President Donald Trump remained optimistic throughout his State of the Union address, in which he urged lawmakers to set aside their differences and strive for the unity needed to improve the nation’s infrastructure and immigration systems and championed the American Dream.
In his address Tuesday evening, Trump called for a move toward a 'merit-based' immigration system, and away from what he deems "outdated" immigration policies.
Trump blamed “deadly loopholes” and “open borders” for allowing drugs and gangs “to pour into our most vulnerable communities.”
After he delved into the need for better immigration policies to benefit immigrant communities, he took a moment to mention the parents of two teenagers allegedly killed by members of the violent Central American gang MS-13 in 2016. The families became emotional as Trump talked about the victims’ deaths.
In the Democratic rebuttal, Rep. Joe Kennedy III, a Massachusetts Democrat and grandson of Robert F. Kennedy, took aim at what he called the “false promises” of the administration, accusing the administration of scaling back civil rights and deeming certain people more worthy of help than others.
“Bullies may land a punch. They may 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.”
Trump said “unmatched power” is the surest defense against threats from rogue regimes, terrorist groups and rivals like China and Russia. That’s why he says he’s asking Congress to remove budget caps on defense spending and fully fund the U.S. military.
He also called on lawmakers to pass legislation to generate at least $1.5 trillion to upgrade the nation’s roads, bridges and other infrastructure, the AP reported.
Trump opened his address by noting the “swift” actions taken by his administration since his first speech before Congress last year.
“We’ve gone forward with a clear mission, and a righteous mission: to make America great again for all Americans,” Trump said before the crowd applauded.
He emphasized the strength of Americans, saying “the state of our Union is strong because our people are strong.”
He said that since the election, 2.4 million jobs have been created. Unemployment among African-Americans is the lowest ever recorded, he said, and Hispanic-American unemployment has reached the lowest levels in history.
The 45th president touted his tax reform bill and championed the American spirit, saying “no matter where you’ve been or where you come from, this is our time. Together we can achieve absolutely anything.”
He vowed to protect religious liberty and give veterans “choice” in their healthcare decisions.
One of his "greatest priorities," is to reduce the price of prescription drugs, Trump said.
Trump also said he’s committed to the “long and difficult” fight against the epidemic of opioid and drug addiction, the Associated Press reported. He predicted that America ultimately will prevail over a crisis that claims 174 lives daily.
He recognized special guest Ryan Holets— an Albuquerque, New Mexico, police officer who was seated in first lady Melania Trump’s guest box. Holets and his wife adopted the baby of a pregnant, homeless woman he saw preparing to inject herself with heroin, the AP reported.
After noting his administration’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capitol of Israel, he asked Congress to pass legislation to ensure that foreign assistance dollars only serve “American interests” and only go to “friends of America.”
As he concluded, he was met by chants of “USA,” as he reiterated the greatness of Americans, saying “it’s the people who are making America great again.”
Tuesday’s speech before a joint session of Congress at the U.S. Capitol is Trump’s first State of the Union since taking office. He addressed Congress for the first time back in February 2017.