President Trump faced down the Democrats who impeached him in his annual State of the Union address Tuesday night, declaring on the eve of his acquittal in the Senate that he can’t be deterred from leading a “great American comeback” for the middle class.
“In just three short years, we have shattered the mentality of American decline and we have rejected the downsizing of America’s destiny,” Mr. Trump said. “We are moving forward at a pace that was unimaginable just a short time ago, and we are never going back.”
Striding triumphantly into the House chamber that was the scene of his impeachment seven weeks ago, Mr. Trump mounted the speaker’s rostrum for a dramatic encounter with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who led the failed effort to remove him from office.
The highly anticipated encounter between Mr. Trump and Mrs. Pelosi was chilly, with the president ignoring her outstretched hand to shake. Mr. Trump turned away from her after presenting a copy of his speech, and Mrs. Pelosi was left with an awkward expression.
The two hadn’t spoken since they traded insults at a testy White House meeting in mid-October and she walked out.
Mr. Trump emphasized America’s economic revival, and said his policies are producing the strongest results for families on the lower end of the income scale.
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“We are building the world’s most prosperous and inclusive society – one where every citizen can join in America’s unparalleled success, and where every community can take part in America’s extraordinary rise,” Mr. Trump said.
School choice also featured in his address, as he promoted legislation that encourages donations to provide scholarships that families could use at private or religious schools.
“The next step forward in building an inclusive society is making sure that every young American gets a great education and the opportunity to achieve the American Dream,” Mr. Trump said. “No parent should be forced to send their child to a failing government school.”
Among the traditional guests of the president and first lady seated in the House gallery was a last-minute surprise: broadcast legend Rush Limbaugh, who revealed this week that he was diagnosed with advanced lung cancer. Mr. Trump plans to award him the Medal of Freedom.
The president called on Congress to help him lower healthcare costs, while Democrats accused him of trying to void patient protections under Obamacare. Mrs. Pelosi tweeted before the speech, “President Trump wants you to think he’s a champion for people with pre-existing conditions. The truth? Right now, he’s asking the courts to strike down protections for the 130 million Americans with pre-existing conditions.”
House Democratic congresswomen donned white again to protest Mr. Trump and his policies that they claim disproportionately impact women on everything from healthcare, to voting rights, and his orders on immigration at the Mexican border.
The president came into his third State of the Union riding high from a string of policy and political victories, including trade deals with China, Mexico and Canada, the targeted killing of Iranian terrorist Qassem Soleimani and his looming acquittal in the Senate trial.
Mr. Trump is the only president in history to run for reelection after being impeached. He vowed to expand on his agenda of cutting taxes and reducing regulations that has contributed to a historically low unemployment rate of 3.5%, solid growth and record-breaking stock markets.
Mr. Trump plans to introduce a proposal to cut taxes for the middle class sometime this spring, although the Democrat-led House is likely to block it.
The president’s speech focused on five broad areas: improving the standard of living for blue-collar workers, supporting working families, lowering health care costs, tightening immigration and beefing up national security. He emphasized the gains for the middle class under his economic leadership, with wages rising fastest for lower-income groups.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Rep. Veronica Escobar of Texas gave the Democratic response.
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