Saying “the time for small thinking is over,” President Trump called Tuesday for dramatic changes in immigration, education and health care, arguing that “Democrats and Republicans should get together and unite for the good of our country.”
“A new chapter of American greatness is now beginning,” he said, adding later in the speech that “we will look back on tonight as when this new chapter … began.”
But the changes Trump talked of in his first speech to a joint session of Congress were ones that time after time brought cheering Republicans to their feet and left stony-faced Democrats sitting in a seething silence.
Trump talked about the need to work together to “save Americans from this imploding Obamacare disaster,” arguing that President Barack Obama’s landmark health insurance plan must be repealed and replaced with new programs that “expand choice, increase access, lower costs and, at the same time, provide better health care.”
In his hour-long speech, the president listed what he said were principles that should guide Congress in putting together a new system, saying it should protect people with pre-existing conditions, give states flexibility on Medicaid, immediately bring down the “artificially high price” of drugs and allow people to purchase insurance across state lines to create “a truly competitive” national marketplace.
But Trump said virtually nothing about how his administration would pay for the program beyond suggesting that the government would help people buy their own coverage, “through the use of tax credits and expanded health savings accounts,” methods Democrats and other opponents of GOP health care plans say are not enough to take care of the neediest Americans.
In his speech, Trump, a billionaire businessman used to getting his own way in his various dealings, presented his health care proposal and other budget plans as virtual done deals, things that are going to happen as soon as Congress gets together to pass them.
But Trump is likely to get a harsh lesson in the limits of presidential power.
While the president talked Tuesday about his plan to dump the Affordable Care Act, GOP Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky, Ted Cruz of Texas and Mike Lee of Utah already have warned they can’t support the repeal because it doesn’t go far enough in eliminating every part of what they call Obamacare.
And those are just complaints from Trump’s fellow Republicans.
In the Democratic response to the president’s speech, former Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear said that Trump and Republicans in Congress “seem determined to rip affordable health care from millions of Americans who most need it.”
“This isn’t a game — it’s life and death for people,” he added.
On immigration, Trump continued the hard-line stance he has taken since the start of his campaign for president, painting undocumented border crossers as criminals and potential terrorists who can be stopped only by far tougher rules and the building of his “great, great wall along our southern border.”
The president called for “a merit-based immigration system,” which he said “will save countless dollars, raise workers’ wages and help struggling families — including immigrant families — enter the middle class.”
The principles behind any immigration reform include improving jobs and wages for Americans, strengthening national security and restoring respect for our laws, Trump added.
While calling on Democrats and Republicans to work together on immigration reform “to achieve an outcome that has eluded our country for decades,” the president also took a slap at those who have opposed his immigration plans.
Before introducing guests who had seen family members killed by undocumented residents, Trump announced that the Department of Homeland Security was forming a new office called Voice, short for Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement.
“We are providing a voice to those who have been ignored by our media or silenced by special interests,” Trump said.
The president also took a strong step toward controversial changes in education, saying he was calling on members of both parties “to pass an education bill that funds school choice for disadvantaged youth,” saying that those families “should be free to choose the public, private, charter, magnet, religious or home school that is right for them.”
That voucher plan is likely to be a hard sell to Senate Democrats who voted unanimously against confirming Trump Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, arguing that she was too likely to push for more support for charter schools.
The president left plenty of questions unanswered. He talked about the need for fair trade, saying that he was “not going to let America and its great companies and workers be taken advantage of anymore” by countries putting high costs on American imports. But he didn’t say what that retaliation would be.
He again promised to cut taxes for companies and provide massive tax relief for the middle class, but provided no details.
But it was a far more upbeat speech than Trump usually gives, a step into the light from the dark vision of a dying America in his inaugural address. Much of his address mimicked his campaign rhetoric, but with less heat — he even managed to use his slogan “Make American Great Again” only once, early in his address.
On Tuesday, he looked to the future, a time when he said his policies will lead to a new and better America.
“We just need the courage to share the dreams that fill our hearts,” he said. “The bravery to express the hopes that stir our souls. And the confidence to turn those hopes and dreams into action.”
The address wasn’t a State of the Union speech, although anyone watching the pomp and ceremonies could be forgiven for the mistake. Officially, it was Trump’s “address to a joint session” of Congress since by tradition a president’s first “State of the Union” doesn’t take place until he’s been in office for a year.
But with almost all 535 members of Congress jammed into the House chambers, along with Cabinet members, Supreme Court justices, military leaders, the presidential staff, guests and dignitaries, the difference was more semantics than reality. And everyone there, along with the millions watching on television, was waiting to hear Trump’s speech laying out his plans for the future, just as presidents before him have done.
Trump already has made it clear what he thinks of the “state of the union,” arguing that he “inherited a mess,” from President Obama and repeating details of the country’s woes in his speech.
- Andrew McCarthy: Trump impeachment inquiry's sneaky next chapter – Get ready for THIS
- Coyotes trumped by Kings in series opener
- Richards making case to stick
- All the Worst White People Love Dave Chappelle's
- How remain failed: the inside story of a doomed campaign
- The best TV of 2018 so far
- Lawyers argue over Pettitte testimony
- Prosecution’s case weakened vs. Rocket
- Column: Clemens has to like chances so far
- Congressman: NFLPA blocks progress
- Gala opens London’s Paralympics
- After spat, Brazil and FIFA try to get to work
- Golf’s magic number doesn’t seem so magical
- Contador officially claims Tour title
- These NBA playoffs are kid’s play
- Vikings depending on youth in rebuilt roster
- Rogue Platoon Investigation; Neck-and-Neck Race in Nevada; CNN Hero Guadalupe Arizpe De La Vegal;
- Pacquiao dabbling in US politics, too
- Writing on the wall for Blatter?
- 4 campaign for Asia’s top job ahead of May 2 vote
Trump sticks to his themes and expects Congress to go along have 1330 words, post on www.sfchronicle.com at March 1, 2017. This is cached page on Talk Vietnam. If you want remove this page, please contact us.