“The time for small thinking is over,” said President Trump as he outlined his plan for America in a speech on “the renewal of the American spirit” before a joint session of Congress Tuesday evening.
Trump discussed his plans for tax reform, Obamacare, defense spending, border security and immigration enforcement, education, the economy, rebuilding America’s infrastructure and other topics.
“I am here tonight to deliver a message of unity and strength, and it is a message deeply delivered from my heart,” Trump said.
“A new chapter of American greatness is now beginning. A new national pride is sweeping across our nation. And a new surge of optimism is placing impossible dreams firmly within our grasp. What we are witnessing today is the renewal of the American spirit. Our allies will find that America is once again ready to lead,” Trump said to applause.
America has watched its middle class shrink, Trump said, while it has exported its jobs and wealth to foreign countries. It has financed and built global projects while ignoring the fates of its children in inner cities in places such as Chicago, Baltimore and Detroit. America has defended borders of other nations while leaving its own borders wide open “for anyone to cross – and for drugs to pour in at a now unprecedented rate,” he said. Trump noted that America has spent trillions of dollars overseas, while the U.S. infrastructure at home has badly crumbled.
But Americans made their voices heard on Election Day, the president said.
“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, because only then, can we truly Make America Great Again.”
Watch President Trump’s entire speech to a joint session of Congress:
And what does that great America look like?
Trump gave his audience a glimpse of his vision:
Dying industries will come roaring back to life.
Heroic veterans will get the care they so desperately need.
Our military will be given the resources its brave warriors so richly deserve.
Crumbling infrastructure will be replaced with new roads, bridges, tunnels, airports and railways gleaming across our beautiful land.
Our terrible drug epidemic will slow down and ultimately, stop.
And our neglected inner cities will see a rebirth of hope, safety, and opportunity.
Above all else, we will keep our promises to the American people.
He continued with a description of his American vision near the end of his address:
Cures to illnesses that have always plagued us are not too much to hope.
American footprints on distant worlds are not too big a dream.
Millions lifted from welfare to work is not too much to expect.
And streets where mothers are safe from fear – schools where children learn in peace – and jobs where Americans prosper and grow – are not too much to ask.
When we have all of this, we will have made America greater than ever before. For all Americans.
This is our vision. This is our mission. But we can only get there together. We are one people, with one destiny.
We all bleed the same blood. We all salute the same flag. And we are all made by the same God.
And when we fulfill this vision; when we celebrate our 250 years of glorious freedom, we will look back on tonight as when this new chapter of American greatness began.
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. The bravery to express the hopes that stir our souls. And the confidence to turn those hopes and dreams to action. From now on, America will be empowered by our aspirations, not burdened by our fears. Inspired by the future, not bound by the failures of the past. And guided by our vision, not blinded by our doubts.
I am asking all citizens to embrace this renewal of the American Spirit.
Since his election, Trump noted, many major companies have announced their intentions to invest billions of dollars in the U.S. and create more jobs, including Ford, Fiat-Chrysler, General Motors, Sprint, Softbank, Lockheed, Intel and Walmart.
He said the stock market has soared by more than $3 trillion in value since Election Day. Trump said he’s saved taxpayers billions of dollars on federal contracts.
Trump promised to raise wages, help the unemployed, save billions of dollars and make America’s communities safer – all by enforcing U.S. immigration laws:
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 to our borders.
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.
As we speak, we are removing gang members, drug dealers and criminals that threaten our communities and prey on our citizens. Bad ones are going out as I speak tonight and as I have promised.
To any in Congress who do not believe we should enforce our laws, 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?
Just 40 days after taking office, Trump has issued sweeping immigration orders and withdrawn the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership. He has met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The president nominated Judge Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Trump signed legislation undoing coal-mining regulations and rolling back part of the Dodd-Frank financial regulations. He issued executive orders directing federal agencies to set up task forces and eliminate red tape, creating DOJ task forces to combat crime and cartels and requiring agencies to abolish two regulations for every new one they introduce.
Trump also signed executive orders to restructure the National Security Council and Homeland Security Council and to extend bans on ex-administration officials working as lobbyists to five years. In yet another order, he imposed a 120-day suspension of the refugee program and a 90-day ban on travel to the U.S. by citizens of Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Somalia and Sudan.
Trump signed orders calling for construction of a U.S.-Mexico border wall, slashing funding to sanctuary cities, hiring thousands more border and immigration agents, toughening immigration enforcement and reinstating federal-local immigration partnerships. The president ordered reconsideration of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines and dismantled Obama’s EPA water rule. He issued executive orders imposing a federal hiring freeze and reinstating the ban on federal funding for abortion services in other countries.
Protecting Americans from terrorists
President Trump said his administration is taking strong measures to protect America from radical Islamic terrorism.
He cited new data from the Department of Justice showing a majority of individuals convicted of terrorism-related offenses since Sept. 11, 2001, came to the U.S. from other nations.
“We have seen the attacks at home – from Boston to San Bernardino to the Pentagon and, yes, even the World Trade Center,” Trump said. “We have seen the attacks in France, in Belgium, in Germany and all over the world.”
Trump said it is “reckless” and not “compassionate” to allow uncontrolled entry of unvetted individuals into America.
“Those given the high honor of admission to the United States should support this country and love its people and its values,” he said. “We cannot allow a beachhead of terrorism to form inside America – we cannot allow our nation to become a sanctuary for extremists. That is why my administration has been working on improved vetting procedures, and we will shortly take new steps to keep our nation safe – and to keep out those who would do us harm.”
Trump also said he directed the Department of Defense to develop a plan to destroy ISIS, which he called “a network of lawless savages that have slaughtered Muslims and Christians, and men, women and children of all faiths and beliefs.
He continued: “We will work with our allies, including our friends and allies in the Muslim world, to extinguish this vile enemy from our planet. I have also imposed new sanctions on entities and individuals who support Iran’s ballistic missile program, and reaffirmed our unbreakable alliance with the state of Israel.”
Economy: ‘Tap into the American spirit’
Trump cited some alarming statistics concerning the state of the U.S. economy, including the following:
- 94 million Americans are out of the labor force.
- More than 43 million people are now living in poverty, and more than 43 million Americans are on food stamps.
- More than one in five people in their prime working years are not working.
- America is having “the worst financial recovery” in 65 years.
- In the last eight years, the Obama administration acquired more new debt than nearly all other presidents combined.
- America has lost more than one-fourth of its manufacturing jobs since NAFTA was approved, and it’s lost 60,000 factories since China joined the World Trade Organization in 2001.
- America’s trade deficit in goods with the world last year was nearly $800 billion.
- And overseas, he said, America has “inherited a series of tragic foreign policy disasters.”
“Solving these, and so many other pressing problems, will require us to work past the differences of party,” Trump said. “It will require us to tap into the American spirit that has overcome every challenge throughout our long and storied history.”
America must restart the engine of its economy, he explained, and make it much easier for companies to do business in the U.S. and more difficult for them to leave.
“Right now, American companies are taxed at one of the highest rates anywhere in the world. My economic team is developing historic tax reform that will reduce the tax rate on our companies so they can compete and thrive anywhere and with anyone,” Trump said. “At the same time, we will provide massive tax relief for the middle class. We must create a level playing field for American companies and workers.”
5 principles: Repeal and replace Obamacare
Trump called on Congress to repeal and replace Obamacare “with reforms that expand choice, increase access, lower costs and, at the same time, provide better health care.”
“Mandating every American to buy government-approved health insurance was never the right solution for America,” Trump said. “The way to make health insurance available to everyone is to lower the cost of health insurance, and that is what we will do.”
He noted that Obamacare premiums have soared by “double and triple digits,” and that one-third of counties have just one insurer on the exchange, leaving many Americans with few or no choices.
“Remember when you were told that you could keep your doctor, and keep your plan?” Trump asked. “We now know that all of those promises have been broken. Obamacare is collapsing – and we must act decisively to protect all Americans. Action is not a choice; it is a necessity. So I am calling on all Democrats and Republicans in Congress to work with us to save Americans from this imploding Obamacare disaster.”
Trump outlined five principles that must guide Congress as it works to create a better health-care system for Americans:
- Ensure that Americans with pre-existing conditions have access to coverage, and that there is a stable transition for Americans currently enrolled in the health-care exchanges.
- Help Americans purchase their own coverage, through the use of tax credits and expanded Health Savings Accounts, but, he said, “it must be the plan they want, not the plan forced on them by the government.”
- Give state governors the resources and flexibility they need with Medicaid to make sure no one is left out.
- Implement legal reforms that protect patients and doctors from unnecessary costs that drive up the price of insurance – and work to bring down the artificially high price of drugs and bring them down immediately.
- Give Americans the freedom to purchase health insurance across state lines, creating a competitive national marketplace that will bring costs down and provide better care.
The fate of Obamacare has never been less certain, even with Republicans in control of Congress and the White House. Whether Republicans will outright repeal Obamacare has become increasingly in doubt, as House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., told the “Today” show’s Matt Lauer Tuesday that “Obamacare is collapsing” and the GOP is on a “rescue mission.”
“Obamacare is collapsing. … [Democrats] gave us a system where the government runs health care. They gave us a system where costs went up, not down. They have us a system where choices went away. They gave us a system where people lost the health care plans that they liked that they chose. That violated all the promises that were made, that were given when Obamacare was sold to the American people. Those promises were violated. And now we have a collapsing marketplace. We really believe we’re on a rescue mission here to step in and prevent this collapse from occurring.”
In fact, a top Republican, Majority Whip Steve Scalise, said the GOP’s Obamacare replacement plan is “no longer a viable draft that we’re working off of.”
Boosting defense spending
On Tuesday evening, Trump said, “[T]o 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 – to fight and win.”
He continued: “I am sending Congress a budget that rebuilds the military, eliminates the defense sequester, and calls for one of the largest increases in national defense spending in American history. My budget will also increase funding for our veterans. Our veterans have delivered for this nation – and now we must deliver for them.
“The challenges we face as a nation are great. But our people are even greater. And none are greater or braver than those who fight for America in uniform.”
Trump has proposed a $54 billion boost in spending in defense spending, mostly aimed at shoring up the military, U.S. Border Patrol and law enforcement. He also called for cuts to discretionary spending, foreign aid and non-security agencies like the Environmental Defense Agency.
On Monday, Trump told the National Governor’s Association that his budget “follows through on my promise of keeping America safe, keeping out terrorists, keeping out criminals and putting violent offenders behind bars or removing them from our country altogether.”
Trump told Fox News much of the $54 billion in proposed spending will be offset by cuts and a stronger economy.
“I think the money is going to come from a revved up economy,” Trump said Tuesday. “I mean, you look at the kind of numbers we’re doing, we were probably GDP of a little more than 1 percent and if I can get that up to 3 or maybe more, we have a whole different ball game. It’s a whole different ball game.”
‘Real and positive immigration reform’
Trump addressed the issue of enforcing current immigration laws.
“I am going to bring back millions of jobs,” he said. “Protecting our workers also means reforming our system of legal immigration. The current, outdated system depresses wages for our poorest workers and puts great pressure on taxpayers.”
Nations around the world, like Canada, Australia and many others, have a merit-based immigration system. It is a basic principle that those seeking to enter a country ought to be able to support themselves financially. Yet, in America, we do not enforce this rule, straining the very public resources that our poorest citizens rely upon. According to the National Academy of Sciences, our current immigration system costs America’s taxpayers many billions of dollars a year.
Switching away from this current system of lower-skilled immigration, and instead adopting a merit-based system, will have many benefits: It will save countless dollars, raise workers’ wages, and help struggling families – including immigrant families – enter the middle class.
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.
If we are guided by the well-being of American citizens then I believe Republicans and Democrats can work together to achieve an outcome that has eluded our country for decades.
Reporters at a White House meeting Tuesday said they were told Trump is considering advocating for a comprehensive immigration reform package that might offer a path to citizenship for some illegals. An unnamed senior administration official told CNN Tuesday that Trump would also like to see a compromise immigration bill.
The official said there must be “a softening on both sides. There’s got to be a coming together.”
“It has to be a negotiation,” the official said. “It could be good for everyone. People are exhausted from debating this topic.”
Special guests: Illegal immigrants and families of murdered victims
Several Democrats chose to use the occasion to invite guests such as illegal immigrants, refugees and Muslims as their special guests. Rep. Nydia Velazquez invited Iraqi migrant Hameed Darweesh, who was held at Kennedy Airport when Trump issued his 90-day travel ban that impacted seven countries (Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Iran, Iraq, Yemen and Libya).
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., didn’t give names but said she would bring “a guest who is a DREAMer,” another “who lost her son through gun violence” and a third who “who is a symbol of the freedom of the press, which the president, in his authoritarian manner, is attacking.”
At least half-a-dozen Democrats brought guests who came to the U.S. illegally as children and were shielded from deportation under former President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA. Rep. Ami Bera, D-Calif., brought an illegal immigrant who came to the U.S. from El Salvador. Rep. Mark Pocan invited an illegal immigrant who came to Wisconsin from Mexico in 2005.
Rep. Luis Gutiérrez, D-Ill., invited Fidaa Elaydi, an immigration attorney whose Palestinian parents came to the U.S. from Gaza. Rashid works with mostly Middle-Eastern clientele.
“I want Trump to see the face of a woman, the face of a Muslim, and the face of someone whose family has enriched and contributed to this country despite starting out as refugees,” Gutiérrez told the New York Post. “Trump needs to know that real people are hurt by his policies.”
Meanwhile, President Trump invited the following guests to attend his big speech:
- Jessica Davis and Susan Oliver, two widows of California law-enforcement officers Detective Michael Davis Jr. and Deputy Sheriff Danny Oliver. Davis and Oliver were shot and killed in October 2014 by illegal immigrant Luis Enrique Monroy-Bracamonte, who had been arrested and deported in 1997 and again in 2001.
- Jamiel Shaw Sr., father of Los Angeles high-school football star Jamiel Jr., who was shot and killed by an illegal immigrant in 2008.
- Maureen McCarthy Scalia, widow of the the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who passed away on Feb. 13, 2016.
- Megan Crowley, 20, who was diagnosed with Pompe Disease at 15 years old and wasn’t expected to survive more than a few years. Crowley’s father launched Novazyme Pharmaceuticals and grew Novazyme into a 100-person company.
- Denisha Merriweather, a woman who struggled as a young student and enrolled in the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program. Merriweather later attended a private school and became the first in her family to graduate from high school and college.