker Thomas P. O'Neill (D-MA), and Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV). NBC and CBS aired the program following President Reagan's speech. ABC aired the program two days later.


1986

On February 4 Senator George Mitchell (D-ME), Lieutenant Governor Harriett Woods (D-MO), Governor Charles Robb (D-VA), Representative Tom Daschle (D-SD), and Representative William Gray (D-PA) responded to President Ronald Reagan's State of the Union message in a program that was aired by all the major networks following the address. (The address was originally supposed to have taken place on January 28 but was delayed due to the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster.)


1987

On January 27 Senate Majority Leader Robert C. Byrd (D-WV) and House Speaker Jim Wright (D-TX) responded to President Ronald Reagan's State of the Union address in separate speeches that were broadcast live immediately following the speech.


1988

On January 25 Senate Majority Leader Robert C. Byrd (D-WV) and Speaker Jim Wright (D-TX) responded to President Ronald Reagan's State of the Union address in a live broadcast that aired immediately following the speech.


1989

On February 9 House Speaker Jim Wright (D-TX) and Senator Lloyd Bentsen (D-TX) responded to President George Bush's first annual message in a live broadcast that aired immediately following the speech.*


1990

On January 31 Speaker of the House Tom Foley (D-WA) responded to President George Bush's State of the Union address in a live broadcast that aired immediately following the speech.


1991

On January 29 Senator George Mitchell (D-ME) responded to President George Bush's State of the Union address in a live broadcast that aired immediately following the speech.


1992

On January 28 Speaker of the House Tom Foley (D-WA) responded to President George Bush's final State of the Union address in a live broadcast that aired immediately following the speech.


1993

On February 17 House Minority Leader Bob Michel (R-IL) responded to President Bill Clinton's first annual message in a live broadcast that aired immediately following the speech.*


1994

On January 25 Senate Minority Leader Robert Dole (R-KS) responded to President Bill Clinton's State of the Union address in a live broadcast that aired immediately following the speech.


1995

On January 24 Governor Christine Todd Whitman (R-NJ) responded to President Bill Clinton's State of the Union address in a live broadcast that aired immediately following the speech.


1996

On January 30 Senate Majority Leader Robert Dole (R-KS) offered the Republican response to President Bill Clinton's State of the Union address in a live broadcast that aired immediately following the speech.


1997

On February 4 Representative J. C. Watts (R-OK) responded to President Bill Clinton's State of the Union address in a live broadcast that aired immediately following the speech.


1998

On January 27 Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS) offered the Republican response to President Bill Clinton's State of the Union address in a live broadcast that aired immediately following the speech.


1999

On January 19 Representatives Jennifer Dunn (R-WA) and Steven Largent (R-OK) responded to President Bill Clinton's State of the Union address in a live broadcast that aired immediately following the speech.


2000

On January 27 Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and William Frist (R-TN) responded to President Bill Clinton's final State of the Union address in a live broadcast that aired immediately following the speech.


2001

On February 27 Senate Minority Leader Thomas Daschle (D-SD) and House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt (D-MO) responded to President George W. Bush's address in a live broadcast that aired immediately following the speech.*


2002

On January 29 House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt (D-MO) responded to President George W. Bush's first State of the Union message in a live broadcast that aired immediately following the speech.


2003

On January 28 Governor Gary Lock (D-WA) responded to President George W. Bush's State of the Union address in a live broadcast that aired immediately following the speech.


2004

On January 20 Senate Minority Leader Thomas Daschle (D-SD) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) responded to President George W. Bush's State of the Union message in a live broadcast that aired immediately following the speech.


2005

On February 2 Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) responded to President George W. Bush's State of the Union message in a live broadcast that aired immediately following the speech.


2006

On January 31 Governor Tim Kaine (D-VA) responded to President George W. Bush's State of the Union message in a live broadcast that aired immediately following the speech.


2007

On January 23 Senator Jim Webb (D-VA) responded to President George W. Bush's State of the Union message in a live broadcast that aired immediately following the speech.


2008

On January 28 Governor Kathleen Sebelius (D-KS) responded to President George w. Bush's final State of the Union address in a live broadcast that aired immediately following the speech.


2009

On February 24 Governor Bobby Jindal (R-LA) responded to President Barack Obama's address in a live broadcast that aired immediately following the speech.*


2010

On January 27 Governor Bob McDonnell (R-VA) responded to President Barack Obama's first State of the Union address in a live broadcast that aired immediately following the speech.


2011

On January 25 Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI) responded to President Barack Obama's State of the Union address in a live broadcast that aired immediately following the speech.


2012

On January 24 Governor Mitch Daniels (R-IN) gave the televised Republican response to President Barack Obama's State of the Union address in a live broadcast that aired immediately following the speech.


2013

On February 12 Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) responded to President Barack Obama's State of the Union address in a live broadcast that aired immediately following the speech.


2014

On January 28 Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) responded to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address in a live broadcast that aired immediately following the speech.


2015

On January 20 Senator Joni Ernst responded to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address in a live broadcast that aired immediately following the speech.


2016

On January 12 Governor Nikki Haley (R-SC) responded to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address in a live broadcast that aired immediately following the speech.


2017

On February 28 former governor Steve Beshear (D-KY) responded to President Donald J. Trump's address in a live broadcast that aired immediately following the speech.*


2018

On January 30 Representative Joseph P. Kennedy III (D-MA) responded to President Donald J. Trump's State of the Union address in a live broadcast that aired immediately following the speech.


2019

On February 5 Stacey Abrams, former minority leader of the Georgia House of Representatives, responded to President Donald J. Trump's State of the Union address in a live broadcast that aired immediately following the speech.


* This address before a joint session of Congress is not considered an official "State of the Union" message

Senate Historical Office

February 2019