President Donald Trump’s first State of the Union (SOTU) address was met with high praise from Republicans Tuesday evening, but Democrats said they thought his tone on immigration was counterproductive in helping lawmakers strike a bipartisan deal by Congress’ March 5 deadline.
GOP lawmakers lauded the president for highlighting his guests accomplishments — which ranged from a police office who adopted a child whose parents were addicted to opioids to a 12-year-old boy who organized the placement of thousands of flags on the graves of soldiers — telling reporters they thought his remarks were “powerful” and effectively delivered his vision for the country.
“I think it was the best presidential State of the Union speech I have ever heard, and I’m 58 years old,” House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows said, adding he thought the “I think it gives America hope that perhaps if it was a tough day for some that were watching, that this was not necessarily, they didn’t have it perhaps as bad as some of the stories that were told. And it was one of hope they can hopefully identify with someone in the gallery and no doubt believe that the American Dream is alive and well for everybody.”
GOP South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham said he was particularly encouraged by the president’s assertion the administration is committed to taking a hard stance on terror and improving the nation’s homeland security.
“When he said we’re not going to treat terrorists as common criminals anymore, they’re going to be unlawful enemy combatants and we’re going to catch them and we’re going to follow them wherever they go –I’ve been waiting for eight years to hear that,” he told TheDC. “Just basically he put our enemies on notice that America is going to be strong and we’re going to go on the offense.”
House Majority Whip Steve Scalise — whom Trump honored during his speech for overcoming near-fatal injuries after being shot at the GOP’s congressional baseball practice in June — said the president offered a unifying message and presented an opportunity for bipartisanship on a number of key issues.
“President Trump reached out the olive branch many times in tonight’s speech and it’s going to be up to the Democrats to decide that they just want to try to ignore the fact that he was elected to recognize the American people elected him because of things he’s said and he’s carried through on those promises,” he told The Daily Caller. “We ought to celebrate that, and they ought to join in.”
While Democrats said they found the stories of the first family’s SOTU guests moving, many said they would have liked to have seen more policy details in the hour-and-twenty-minute long speech.
“I was really glad to see the various heroes being celebrated, it was very moving to hear their stories. I wanted to hear a little more substance on certain topics like infrastructure which we really need to work together on,”Illinois Democrat Raja Krishnamoorthi told TheDC. “I was also glad that he talked about career technical vocational education — that’s my area passion in this Congress and if he puts them if we can get that passed he can get it signed to law that would be a big big boost for our economy.”
Krishnamoorthi said he felt Trump’s comments his immigration proposal is “somewhere down the middle” was a stretch.
GOP Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona also expressed some disappointment in the president’s rhetoric on immigration, saying that while the speech has “a lot of feel-good moments,” he would have liked to have seen him discuss the accomplishments of Dreamers over linking illegal immigration with gang activity and crime.
“I mean, you know, have a dreamer that is accomplishing good things, has a great job, is getting an education and say we’re going to help these people — that would’ve been nice and something like that was it not it,” he told reporters following the speech.
Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chair Michelle Lujan Grisham said she strongly disagreed with the president’s rhetoric on immigration, telling reporters she thought his comments on “chain migration and violent crime were counterproductive to the bipartisan negotiations taking place as lawmakers attempt to strike a deal on a legislative fix to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program ahead of their March 5 deadline. The New Mexico Democrat said while she was encouraged the speech made no mention of a wall along the southern border, she found his remarks divisive.
“I was incredibly disappointed that he spent so much time on immigration policy using pejorative terminology, discriminatory references and again linking, or certainly leaving that tone in the speech that he’s linking minorities and individuals from immigrant communities that they are serious criminals and I don’t think any of those facts are correct,” she said. “We’ve had the opposite problem, which is we can’t get ICE and others to actually go after serious criminals.”
Graham –who has played a pivotal role in the bipartisan immigration meetings in the Senate — said it’s clear there is still work to be done, he’s confident Trump is committed to finding a solution for Dreamers while still protecting the nation’s borders.
“I think he put out a plan that surprises a lot of people with a pathway to citizenship, so there is a deal to be had. Somewhere in there, there’s a pony on immigration and we need to find that pony,” he told TheDC.”I do believe there’s deal to be had and I do think the president wants to find a deal.”
GOP Georgia Sen. David Perdue said Democrats’ argument the president’s plan is too far to the right is unwarranted.
“I think that framework is very workable. I can’t believe Democrats are going to turn down a deal for 1.8 million DACA recipients– I just can’t believe that,” he said. “And all the president’s asking for is to ensure that we’re not back here in three or four years doing the same thing again. And by the way, his plan is supported by two-thirds of Americans.”