5 takeaways from Trump's State of the Union speech

2019-02-06 19:15
President Donald Trump delivers his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington.

President Donald Trump delivers his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington. ((Andrew Harnik, AP))

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President Donald Trump delivered his second State of the Union speech Tuesday night, calling on Democrats and Republicans to work together and making only brief reference to the rancor that has dominated his presidency.

ANALYSIS: Immigration, legislation, investigation: 3 scholars respond to Trump's State of the Union

Five key takeaways from his remarks:

1. He's not budging on the wall

"I will get it built," he declared in his Tuesday evening speech.

Addressing a joint session of lawmakers, Trump yet again hammered his now-familiar case for building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, insisting the situation represents a crisis that demands a physical barrier. But the president outlined no plan or new strategy for convincing Congress to approve money to build the wall. He issued a broad call for all sides to "work together, compromise, and reach a deal that will truly make America safe."

Trump notably made no reference to his continued to threat to circumvent Congress by declaring a national emergency if lawmakers refuse to give him the billions of dollars he's demanding.

The White Housed decided the speech was an inappropriate venue for such an announcement, especially after Trump said he'd allow congressional negotiators to run out a three-week clock that expires on February 15 before taking any action. He has all but dismissed their efforts.

2. The House was in order

Would they boo? Hiss? Jeer?

With Democrats now in charge of the House and amid a bitter border wall battle that led to the longest government shutdown in the nation's history, the White House was bracing for a less-than-friendly reception from those gathered in the House.

Instead, the 82-minute speech was punctuated by lighthearted moments, including when lawmakers from both parties sang a spontaneous rendition of "Happy Birthday" to Judah Samet, a member of the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh who survived a shooting that killed 11 people in October. Trump joked that the lawmakers wouldn't break into song for him.

The president also prompted cheers from the freshmen female House Democrats when he touted the number of new jobs created that women have filled.

The women — dressed in white in honor of early 20th-century suffragettes — stood on their feet, with one raising her hands in the air in a "raise the roof" motion.

Trump seemed taken back by the outbursts. "You weren't supposed to do that," he said before congratulating all the women who hold seats in Congress. The women jumped back up and high-fived each other, chanting "U-S-A!"

3. Shutdown? What shutdown?

Trump made no reference to the 35-day government shutdown that rocked the nation's capital, leaving hundreds of thousands of workers without pay and freezing many government services the first month of the year.

It was a notable omission from a president who had once said that he would be proud to own the shutdown — and came just 10 days before the government is set to run out of money again.

Trump did note that Congress "has 10 days left to pass a bill that will fund our government, protect our homeland, and secure our southern border." But he didn't mention the funding deadline.

It was a different story for Stacey Abrams, the Georgia Democrat who delivered her party's response to Trump and spoke about how she'd joined volunteers to distribute meals to furloughed federal workers during the shutdown.

"Making their livelihoods a pawn for political games," she said, "is a disgrace."

4. An appeal to the base

As he does often in his toughest political moments, Trump tried to rally the Christian conservative voters who have proven to be some of his most loyal backers. He seized upon recent controversies surrounding "late-term abortions" and warned against legislation that he claimed "would allow a baby to be ripped from the mother's womb moments before birth."

"These are living, feeling, beautiful babies who will never get the chance to share their love and dreams with the world," he said, calling on Congress to pass legislation that would limit abortion rights.

Trump also singled out embattled Democratic Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam by title, though not by name — claiming he would "execute a baby after birth." Northam in an interview last week defended, in rare occasions, the practice of third-trimester abortions. He has since been under fire for a photograph on his medical school yearbook page featuring a person in blackface standing next to a person wearing a Ku Klux Klan outfit. He denies he's in the photo and rejecting calls for his resignation.

5. A few swipes at Democrats

Even as he called for a new age of bipartisanship and urged lawmakers to "govern not as two parties, but as one nation," Trump couldn't help but take few digs at Democrats, including the "resistance" movement in defiance of his presidency.

"We must reject the politics of revenge, resistance and retribution — and embrace the boundless potential of cooperation, compromise and the common good," Trump said at one point.

Later he touted an "economic miracle" taking place across the country that he said could only be stopped by "foolish wars, politics, or ridiculous partisan investigations."

As for the new wave of socialist fervor in the Democratic Party, Trump declared, "Tonight, we renew our resolve that America will never be a socialist country."

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