Response by Sen. Joe Kennedy III (D-Mass)
By Elaine Owen, Editor ~~
President Trump used his first State of the Union Address to send two conflicting messages at once—to celebrate the results of his combative and deeply partisan first year, and to call upon Democrats to join him to work together in his second.
“I call upon all of us to set aside our differences, to seek out common ground, and to summon the unity we need to deliver for the people we were elected to serve,” Trump said at the start of the speech, made to a joint session of Congress.
But Trump’s nearly 90-minute long speech also lingered on a subject that is at the heart of Washington’s divisions: immigration. Trump cast the issue as one of safety, saying that “open borders” allowed by past administrations had allowed street gangs to thrive and cost Americans their lives. He offered a plan to let “Dreamers” (undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children) stay and become citizens, but also rejected the idea that their needs should take priority. “Americans are dreamers, too,” he said.
Trump opened his speech by making the case that his first year in office has been an enormous success, noting continuing declines in the unemployment rate, a large tax cut, and cutbacks in federal regulations. He touted his nationalist agenda on trade (which has produced little tangible results so far) as setting a tone that the world had noticed.
“Our nation has lost its wealth,” Trump said. “But we’re getting it back so fast.”
Trump touted the GOP’s “huge new tax-cut bill,” saying that many Americans would start seeing more take-home pay soon.
“Our massive tax cuts provide tremendous relief for the middle class and small businesses,” Trump said, speaking about a bill passed with only Republican votes. He celebrated the end of a provision from President Obama’s health-care law, which required many Americans to obtain health insurance or pay a tax. “The individual mandate is now gone. Thank heavens.”
Trump pointed out small business owners from Ohio, who he said had just had the best year in the 20-year history of their business. Because of tax reform, he said, their business is expanding its space and hiring new workers.
“This, in fact, is our new American moment. There has never been a better time to start living the American Dream,” he said. Speaking to viewers at home: “This is your time…Together, we can achieve absolutely anything.”
Republicans in the House chambers cheered Trump’s remarks, while many Democrat sat silent and motionless.
Trump’s celebration of the GOP’s tax bill came just after a section of his speech in which he implored Democrats to work together with him, saying that America’s needs required bipartisan cooperation.
“It is not enough to come together only in times of tragedy,” said Trump. “Tonight, I call upon all of us to set aside our differences, to seek out common ground, and to summon the unity we need to deliver for the people we were elected to serve.”
Trump also used his speech to lay out details of an immigration reform deal he had offered several days earlier, which offered citizenship for “dreamers” (undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children) in return for increased spending on border security and large cuts in legal immigration levels.
“My duty, and the sacred duty of every elected official in this chamber, is to defend Americans—to protect their safety, their families, their communities, and their right to the American Dream. Because Americans are dreamers too,” Trump said.