SOTU: Trump still pines for wall, Nevada Democrats not impressed

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Vice President Mike Pence and Speaker Nancy Pelosi greet President Donald Trump just ahead of the State of the Union address. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

WASHINGTON — President Trump implored Congress Tuesday to move past political gridlock in favor of bipartisan cooperation before he dug in on the border security fight that threatens to shut down the government yet again.

“We can make our communities safer, our families stronger, our culture richer, our faith deeper, and our middle class bigger and more prosperous than ever before,” Trump said during his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress.

“But we must reject the politics of revenge, resistance, and retribution — and embrace the boundless potential of cooperation, compromise, and the common good.”

But while Trump opened his remarks to the now-divided Congress with a call for a new era of unity, he showed little willingness to compromise on some of his positions — including his stance on a border wall that led to the last shutdown. Federal agencies could shutter yet again if lawmakers can’t reach a deal by their Feb. 15 deadline.

Members of Nevada’s congressional delegation weren’t impressed.

“Trump’s speech was long on promises and short on substance,” said Rep. Dina Titus. “I wish I could say that I am surprised that the President spent much of his speech demonizing immigrants, but didn’t find the time to say a single word about reducing gun violence. I’m hopeful that we can find common ground on reducing drug prices and making investments in infrastructure, but the past two years have taught me that Trump’s promises are likely just smoke and mirrors.”

“Instead of bringing us together, he doubled down on the same old divisive rhetoric and once again sought to pit neighbors against each other,” said Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto. “The President was unyielding in his demand for American taxpayers to pay billions to build a wall me promised Mexico would pay for, and he failed to reassure federal workers that their lives wouldn’t be thrown into chaos by another government shutdown.”

Sen. Jacky Rosen and Rep. Susie Lee both expressed hope that Democrats and Trump could cooperate on issues such as infrastructure and prescription drug policy. But both also chastised the administration for continuing, as Rosen put it, “to sabotage our health care system and undermine the Affordable Care Act, which already protects those with pre-existing conditions.

In Trump’s first address to Congress since Democrats clinched control of the House in the November elections, he called on lawmakers to choose “greatness” over “gridlock.” The speech, originally slated for late last month, was delayed as Trump sparred with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) over the 35-day shutdown that ended in late January.

“Republicans and Democrats must join forces again to confront an urgent national crisis,” Trump said, by funding what he referred to as “the proper wall.”

In an apparent effort to rally support for his position, much of Trump’s speech was dedicated to warning about the “tremendous onslaught” of immigrants entering the country.

The deep ideological divisions in the Congress were evident during Trump’s speech. Republicans frequently stood and applauded loudly, while Democrats — including many women dressed in white to honor women’s suffrage — sat quietly through many of Trump’s more contentious remarks.

Trump told Congress that “America is winning each and every day,” and that “the state of the union is strong,” prompting chants of “U-S-A” from Republicans. “That sounds so, so good,” the president said.

Trump touted a host of his administration’s policies that have drawn ire from the left. He pointed to the rollback of federal rules and declared that his team has “unleashed a revolution in American energy,” becoming the world’s top producer of oil and natural gas.

He also boasted the massive tax overhaul bill he signed into law and his move to eliminate what he called “the very unpopular Obamacare individual mandate penalty.”

As House Democrats prepare to kick off a spate of investigations into the Trump administration, Trump issued words of caution.

“An economic miracle is taking place in the United States — and the only thing that can stop it are foolish wars, politics, or ridiculous partisan investigations,” he said. “If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation. It just doesn’t work that way.”

The leader of Nevada’s Republican Party agreed.

“President Trump’s agenda has unleashed our nation’s potential and set Nevada’s economy on fire,” said state GOP Chairman Michael McDonald in a statement. “We are better off thanks to the President’s leadership, and tonight’s address laid out a thorough and impressive blueprint to continue this success.”

The president issued new calls for issues where even a divided Congress could in theory muster bipartisan support, like efforts to rebuild infrastructure, lowering the cost of healthcare and protecting patients with pre-existing conditions and fighting childhood cancer. Still, it’s unclear whether Democrats in either chamber will have much of an appetite to work with Republicans on major legislation as the 2020 presidential race nears.

Trump won raucous bipartisan applause when he mentioned that women were filling the bulk of the country’s newly created jobs last year, as many Democrats turned to applaud the many women who arrived on Capitol Hill this year.

“You weren’t supposed to do that,” he said of the boisterous applause from the Democratic side of the aisle. He noted, “We also have more women serving in the Congress than at any time before.” In a departure from his prepared remarks, after the Democrats chanted, “U-S-A,” Trump said, “Congratulations, that’s great.”

Robin Bravender
Robin Bravender is the Washington, D.C., bureau chief for The Newsroom, a network of state-based non-profit news outlets that includes Nevada Current.

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