President Donald Trump’s gave his second State of the Union address, Tuesday, after it had been delayed from January due to the historic 35-day government shutdown.
Trump called for unity across party lines and he outlined the accomplishments of his administration in the past year, as well as laying out a plan for what he hopes to accomplish before the 2020 election.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi took her place behind Trump alongside Vice President Mike Pence. Pelosi, like all the female Democrats, wore white as a nod to the Suffragette movement.
One the main focuses of the night was the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Europe in World War II. Three soldiers who served on D-Day were guests of the president and First Lady, Melania Trump.
The president also recognized the 50th anniversary of the moon landing and said, “In the 20th century, American saved freedom, transformed science, redefined the middle class, and when you get down to it, there’s nothing anywhere in the world that can compete with America.”
Trump moved on to his hopes for the rest of this century, namely strengthening the middle class, making communities safer, and deepening the faith and culture of America.
The president talked about “bridging old divisions” and avoiding political stalemates. However, the longest political stalemate in American history ended only a week ago, and another shutdown is looming.
Trump moved on to the economy and stated that his administration had created 5.3 million new jobs. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that only 4.9 million jobs have been added since Trump took office.
The president said that 5 million Americans are no longer on food stamps, but the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program shows that only 3.5 million Americans are no longer on food stamps.
Unemployment rates were also mentioned, with the president saying that African American, Hispanic American and Asian American unemployment is at the lowest levels that have been recorded.
Trump briefly mentioned the Republican tax cut, as well as the elimination of the individual mandate of “Obamacare,” which has yet to be repealed. He also talked about cutting regulations on businesses, stating that his “administration has cut more regulations in a short period of time than any other administration during its entire tenure.” However, former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan both surpass the current president in regulatory rollbacks.
Special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe was a hot button issue of the night. Trump called it a “ridiculous partisan investigation.” He said that there could not be complete bipartisanship in the legislature as long as there was an investigation happening.
Trump talked about the criminal justice overhaul that gained bipartisan support in Congress and mentioned another special guest of the evening, Alice Johnson, whose sentence was commuted in June after the president met with Kim Kardashian West.
Matthew Charles from Tennessee was also in attendance. He was sentenced to 35 years in prison for selling cocaine, was released and then sent back due to a court error — he has been released once again under the First Step Act.
The biggest topic of the night — and the last two years — was immigration. Trump said that, “Republicans and Democrats must join forces again to confront an urgent national crisis.” There are eight days left for Congress to come to an agreement on the wall to avoid another government shutdown.
Trump noted that increased illegal immigration has led to higher crime rates.
Trump invited families of people who have been killed by illegal immigrants to assert the necessity of the border wall. Trump maintained his views on stricter border control and when Republicans stood up, Democrats stayed seated.
The House chamber shouted, “USA, USA, USA,” multiple times during the evening — arguably the most when Trump noted that more women are serving in Congress than ever before. It was one of the few moments of visible bipartisanship. The high number of white-suited Democratic women applauded his remark. Trump said that his administration is dedicated to women’s economic success and touted new family leave policies.
Trump talked about the ongoing trade war with China and the need for new infrastructure, as well as the need to lower the cost of healthcare and prescription drugs. Trump said that he wanted to eradicate HIV/AIDS in America and throughout the world. He also said that his administration would also seek to end childhood cancer.
One of the most controversial points of the evening came when the president mentioned the recent late-term abortion legislation passed in New York. Trump said that the legislation allowed “a baby to be ripped from the mother’s womb moments from birth,” but this is misleading. The legislation allows later-term abortion when either the fetus is no longer viable, or when the mother’s health is gravely at risk.
Trump talked about the importance of military funding and the ongoing negotiations with North Korea. Trump and Kim Jong-un will meet Feb. 27-28 in Vietnam.
Trump denounced socialism while pledging his support for the Venezuelan interim president, Juan Guaido. Trump talked about American troops in the Middle East and the fight against ISIS.
Two of the Trump’s guests of the evening were Holocaust survivors, Judah Samet, who also survived the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh last year, and Joshua Kaufman who was liberated from the Dachau concentration camp by American soldiers. In a State of the Union first, the chamber sang “Happy Birthday” to Samet, who turned 81.
Trump closed his speech — the third longest SOTU at one hour and 25 minutes — by saying, “We must keep America first in our hearts. We must keep freedom alive in our souls… God bless you, and God bless America.”
Former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams gave the Democratic rebuttal.
Abrams never mentioned Trump by name but lambasted the decisions of the current administration, especially the separation of families at the border. She stated, “Compassionate treatment at the border is not the same as open borders.”
She talked about the dangers of voter suppression and called for ballot fairness. Abrams is the first black woman to give the rebuttal and talked about economic equality and security. She also said that Americans are resilient and she will do her part to keep the promises that the Democrats have made.
Story by Olivia Malick, UP managing editor