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After Trump's Speech, Members of Congress Say Work Lies Ahead


Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., acknowledges President Donald Trump's introduction during the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, Jan. 30, 2018.

Members of Congress reacted to U.S. President Donald Trump's State of the Union speech, with some praising its bipartisan tone and others wishing he had used the national address to more specifically discuss some of the issues facing the nation.

Republican Rep. Ryan Costello called it a positive speech that highlighted domestic priorities such as infrastructure and immigration, and said Congress needs to use the coming weeks and months to fill out Trump's broad proposals with more detail.

"He also, I think, was very clear in terms of what we need to do to provide leadership around the globe, to support our allies, to encourage those dissenting voices against autocratic regimes around the [world]. I thought it was very good," Costello said.

Members of President Donald Trump's Cabinet applaud him as he delivers his State of the Union address to a joint session of the U.S. Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, Jan. 30, 2018.
Members of President Donald Trump's Cabinet applaud him as he delivers his State of the Union address to a joint session of the U.S. Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, Jan. 30, 2018.

Democratic Sen. Chris Coons said he was hoping Trump would present a bipartisan message with concrete details about improving infrastructure, advancing American interests across the world and confronting North Korea, and that in some cases he delivered while on others he made little reference.

"We have an opioid addiction crisis here in the United States that is taking tens of thousands of lives. I had hoped that would be something more concretely addressed earlier in the speech with measure about how we could work together, because it is truly unifying, there is no one in congress who doesn't need and want to address this together," Coons said.

Republican Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick said he thought Trump did succeed in striking a bipartisan tone.

"He talked about paid medical leave, infrastructure, he talked about opioids. These are all bipartisan issues," Fitzpatrick said.

Democratic Rep. Ted Lieu told VOA's Russian service that Trump hit high points in his speech with proposals for paid family leave, prison reform and $1.5 trillion in infrastructure spending, while disappointing with an "un-American" call to limit family-based immigration.

"I’m pleased his State of the Union speech was less dark than his inaugural speech," Lieu said. "I’m pleased he has taken a different path than when he was first inaugurated. Hopefully he sticks to it."

First lady Melania Trump arrives before the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, Jan. 30, 2018.
First lady Melania Trump arrives before the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, Jan. 30, 2018.

US immigration laws

Immigration has been a major topic of late for lawmakers, with a failure to reach an agreement on undocumented immigrants who came to the country as children and a budget battle combining to bring a brief shutdown of the government.

Trump has advocated a much stricter system that includes boosting border security with a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border and restricting the overall number of people who are allowed into the country.

Democratic Rep. Lou Correa was among those unhappy with a four-point immigration reform plan Trump discussed in his speech along with a highlight on gang violence the president blamed on faulty existing immigration policy.

"For many of us, building a wall is a symbol of division, of negativity, and that's what he wants," Correa said. "I think what we're forgetting is this country is a country of immigrants. Whether you're documented or not, you work really hard to enrich this country. And somehow that message, I never heard it."

Democratic Rep. Joaquin Castro also took exception to what he described as Trump's equation of immigrants with criminals.

"I think people understand that there’s bad people in every batch, but they don’t do it, because they’re immigrants. If somebody is a murderer, it’s not because they’re white or black or brown, it’s because that person is a bad person. And he has continued to make that link, which is unfortunate," Castro said.

Costello expressed support for Trump's four-part plan, which also includes a path to citizenship for the young undocumented immigrants and moving away from the visa lottery system to one that is more merit-based.

Several groups of lawmakers have put forth their own immigration reform plans that include some of the same priorities, but so far none has emerged with enough consensus to become law.

Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, speaks at a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Jan. 19, 2018. Castro and others spoke in support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA).
Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, speaks at a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Jan. 19, 2018. Castro and others spoke in support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA).

​Fitzpatrick said a proposed measure he supports "strikes a right balance between border security and immigration reform."

Democratic Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi said Trump did not put forth a package that balances Republican and Democratic priorities on immigration.

"The harsh rhetoric combined with that particular proposal, I don’t think it’s gonna move the ball," Krishnamoorthi said. "I think we gotta get to the bargaining table and actually work together hash out a compromise."

Democratic Rep. Eric Swalwell said if Trump is serious about reaching out to both parties on immigration, "he should invite Democrats and Republicans to the White House tomorrow" to work on those policies.

Trump also used part of his speech to say he would not repeat mistakes of past administrations regarding North Korea and would keep up strong pressure on the country that has been making advances in ballistic missile technology.

Republican Rep. Steve Chabot said North Korea is a top foreign policy challenge facing the United States, and that it can not be ignored.

"We’re at the times that we were warned about," Chabot said. "So I think that president, when he talked about North Korea tonight, set the right tone and it’s a serious, serious problem."

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