The Washington Post offered the following on line article summarizing President Donald Trump’s address to a joint session of the Congress of the United States. The summary was a strictly non-partisan report. It is not “fake news.”
Trump lays out plan for ‘new chapter of American greatness’ in speech to Congress
by Philip Rucker, Sean Sullivan, Abby Phillip
President Trump sought to repackage his hard-line campaign promises with a moderate sheen in his first joint address to Congress Tuesday night, ushering in what he termed “a new chapter of American greatness” of economic renewal and military might.
Seeking to steady his presidency after a tumultuous first 40 days, Trump had an air of seriousness and revealed flashes of compassion as he broadly outlined a sweeping agenda to rebuild a country he described as ravaged by crime and drugs, deteriorating infrastructure and failing bureaucracies.
Trump’s speech touched on his plans to overhaul the nation’s health-care system and tax code, but was short on specifics. Struggling to steer a bitterly divided nation with his job approval ratings at historic lows, Trump effectively pleaded with the American people to give him a chance and to imagine what could be achieved during his presidency.
“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.”
Trump extended olive branches to his opponents. He called on Congress to pass paid family leave, a reference to a long-held Democratic Party priority that brought liberal lawmakers to their feet to applaud. And he pledged to work with Muslim allies to extinguish Islamic State terrorists, going so far as to acknowledge the killings of Muslims as well as Christians in the Middle East.
Still, Trump did not back away from his most controversial policies. He used typically bellicose language to describe the fight against the Islamic State, calling it “a network of lawless savages that have slaughtered Muslims and Christians, and men, women and children of all faiths and all beliefs.”
The president forcefully defended his travel ban — an executive order that was halted in federal court — as necessary to prevent the entry of foreigners who do not share America’s values.
“We cannot allow a beachhead of terrorism to form inside America,” Trump said. “We cannot allow our nation to become a sanctuary for extremists.”
Pulling from his campaign speeches and others since taking office, the president ran off a list of accomplishments since taking office and issued promises for the year ahead.
“Above all else, we will keep our promises to the American people,” he said.
He touted “billions” in new investments by American companies in the weeks since his inauguration, seeking to highlight the actions his administration has taken to keep his campaign promises.
He vowed to usher in “historic” tax reform, as he appeared to nod to a House Republican “border adjustment” plan, but did not explicitly endorse it.
“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 nothing or almost nothing,” said Trump.
The “border adjustment” is shorthand for a House GOP proposal to tax imports, which some Republicans oppose. Trump didn’t use those words in his address. But his remarks could be seen as a hopeful sign for those Republicans hoping he will back it unequivocally.
Trump’s comments were received with some bipartisan applause and some jeers from Democrats, especially during his mention of a lobbying restriction that some feel does not go far enough.
While his speech pulled upon many of his earlier themes, the president seemed more subdued in his delivery, sticking more to the teleprompter and avoiding the bombastic rhetoric of the campaign.
Reiterating a much-repeated campaign promise, Trump vowed midway thorough his speech to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act but stopped short of resolving disagreements among Republicans about how to do that.
While Trump did not explicitly endorse a specific step-by-step approach to repealing and replacing the federal health-care law, he did say that a replacement plan must utilize “tax credits,” which is a victory for House Republicans leaders who have looked at replacing the Obamacare subsidies with such credits.
“We should help Americans purchase their own coverage, through the use of tax credits and expanded Health Savings Accounts — but it must be the plan they want, not the plan forced on them by our government,” said Trump.
Some House and Senate conservatives oppose the idea of creating tax credits. But supporters of it can now turn to Trump’s words as they seek to build support for the idea.
In one of the speech’s tenser moments, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) who was seated in the audience, looked on, shaking her head as Trump criticized the law. Pelosi helped then-President Barack Obama pass the law and has sharply criticized Republicans for trying to undo it. Trump appeared to be pointing someone out in the crowd when he called the law a “disaster.” It was not immediately clear whether he was singling out Pelosi or someone else.
Trump told a series of stories to highlight his calls for reforms to the Food and Drug Administration and public education.
He pointed to two women who sat in the gallery as a guest of first lady Melania Trump. One who was diagnosed with a rare disease and treated with a new drug. A second who was able to attend a private school and become the first person in her family to graduate from high school and college.
Both anecdotes drew bipartisan applause from members of Congress in the audience.
He also pressed his policies on immigration, including his controversial proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
“We want all Americans to succeed —- but that can’t happen in an environment of lawless chaos. We must restore integrity and the rule of law at our borders,” said Trump. “For that reason, we will soon begin the construction of a great wall along our southern border. It will be started ahead of schedule and, when finished, it will be a very effective weapon against drugs and crime.”
Trump challenged members of Congress who disagree with him: “I would ask you this question: what would you say to the American family that loses their jobs, their income, or a loved one, because America refused to uphold its laws and defend its borders?”
He did call for Republicans and Democrats to work toward reforming the immigration system into a merit-based program focused on the “well-being of American citizens.”
Trump argued that the country’s current focus on low-skilled immigration hurts American workers and strains the country’s finances.
The comments come hours after Trump said in a meeting with journalists that he would support comprehensive immigration reform efforts with a pathway to legalization for law abiding immigrants.
At his remarks before Congress, Trump did not specify the parameters of a compromise he would be willing to accept. But he outlined a preference for a system that favors immigrants who are able to support themselves financially.
“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,” Trump said.
Trump also vowed to take on “radical Islamic terrorism,” a divisive term that many have taken issue, arguing it unfairly singles out the Muslim religion.
He also pledged to announce new steps to bolster national security and “keep out those who would do us harm,” weeks after his executive order barring immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries was halted by a federal judge.
Pointing to statistics on terror convictions by foreigners from the Department of Justice, Trump said that it was “reckless” to allow foreigners into the country who could then perpetrate attacks on Americans.
“We cannot allow a beachhead of terrorism to form inside America — we cannot allow our Nation to become a sanctuary for extremists,” Trump said.
The comments drew mixed reaction from the gathered lawmakers.
Though Trump did not specifically mention the travel ban, he suggested that new efforts to put in place “improved vetting procedures” would be forthcoming.
Later in his speech, there were some audible groans in the crowd as Trump announced that he has ordered the Department of Homeland Security to create on office to address victims of crimes committed by undocumented immigrants. The office is called “VOICE” — which stands for “Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement.”
As he often did on the campaign trail, Trump mentioned Jamiel Shaw, whose teenage son was killed by an undocumented immigrant.
Central to Trump’s promise to strengthen the nation’s security is a proposal to massively infuse the military with new spending, including eliminating the defense sequester, which had put caps on military spending.
Trump this week announced that his budget would include a request for a $54 million increase in military spending accompanied by corresponding cuts in other parts of government.
“To keep America safe we must provide the men and women of the United States military with the tools they need to prevent war and —- if they must —- they have to fight and they only have to win,” Trump said.
In a highly emotional moment, President Trump lead an extended tribute to a U.S. Navy SEAL William “Ryan” Owens, the first U.S. service member to die in the line of duty during Trump’s administration.
With Owens’s widow, Carryn, sitting in the audience, Trump called him “a warrior and a hero” who gave his life for his nation.
“Ryan’s legacy is etched into eternity,” Trump said. “For as the Bible teaches us, there is no greater act of love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
“Ryan laid down his life for his friends, for his country, and for our freedom — we will never forget Ryan,” Trump added.
The comments, which were received with protracted applause, come in the midst of a tense time for Trump. Owens died during a raid in Yemen that left him and civilians dead, prompting a series of investigations by the Defense Department.
Owens’s father, William Owens, has also spoken out against the raid, questioning why it was authorized so quickly after Trump came into office.
Trump defended the raid on Tuesday, saying that his Defense Secretary Jim Mattis recently told him that it was a “highly successful raid that generated large amounts of vital intelligence that will lead to many more victories in the future against our enemies.”
As Trump spoke, Owens’ widow stood and wept openly as the room applauded her.
While not delving too much into foreign policy during his speech, the president said the United States was willing to “find new friends” and noted that the U.S. has forged relationships with former enemies.
The comment came as growing intrigue rises about possible ties his campaign had to Russia and its efforts to influence the election.
While he did not mention Russia explicitly, the comments were reminiscent of what Trump often said on the campaign trail — that it would be a good thing for the United States to have a productive relationship with Russia, even as many U.S. lawmakers in both parties remain deeply skeptical of the Russian government’s intentions.
Trump began the night by strongly denouncing recent threats to Jewish community centers across the country and condemned a recent attack on Indian immigrants in Kansas.
“We are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all its forms,” Trump said.
His speech quickly turned, however, as he declared that the “earth shifted beneath our feet” in 2016 as he took a victory lap over his election victory and nodded to his signature campaign themes.
“The chorus became an earthquake — and the people turned out by the tens of millions, and they were all united by one very simple, but crucial demand, that America must put its own citizens first,” said Trump.
The president closed his speech with a call for unity and an end to “trivial fights,” a comment that, coming from a president known for carrying out small feuds with his detractors on social media, elicited groans from some lawmakers.
Trump seemed to indicate that his speech represented a dawning of a new phase for the country and for his presidency.
“We will look back on tonight as when this new chapter of American Greatness began,” Trump said. “I am asking all citizens to embrace this Renewal of the American Spirit. I am asking all members of Congress to join me in dreaming big, and bold and daring things for our country.
“And I am asking everyone watching tonight to seize this moment,” Trump concluded.
Mike DeBonis and Kelsey Snell contributed to this report.