Asking for a “renewal of the American spirit,” President Donald Trump laid out the basics of his agenda in his first speech to Congress, calling on lawmakers to work together to improve America’s future, urging them to cooperate on an overhaul of the Obama health law, leaning on them to funnel billions more to the Pentagon, and to find ways to spur new economic growth and jobs.
“I am here tonight to deliver a message of unity and strength, and it is a message deeply delivered from my heart,” the President said, as he urged bipartisan cooperation to improve America’s fortunes.
“The time for small thinking is over,” Mr. Trump said. “The time for trivial fights is behind us.”
In a calm, presidential tone, Mr. Trump gave somewhat skittish Republicans five general guidelines for a health care reform plan:
With Democrats dead set against his effort, the President still made a call for cooperation.
“Why not join forces to finally get the job done and get it done right?” Mr. Trump said.
In his address to a Joint Session of Congress, the President ticked off familiar campaign themes and issues, avoiding extensive details on what he wants the Congress to do when it comes to major tax reforms, or how specifically to pay for a $1 trillion infrastructure package.
“This effort will be guided by two core principles: Buy American, and Hire American,” the President said of building news roads and bridges.
Certainly, the most powerful moment of the President’s speech came when he saluted the widow of Navy SEAL Ryan Owens, who died in a recent U.S. military raid in Yemen – one that has prompted criticism of the President.
“Ryan’s legacy is etched into eternity,” Mr. Trump said, as lawmakers gave Carryn Owens an almost two minute standing ovation.
Tears streamed down the face of Mrs. Owens, who sat in the galleries next to Ivanka Trump, the President’s daughter.
“Ryan died as he lived: a warrior, and a hero — battling against terrorism and securing our nation,” the President said.
The reaction broke along party lines, as Republicans were thrilled with the message, while Democrats grumbled and gritted their teeth.
“It was an outstanding speech, I give him an A-plus,” said Rep. Jody Hice (R-GA).
“The President has come with a bold agenda, and he’s turned to Congress and told us to get the work done,” said Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH).
“I think there is a lot riding on us over the next two, three months,” said Rep. Dan Webster (R-FL), as he said fixing the Obama health law “will be hard.”
“I expected it to be good – it exceeded my expectations,” said Rep. Steve Russell (R-OK).
The reaction of the instant polls were very good news for the White House; CNN showed Mr. Trump gaining an overwhelmingly positive response.
Democrats, meanwhile, seemed like they had attended a different speech.
“No President in my lifetime has done more to divide us,” Rep. Val Demings (D-FL) said of Mr. Trump, as she scoffed at his call for bipartisan cooperation.
“It’s time to leave the rhetoric alone from the campaign and talk about specifics,” said Rep. Al Lawson (D-FL).
“He gave a campaign speech,” said Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA). “He wasn’t reaching out to Democrats.”
“He made a lot of promises, a lot of grandiose statements,” said Rep. Mike Doyle (D-PA).
The bottom line seemed to be clear as the President headed back to the White House – Advantage Trump – at least for today.