Trump makes case he’s stoking American dream
President Trump called for bipartisan action on immigration and infrastructure in his first State of the Union address on Tuesday, asking a deeply divided nation to come together after a tumultuous first year in office.
The president said his agenda is working, arguing a growing economy that he linked to the tax-cut bill passed by Congress in December has created “a new American moment.”
“To every citizen watching at home tonight, no matter where you have been or where you come from, this is your time,” Trump said. “If you work hard, if you believe in yourself, if you believe in America, then you can dream anything, you can be anything, and together, we can achieve absolutely anything.”
The address comes against the backdrop of a partisan divide in Washington that has deepened since Trump’s inauguration.
After a three-day shutdown earlier this month, lawmakers face a Feb. 8 deadline to pass legislation to keep the government open. Those talks are closely tied to the negotiations on immigration — a contentious issue Republicans and Democrats are no closer to resolving.
Trump spent a large portion of his speech calling on Congress to advance an immigration plan that would fund a wall along the Mexican border and cut back on legal immigration by overhauling the nation’s visa system. The deal would also allow nearly 2 million “Dreamers” illegally brought to the country as children to seek citizenship
Despite Trump’s call for bipartisanship, his history of making inflammatory remarks about immigration colored how lawmakers received his sales pitch.
Democrats, many of whom brought “Dreamers” as guests to the president’s speech, booed and hissed when the president mentioned his plans to slash the number of people who immigrate to the U.S. through family connections — a practice Trump has decried as “chain migration.”
Sen. Dick Durbin (Ill.), a key Democratic negotiator on immigration, shook his head when Trump mentioned his plan to eliminate the via lottery, which allows people
Virtually no Democrats applauded any aspect of Trump’s plan, which he called a “fair compromise — one where nobody gets everything they want, but where our country gets the critical reforms it needs.”
The president also made gestures to his base, which is worried that he might be making too many compromises on immigration, by stressing the plan’s primary goal is to help working Americans.
“Americans are dreamers too,” Trump said.
The president used the 80-minute address to focus the nation’s attention on his accomplishments, rather than the numerous controversies that have frequently overshadowed them.
The days leading up to the speech were dominated by Trump’s long-running feud with the FBI and Justice Department over the Russia investigation.
The developments have roiled partisan tensions surrounding the probe, but Trump made no direct mention of them in his address.
Trump instead opened his speech with a lengthy victory lap on the economy, arguing his tax overhaul and efforts to cut regulations have offered it a much-needed boost.
He claimed that roughly 3 million workers received bonuses as a result of the tax legislation and that his efforts to cut energy regulation have ended the “war” on coal production.
The White House had telegraphed in the days before Trump’s speech that he would use the address to reach out to all Americans, and there were several nods toward unifying moments from the past year.
Trump highlighted the stories of a number of guests seated in first lady Melania Trump’s box, including a police officer who adopted a baby from parents who were addicted to opioids and the family of Otto Warmbier, the U.S. college student who died last year while imprisoned in North Korean.
But the president once again touched a nerve with Democrats when he mentioned the reasons “why we proudly stand for the national anthem.”
Trump’s attacks on mostly black athletes who knelt in protest during the anthem at sporting events roiled racial tensions last year.
While much of the speech focused on Trump’s first year in office, he also sought to chart an agenda for the year ahead.
Infrastructure is one possible policy area where a deal between Republicans and Democrats could be reached, and Trump devoted several minutes to pitching his $1.5 trillion plan to rebuild the nation’s roads, bridges and transit systems.
Trump revealed the plan would reduce the amount of time it takes builders to obtain permits, something he says has hindered major projects.
“We built the Empire State Building in just one year. Isn’t it a disgrace that it can now take 10 years just to get a permit approved for a simple road?” the president said.
“I am asking both parties to come together to give us the safe, fast, reliable, and modern infrastructure our economy needs and our people deserve,” he added.
Trump took a victory lap on the progress the U.S.-led coalition has made against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
But he also offered a dire warning about North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, saying its “reckless pursuit of nuclear missiles could very soon threaten our homeland.”
“Past experience has taught us that complacency and concessions only invite aggression and provocation. I will not repeat the mistakes of the past administrations that got us into this dangerous position,” Trump said, in a shot at his predecessor, former President Barack Obama.
Trump, in his first year in office, has presided over a divided country that is increasingly consumed by political infighting, something Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D-Mass.) blamed squarely on Trump during the official Democratic response.
“Bullies may land a punch. They might leave a mark. But they have never, not once, in the history of our United States, managed to match the strength and spirit of a people united in defense of their future,” he said.
Trump’s speech contained some inaccurate claims, including his declaration that the tax cut was the biggest in American history. The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget said last fall the package was the eighth biggest since 1918.
Democrats say Trump doesn’t deserve credit for the recovery, pointing out that the trends of higher growth and lower unemployment began under Obama.
Earlier on Tuesday, Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer (N.Y.) said Trump should thank Obama for the economy.
Kennedy said the Trump economy is benefiting the rich at the expense of the poor and middle-class.
“We see an economy that makes stocks soar, investor portfolios bulge and corporate profits climb but fails to give workers their fair share of the reward,” he said.
This story was updated at 11:44 p.m.
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