WASHINGTON (KDKA/AP) — Heralding a “new chapter of American greatness,” President Donald Trump stood before Congress for the first time Tuesday night and issued a broad call for overhauling the nation’s health care system, significantly boosting military spending and plunging $1 trillion into upgrading crumbling infrastructure.
Striking an optimistic tone, Trump declared: “The time for small thinking is over.”
Trump’s address came at a pivotal moment for a new president elected on pledges to swiftly shake up Washington and follow through on the failed promises of career politicians. His opening weeks in office have been consumed by distractions and self-inflicted wounds, including the bungled rollout of a sweeping immigration and refugee executive order that was blocked by the courts.
Ahead of the signing of a revamped order, Trump said, “It is not compassionate but reckless, to allow uncontrolled entry from places where proper vetting cannot occur.”
Trump sent unexpectedly mixed messages on immigration, one of his signature campaign issues. He pledged to vigorously target people living in the U.S. illegally who “threaten our communities and prey on our citizens.” But he told news anchors before his speech that he was open to legislation that could provide a pathway to legal status, and he told Congress he believed “real and positive immigration reform is possible.”
WATCH THE FULL SPEECH HERE:
WATCH THE DEMOCRATIC RESPONSE:
The president was greeted by enthusiastic applause as he entered the House chamber, though it was filled with Democrats who vigorously oppose his policies and many Republicans who never expected him to be elected. Most Republican lawmakers have rallied around him since the election, hopeful that he will act on the domestic priorities they saw blocked during President Barack Obama’s eight years in office.
Topping that list is undoing Obama’s signature health care law and replacing the sweeping measure. Trump offered a basic blueprint of his priorities, including ensuring that those with pre-existing conditions have access to coverage, allowing people to buy insurance across state lines and offering tax credits and expanded health savings accounts to help Americans purchase coverage.
Lisa Washington’s Report:
He suggested he would get rid of the current law’s requirement that all Americans carry insurance coverage, saying that “mandating every American to buy government-approved health insurance was never the right solution for America.”
Democrats, now firmly ensconced in the minority, sat silently while Republicans cheered and stood for many of Trump’s promises. Some wore blue, pro-health care buttons that read “Protect our care,” and dozens of Democratic women wore white in honor of the suffrage movement.
First lady Melania Trump sat with special guests who were on hand to amplify the president’s agenda, including the widows of two California police officers killed by a man living in the country illegally. The widow of former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia also sat alongside Mrs. Trump, a reminder of the president’s well-received nomination of federal appeals court Judge Neil Gorsuch to fill Scalia’s seat.
Trump was vague in his call for tax reform, another Republican priority. He promised “massive tax relief for the middle class” and a reduction in corporate tax rates, but glossed over how he would offset the cuts.
The president also urged Congress to pass a $1 trillion infrastructure package financed through both public and private capital.
KDKA’s David Highfield has local reaction:
Following the speech, Pennsylvania lawmakers, both Republican and Democrat, weighed in.
Democratic Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania issued a statement that read in part: “In his address tonight, President Trump indicated that one of his first priorities would be cutting taxes for billionaires, millionaires and big corporations at the expense of funding programs that are vital to the middle class. Instead of more tax giveaways for those at the very top, President Trump should prioritize the infrastructure plan that he promised during the campaign and the renegotiation of bad trade deals that stack the decks against workers.”
— Senator Bob Casey (@SenBobCasey) March 1, 2017
Republican Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, also released a statement, saying in part: “None of us will agree with the President all the time. Nevertheless, the country needs lawmakers to resist the call of obstructionism and work with the President, where they can, to tackle the great fiscal, economic, and security challenges of our time.”
— Senator Pat Toomey (@SenToomey) March 1, 2017
Also, Rep. Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania also released a statement, saying in part: “Tonight we heard a proclamation of strength, confidence, and ambition in pursuit of a greater country and better future for every single American.”
— Rep. Mike Kelly (@MikeKellyPA) March 1, 2017
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, also issued a statement, reading in part: “I am ready to work with the President if he wants to help our commonwealth, but when he proposes plans that will harm Pennsylvanians, I will always stand up and put them first.”
— Governor Tom Wolf (@GovernorTomWolf) March 1, 2017
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)