President Trump declared Tuesday that a “new chapter of American greatness is now beginning” as he made economic revival the centerpiece of his first address to Congress – issuing a clarion call to “restart the engine of the American economy” through tax cuts, better trade deals, immigration enforcement and a $1 trillion infrastructure program.
He also called on Congress to replace what he called the “imploding ObamaCare disaster,” with legislation that lowers costs and expands access.
The president, speaking before a joint session of Congress, offered an upbeat vision for the future of the country that stood in sharp contrast to his at-times gloomy inauguration address.
“A new chapter of American Greatness is now beginning. A new national pride is sweeping across our Nation,” he said. “And a new surge of optimism is placing impossible dreams firmly within our grasp.”
He described his address as a “message of unity and strength.”
He went on to tout early-administration accomplishments while laying out an ambitious agenda for the months and years ahead.
As he did during the presidential campaign, he pushed a nationalist message and made big promises for what will happen when America puts its citizens first: “Dying industries will come roaring back to life. … Crumbling infrastructure will be replaced with new roads, bridges, tunnels, airports and railways gleaming across our very, very beautiful land. … Above all else, we will keep our promises to the American people.”
In calling to “restart” the American jobs engine, Trump said the U.S. must make it “easier for companies to do business in the United States, and much, much harder for companies to leave our country.”
As part of these changes, Trump spoke to a key campaign promise that has yet to be realized – tax reform.
He said his 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.” He vowed a “big, big cut” including “massive tax relief for the middle class.”
His first official status report to Congress comes amid a fast-paced opening volley of activity at the start of his term: a slew of executive actions, a forthcoming budget proposal and various side-deals with American companies aimed at creating jobs. Trump is eager to highlight those accomplishments, but also faces early challenges: an order suspending refugee and other admissions on hold by the courts, questions about his team’s contacts with Russia and a Congress that has yet to move legislation on key priorities.
The biggest task ahead is Republicans’ drive to repeal and replace ObamaCare.
As Trump appealed for a comprehensive package, some in the party already were divided over the plans being privately discussed at the Capitol
House Speaker Paul Ryan played down divisions ahead of Tuesday’s speech. “This is a plan that we are all working on together,” he told reporters. “There aren’t rival plans here. … We’re going to be unified on this.”
But Ryan, at a separate briefing, voiced some concerns about Trump’s approach to the federal budget – a day after White House officials previewed a plan to boost military spending by $54 billion, cut other agency budgets by the same amount and leave entitlements like Medicare untouched.
“There is an open question on long-term entitlement reform,” Ryan said.
Trump, more broadly, has a chance with Tuesday night’s speech to refocus attention in Washington away from various skirmishes and controversies and toward core campaign goals of jobs and security.
Speaking earlier with “Fox & Friends,” Trump took some of the blame for the negative reaction over separate executive orders on border security and deportations. He suggested the bid to remove criminal illegal immigrants hadn’t been communicated properly and gave himself a grade of “C” or “C-plus” on messaging.
He clarified that he would give himself an “A” for achievement and “A-plus” for effort.