WASHINGTON — President Trump is expected to call for more bipartisan cooperation in his State of the Union address Tuesday night as he stands before a Congress bitterly divided over his demand for border-wall funding that resulted in a 35-day partial government shutdown.
The nationally televised 9 p.m. address in the House chamber – which was delayed a week after Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., withdrew an initial invitation during the shutdown – will offer Trump a chance to showcase his immigration proposals. But aides say he will also highlight areas where he hopes to forge consensus, including around infrastructure projects and cutting the cost of prescription drugs.
Stacey Abrams, the Democratic gubernatorial candidate in Georgia last year, is set to give her party’s response.
Posturing over Trump’s speech – and what it means for him at this point in his presidency – began long before his scheduled trip to Capitol Hill.
On Monday, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., had taken aim at the speech from the Senate floor.
“The president will say – predictably – that the state of our union is strong,” Schumer said. “But the truth is, the state of the Trump economy is failing America’s middle class, the state of the Trump health-care system is failing American families, and the state of the Trump administration is embroiled in chaos and incompetence. The state of the president’s foreign policy is incoherent, inconsistent, cynical in the extreme, and has undermined American power and our national interest. So in sum, the state of our union is in need of drastic repair.”
That prompted a tweet from Trump noting his remarks and needling Schumer for Democratic losses in last year’s Senate elections.
“I see Schumer is already criticizing my State of the Union speech, even though he hasn’t seen it yet. He’s just upset that he didn’t win the Senate, after spending a fortune, like he thought he would. Too bad we weren’t given more credit for the Senate win by the media!,” Trump tweeted.
About an hour later, Schumer fired back at Trump about an hour after the president criticized him for panning a speech that had yet to be delivered.
“Thanks for watching my speech,” Schumer wrote, “but you must have missed this line: ‘Even more empty than his policy promises are President Trump’s calls each year for unity.’ ”
Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., took to the Senate floor in advance of Trump’s speech and said the nation has made real progress under Trump despite “Beltway melodrama.”
“From historic tax reform and regulatory reform, to huge progress in the fight against ISIS, to landmark progress in the nationwide fight against opioid addiction, the story of the last two years has been one of immense policy progress for our nation,” McConnell said, using a different term for the Islamic State. “The American people are less interested in Beltway melodrama and more interested in that classic question – ‘Am I better off than I was two years ago?’ And on this front – thanks to a few key Republican victories and a number of major bipartisan accomplishments, the State of our Union is strong and growing stronger.”
Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., who is seeking the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, announced that she would deliver remarks before Trump speaks.
“In her remarks, Senator Harris will push back on the President’s expected message of division, highlight the importance of speaking truth, and outline her vision for a country that works for all its people,” an advisory said.
Harris is scheduled to speak on Facebook Live at 7:45 p.m.
In addition, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., plans to deliver a live-streamed response to Trump on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter after the president’s remarks.
Also Tuesday, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., who’s become a favorite among liberals since her debut on Capitol Hill last month, seemed to suggest in a morning tweet that Trump’s speech isn’t worth watching.
Ocasio-Cortez posted a CNN news report with this headline: “State of the Union 2019: What to watch.”
Her response: “None of it.”
As he prepared to deliver his State of the Union address, Trump’s first tweet Tuesday was to warn of migrants making their way to the U.S. border.
“Tremendous numbers of people are coming up through Mexico in the hopes of flooding our Southern Border,” Trump wrote. “We have sent additional military. We will build a Human Wall if necessary. If we had a real Wall, this would be a nonevent!”
Trump is expected to use his address to make his case for $5.7 billion in border wall funding that led to a protracted partial government shutdown.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders cited infrastructure as an issue on which Trump wants to work with Democrats in the wake of his State of the Union address.
“There are a number of policies that Democrats and Republicans know need to be addressed,” Sanders said during an appearance on CNN. “I think infrastructure is one of the easiest ones for us to look at. Everybody in this country knows that we have crumbling bridges and roads that need to be fixed. We also need to have a technology infrastructure that needs to get better. … We’re hopeful that we can come together and can get something done.”
Trump, a Republican who campaigned on addressing the nation’s aging infrastructure, unveiled a long-awaited plan last February that received a cool reception from members of both parties, who said the president had not presented a viable way to pay for it.
The plan focused on $1.5 trillion in new spending on infrastructure over the coming decade but relied heavily on states, localities and the private sector to cover the costs of new roads, bridges, waterways and other public works projects.
A plan released earlier by Senate Democrats would have relied far more heavily on direct federal government spending than Trump’s plan, which included $200 billion in federal spending with the aim of enticing several times that amount from other levels of government.
During a letter to Democratic colleagues on Monday night, Pelosi also cited infrastructure as a possible issue on which her party could work with Trump.
“Tomorrow, we look forward to welcoming President Trump as a guest in our House Chamber and hearing his report on the State of the Union,” she wrote. “I am hopeful that tomorrow, we will hear a commitment from the President on issues that have bipartisan support in the Congress and the Country, such as lowering the price of prescription drugs and rebuilding America’s infrastructure.”
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