- The Washington Times - Monday, February 6, 2023

The congressional guest list for President Biden’s annual State of the Union speech Tuesday includes the family of the late Tyre Nichols, whose death at the hands of Memphis police has renewed calls for federal policing reform, and Afghanistan’s first female ambassador to the U.S.

Lawmakers have slowly begun to unveil their guest list to the public, meeting the tradition of bringing a deserving American or notable samaritan to attend the president’s speech in person.

Mr. Biden is expected to focus his speech in part on the economy, police brutality, and the ongoing war in Ukraine, which nears its first anniversary. He will likely also zero in on China, following the U.S. military shooting down a surveillance balloon from Beijing last week.

Here are some of the guests lawmakers are bringing to the speech:

Tyre Nichols’ parents

RowVaughn and Rodney Wells, the mother and stepfather of the late Nichols, will be in attendance at the invitation of Rep. Steven Horsford, Nevada Democrat who chairs the Congressional Black Caucus.

Nichols captured the nation’s attention after he was severely beaten by five officers during a traffic stop and succumbed to his injuries days later. Bodycam footage of the incident was released to the public earlier this month; six officers have been fired, and five of them were indicted for second-degree homicide.

Mr. Horsford said he invited the couple to send a message that the country stands with them, and to renew a national conversation about policing.

Former Afghan Ambassador to the U.S.

Roya Rahmani, the former Afghan Ambassador to the U.S., was invited on behalf of Rep. Michael McCaul, Texas Republican who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee, to send a message that Afghan women have not been forgotten.

Ms. Rahmani was Afghanistan’s first female ambassador to the U.S., serving from December 2018 until July 2021. She also served as the country’s first female ambassador to Indonesia and ASEAN, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

Mr. McCaul said he chose Ms. Rahmani because of her commitment to enhancing women’s rights in Afghanistan and other parts of the world.

“Since the United States unilaterally withdrew from Afghanistan last year, paving the way for the Taliban to take over, the situation for women in the country has become dire,” Mr. McCaul said in a statement.

Rep. Greg Steube’s Good Samaritan

Rep. Greg Steube, Florida Republican who remains on congressional leave after falling off a ladder, invited the man who called 911 after he witnessed the lawmaker’s accident at his Florida home.

Darrell Woodie made the call, providing Mr. Steube with immediate medical attention after his 25-foot-fall.

Mr. Steube called Mr. Woodie the “epitome of a Good Samaritan.”

Man who disarmed gunman in Monterey Park shooting

Rep. Judy Chu, California Democrat, invited Brandon Tsay, who disarmed the man who allegedly killed 11 people during a mass shooting at a dance studio in Monterey Park, California. But Ms. Chu said Mr. Biden also extended an invitation to Mr. Tsay shortly after she chose him as her guest.

“Only an hour after I talked to [Tsay], President Biden himself asked him to be his guest at the State of the Union,” Ms. Chu told CBS News. “Brandon, how could you turn me down?”

9/11 volunteer firefighter

Michael Weinstock, a former ground zero volunteer firefighter, will be the guest of the embattled Rep. George Santos, the New York Republican’s office announced Monday.

Mr. Weinstock is a former assistant district attorney in Brooklyn’s Special Victims Bureau and volunteer firefighter and emergency medical technician.

Mr. Weinstock said in a statement that he was a “proud Democrat,” but “greatly appreciative” of Mr. Santos’s invite. Mr. Santos said he was “grateful” for his guest.

The congressman has been under fire for making many dubious claims, including that his mother died as a result of 9/11.

Several other Republicans have announced they would be bringing a law enforcement officer or someone in the policing field.

A GOP source told The Washington Times that House Speaker Kevin McCarthy encouraged his members to bring someone in the law enforcement field if they were struggling to pick a guest.

• Mica Soellner can be reached at msoellner@washingtontimes.com.

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