WASHINGTON — In what’s believed to be a first, both of Iowa’s U.S. senators will be on the Presidential Escort Committee for tonight’s State of the Union Address.

Senator Joni Ernst has the honor as vice chair of the Republican Caucus, while Senator Chuck Grassley is now Senate President Pro Tempore. Grassley says it’s just a “formality” to escort the nation’s chief executive into the chamber. “Don’t make a big thing out of that, although this is the first time I’ve ever done that,” Grassley says. “It does give me an opportunity to say something to the president one-on-one if I want to, because it’s an opportunity to greet people who speak before a joint session of Congress.”

This will be President Donald Trump’s second State of the Union Address and Grassley is optimistic about what it will contain. “I hope that Trump discusses what’s been accomplished for the good of the country and the work that we have in the months and years ahead,” Grassley says. “We’ve had significant tax cuts and reforms. We have a booming economy that he doesn’t talk enough about.”

The address was delayed due to the partial government shutdown which was temporarily averted late last month after 35 days, the longest in history. There is still no agreement on the table over border security and another shutdown looms next Friday without a compromise. Grassley says he’s been told one of the themes of tonight’s address is “unity.”

“If the president can speak to the need for bipartisanship, not only within the Congress but bringing Americans together, his words will not just do that by itself, but if he can indicate his leadership in that, I think there’s great hope that something good can come out of this.”

Grassley’s wife, Barbara, plans to attend the address tonight as his guest. Senator Grassley will be seated on the floor while Mrs. Grassley will be in the gallery.