President Trump is planning to outline an ambitious first-year agenda tackling everything from immigration to infrastructure when he delivers his first address to a Joint Session of Congress Tuesday night, the White House said.
The White House detailed Trump’s highly anticipated address on Monday, outlining what will be the president’s biggest speech since his inauguration. Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Trump will push a “bold agenda,” while another White House official described it as an “optimistic” look toward the next four years.
For the new president, whose opening month has been marked by rapid-fire executive actions but also a string of controversies, the primetime televised address is a critical chance to reframe some of the more contentious aspects of his young presidency – and reinforce campaign pledges that have yet to kick into action, like repealing and replacing ObamaCare.
Spicer said the goals outlined in Tuesday’s speech will also strike a balance on the challenges ahead, while reflecting a more optimistic, forward-looking tone that focuses on the “American spirit.”
Such a tone would strike a contrast with Trump’s inauguration address, marked by gloomy warnings about the country’s economic decay and rampant crime which he vowed to fix. The official said the same team of speechwriters who worked on the inaugural speech were working with Trump on Tuesday’s address.
Spicer also said the president would highlight “public safety, including defense, increased border security, taking care of our veterans, and then economic opportunity, including education and job training, health care reform, jobs, taxes and regulatory reform.”
Trump is also expected to reach out to Americans “living in the poorest and most vulnerable communities, and let them know that help is on the way,” Spicer said.
Trump’s young administration has seen its share of growing pains.
The president has faced sustained resistance from Democrats, over everything from his Cabinet picks to his border security plans. But other issues have drawn bipartisan criticism from some corners: late-night tweets; the rocky rollout of the controversial suspension of refugee and other admissions (actions on hold by the courts and currently being rewritten); the forced resignation of national security adviser Michael Flynn following reports of contacts between him and a Russian diplomat; White House leaks driven by infighting; and strained relationships with China, Mexico and Australia.
Trump has an opportunity Tuesday to refocus on his policy priorities.
“This will be an opportunity for the people and their representatives to hear directly from our new president about his vision and our shared agenda,” House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said.
The White House official said much of the speech would be derived from so-called “listening sessions” Trump has held over the last several weeks with a number of interest groups, including law enforcement officials and union leaders.
On Monday, Trump laid much of the groundwork for Tuesday’s speech, as he met with governors and health insurance CEOs in large part to discuss plans to replace ObamaCare.
The Obama legacy legislation has been a GOP target for many years. On the campaign trail, Trump repeatedly promised to repeal and replace it during his first 100 days in office. He went so far as to claim in the last few weeks of the general election that he would consider calling a special session of Congress to repeal it – something that has not happened.
Governors visiting Washington, D.C., over the weekend and on Monday voiced concern about the future of Medicaid and its related costs, but Trump insisted that the current insurance market is going to “absolutely implode” and something must be done.
The president also announced a “historic” $54 billion increase in defense spending, alongside cuts to almost every other federal agency as part of his forthcoming budget plan. “This budget will be a public safety and national security budget,” Trump said.
He added that he wanted to better prepare the military not only to prevent wars but also win them when called to fight.
During a meeting with governors at the White House on Monday, Trump also teased a “big statement” on infrastructure. He told the governors he plans to boost spending to rebuild the nation’s roads and bridges.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., asked what he wanted to hear from Trump on Tuesday, told a Chamber of Commerce crowd in Kentucky last week: “A tweet-free, optimistic and uplifting message about where America needs to go.”
Already, the Democratic leadership has issued a pre-buttal and called out Trump for being “a lot of bluster and blame.”
“The first month of a Trump presidency is less of a bang and more of a whimper,” Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said. “Not much impact.”
Schumer predicted Trump’s speech “will mean nothing if this president continues to do as he’s done these first few weeks – breaking promises to working people, and putting an even greater burden on their backs while making it even easier to be wealthy and well connected in America.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi also needled the White House, saying it had failed to deliver on its promise to create jobs.
“He has created a lot of jobs,” Spicer countered Monday at the daily press briefing. “I think that he is continuing to work with Congress on both repealing and replacing ObamaCare, tax reform and fundamentally both of those two items alone I think can help spur a lot of growth.”
While the traditions of Congress typically dictate an atmosphere of cordiality, there have been moments of outburst over the years that have hyped up the drama.
In 2009, Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., blurted out “You lie!” during then-President Barack Obama’s address. The remark was viewed widely by both parties as disrespectful.
Michael Waldman, chief speechwriter for former President Bill Clinton, told The Associated Press that Trump could easily “blow up a speech” with just a few deviations from the text on his teleprompter.
Waldman added that opposition from Democrats could also throw Trump off his game.
Following Trump’s speech, former Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear will deliver the Democratic response.