U.S. President Donald Trump Tuesday evening spoke to a joint session of Congress about his agenda. The following are highlights from his remarks:
Tone of speech: The most "presidential" and traditional since running for the presidency, staying on message and remaining controlled, a not-so-easy trait for the president. He issued a call for American renewal in contrast to the aggressively nationalist posture of his previous speeches. “We are one people, with one destiny,” Trump said quietly near the end. “The time for small thinking is over. The time for trivial fights is behind us. We just need the courage to share the dreams that fill our hearts.” Leaving the speech, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said Trump hit a “home run.”
Reaching out: Trump began his speech with comments on Black History, civil rights, and a condemnation of anti-Semitic violence. “We are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all its forms.” He received standing ovations. He also noting several initiatives he believed should have bipartisan support, such as making child care more accessible, ensuring paid family leave, supporting women’s health and rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure. He also added measures to “promote clean air and clear water,” but his administration has been moving to roll back antipollution regulations.
Immigration: Despite some pre-speech conjecture that Trump would offer a major immigration reform compromise, there was no such concession. He spent a lot of the speech noting the crimes committed by immigrants in the country illegally. “I believe that real and positive immigration reform is possible, as long as we focus on the following goals: To improve jobs and wages for Americans, to strengthen our nation’s security and to restore respect for our laws,” he said, although he did not commit to considering the lightning-rod issue of granting legal status to some people in the U.S. illegally. Democrats are expected to demand that a legalization plan be part of any package. Many Republicans oppose legal status of any kind for those in the U.S. illegally, calling it amnesty that rewards lawbreaking, but some have expressed interest in a compromise position that stops short of citizenship.
Tax relief/reform: He called for lower taxes on corporations and middle-class Americans. He declined to endorse the border adjustment tax: "We must create a level playing field for American companies and workers. Currently, when we ship products out of America, many other countries make us pay very high tariffs and taxes — but when foreign companies ship their products into America, we charge them almost nothing."
Healthcare reform: Trump made Speaker Ryan happy by listing some components of the House GOP plan, with the major one being tax credits.Trump repeated his promise to overturn the 2010 health law, adding the plan should ensure coverage for pre-existing conditions and minimize disruptions for people with coverage under ObamaCare. Besides backing the use of tax credits to help people buy coverage, he favors expanding health savings accounts to pay for treatment and said governors needed the resources to continue to fund their Medicaid programs for the poor. Also, Trump said lawmakers need to bring down “artificially high” drug prices.
Fiscal 2018 budget for veterans: Trump said his budget will increase funding for veterans. “Our veterans have delivered for this Nation –- and now we must deliver for them,” he said to applause.
Infrastructure: Trump said, "To launch our national rebuilding, I will be asking the Congress to approve legislation that produces a $1 trillion investment in the infrastructure of the United States — financed through both public and private capital –- creating millions of new jobs." In another bow to African-Americans, Trump said, "We've financed and built one global project after another, but ignored the fates of our children in the inner cities of Chicago, Baltimore, Detroit -- and so many other places throughout our land."
Trade policy: While listing the pledges made and kept so far, Trump included withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal and his request that "new American pipelines be made with American steel." Trump declared the time had come to rewrite trade deals and alliances in terms that benefit the United States, irrespective of global pressures. “My job is not to represent the world,” Trump said. “My job is to represent the United States of America.” Trump was adamant that the US cannot continue to abide by what Republicans and Democrats see as free trade. “It also has to be fair trade,” Trump said. He cited Abraham Lincoln, who, he said, “warned that the ‘abandonment of the protective policy by the American government [will] produce want and ruin among our people.’?” He said he would not let workers “be taken advantage of anymore.”
Defense and border security: He called for rebuilding the military and enforcing border security, without mentioning that his proposed increases in the Pentagon budget would be accompanied by deep cuts in domestic spending. Trump’s Republican critic, Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), stood enthusiastically when the president said he would end the “defense sequester” caps on Pentagon spending. Trump said it is “not compassionate, but reckless” to forgo stricter vetting of those seeking to enter the US. He promised a multilateral approach to the fight, saying the US “will work with our allies, including our friends and allies in the Muslim world, to extinguish this vile enemy from our planet.”
U.S. border with Mexico: He said he was sent to Washington to deliver on the promises he made on the campaign trail — arguably chief among them, to build a wall along the US border with Mexico. Trump argued that everyday Americans cannot succeed “in an environment of lawless chaos” at the borders.“To any in Congress who do not believe we should enforce our laws, I would ask you this one question: What would you say to the American family that loses their jobs, their income or their loved one, because America refused to uphold its laws and defend its borders?”
NATO: Trump made his national security team happy as well as US allies who have worried about his previous comments that NATO is "obsolete." Tonight, Trump said: "We strongly support NATO, an alliance forged through the bonds of two World Wars that dethroned fascism, and a Cold War that defeated communism. But our partners must meet their financial obligations."Longest applause of the night: "We are blessed to be joined tonight by Carryn Owens, the widow of a US Navy Special Operator, Senior Chief William 'Ryan' Owens. Ryan died as he lived: a warrior, and a hero –- battling against terrorism and securing our Nation.""