The Battle of the State of the Union Guests

Both parties reinforce their message on Cuba—through invitations.

US President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama arrive for the 'In Performance at the White House' series on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, DC on November 6, 2014.


President Barack Obama has already delivered spoilers on some of the biggest policies he'll discuss during Tuesday night's State of the Union address, but that won't stop a bit of intrigue in the galleries.

Look no further than the guests whom politicians are bringing to the speech, especially those connected to Cuba.

The White House said Monday that guests in first lady Michelle Obama's box would include Alan Gross, the aid worker who was jailed in Cuba in 2009 and released in December when the U.S. and Cuba began to establish diplomatic relations.

The invite highlights the administration's progress on the issue, and Republicans are hitting back. House Speaker John Boehner has invited Cuban dissident Jorge Luis Garcia Perez, who was jailed for 17 years. Cuban-American members of Congress have joined in too, with Florida Senator Marco Rubio and Florida Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen both bringing along family members of dissidents. The Republicans are even planning a press conference with their guests on Tuesday afternoon, just hours before the State of the Union.

Rubio criticized Obama's moves on Cuba in announcing the invite.

“I expect the president will bring up his new Cuba policy, especially since his administration is heading to Havana this week to discuss giving the regime legitimacy and greater access to American dollars it will use to fund its machine of repression,” he said in a statement.

In total, 24 guests are expected in the first lady's box (including Gross's wife, Judy) who highlight the administration's efforts on education, health care, and more.

Full Bloomberg Politics coverage: State of the Union 2015