President Donald Trump called for unity across party divides while remaining firm on hardline stances on immigration in his second State of the Union speech before a joint session of the U.S. Congress on Feb. 5.
Members of Congress can move the country forward if they mend division along party lines and agree to cooperate on issues like immigration and border security, Trump said.
“Together, we can break decades of political stalemate,” Trump said. “We can bridge old divisions, heal old wounds, build new coalitions, forge new solutions and unlock the extraordinary promise of America’s future. The decision is ours to make.”
The State of the Union followed the longest government shutdown in U.S. history, which lasted for 35 days. The speech itself was originally scheduled for Jan. 29 but was delayed for a week after Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) retracted Trump’s first invitation to speak on the House floor until the government reopened.
Despite the bipartisan sentiment present in his address, Trump portrayed Democrats who opposed funding for a border wall and supported further investigation into his administration as uncooperative and out of touch.
“No issue better illustrates the divide between America’s working class and America’s political class than illegal immigration,” Trump said. “Wealthy politicians and donors push for open borders while living their lives behind walls and gates and guards.”
The partial government shutdown began after Trump refused to sign legislation passed by Congress to fund the government unless it provided for construction of a wall on the border with Mexico.
On Jan. 25, Trump signed legislation that reopened the government until Feb. 15. If Congress does not pass a spending bill that receives Trump’s signature by that time, the government will shut down again.
Trump and Democratic lawmakers found agreement on the increased representation of women in Congress. In his address, Trump celebrated the record number of women currently serving in Congress than ever before — a line that received celebration from female lawmakers, many of whom wore white suits to honor suffragettes.
Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) attended as a guest of Pelosi. In a news release before the speech, Bowser urged Congress to pass legislation preventing gun violence. The federal government needs to address gun violence because state laws are not effective in solving the issue, according to Bowser.
“In places like Washington, D.C., where we have some of the strongest gun laws in the nation, we know better than anyone that this is a matter that won’t be solved state by state,” Bowser said. “Firearms can travel across state lines and so can those who use them.”
The official Democratic response to the State of the Union came from Stacey Abrams, the 2018 Democratic candidate in Georgia’s race for governor. Bipartisanship is key to overcoming current divisions caused by President Trump, Abrams said.
“The shutdown was a stunt engineered by the president of the United States, one that defied every tenet of fairness and abandoned not just our people but our values,” Abrams said. “In this time of division and crisis, we must come together and stand for, and with, one another.”
On campus, GU Politics hosted a State of the Union watch party in collaboration with the College Republicans and College Democrats.
Trump’s speech touched on bipartisan concerns, such as the fight against HIV/AIDS and lowering health care costs; however, the Trump administration’s actions have not lined up with his rhetoric, AJ Williamson (COL ’21), Director of Campaigning and Off-Campus Affairs for GU College Democrats.
“His comments on healthcare are bizarre given his administration and party’s repeated attempts to undermine the Affordable Care Act and take insurance from millions of Americans,” Williamson wrote in an email to The Hoya.
The State of the Union watch party helped promote conversations across the aisle, according to Jake Lyons (COL ’21), a former president of GU College Republicans who helped organize the event.
“It’s important for Hoyas to be able to interact and talk to people who think differently than them,” Lyons wrote in an email to The Hoya. “Having joint events with GUCR, GUCD and GU Politics breaks down those barriers and provides a forum to have those conversations.”