President Obama will deliver the annual State of the Union Address before a joint session of Congress on Tuesday night, February 12th.
This annual address fulfills the constitutional requirement in Article II, Sec 3 of the Constitution that “The President shall from time to time give to the Congress Information on the State of the Union.” President Obama’s speech this year will mark the 224th time presidents have reported to Congress, either in person or in written form, under this requirement.
By tradition, the president reports lays out a framework for the administration’s domestic and foreign policy plans and the new budget request. However, this year it is unclear how the president will address the FY2014 budget in his address.
The imminent threat of sequestration (March 1) and the impending expiration of the continuing resolution (March 27) have produced a high degree of uncertainty and anxiety in the FY2014 budget process. Federal agencies are still preparing their budgets and the Office of Management and Budget has not yet announced the official release date for the FY2014 budget.
President George Washington gave the first address on January 8, 1790. Washington and his successor John Adams delivered their statements in person, but President Thomas Jefferson sent his message to Congress in writing. This practice of providing only a written submission continued until President Woodrow Wilson, in 1913, went before Congress to deliver his message. Until 1934, presidents held to no particular tradition. However, since President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first State of the Union Address in 1934, most presidents have delivered their address in person. Notable exceptions have been written statements by President Eisenhower after his heart attack and by Presidents Truman, Eisenhower, and Carter in the final year of their the presidency.
President Calvin Coolidge delivered the first State of the Union address to a national audience on radio in 1923 and President Harry Truman’s 1947 address was the first to be broadcast on television. President George W. Bush’s message in 2002 was the first State of the Union address to be webcast live on the internet.
Starting in 1966, a representative of the opposition party delivered a response to the president’s address. The first opposition response was given by Sen. Everett Dirksen (R-IL) and Rep. Gerald Ford (R-MI). This year Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) will continue that tradition.
The CRS report "The President's State of the Union Address: Tradition, Function, and Policy Implications" provides a comprehensive review of the State of the Union Address.