President Trump’s third State of the Union address Tuesday night will feature the high partisan drama of the president facing down the 229 House Democrats who impeached him and speaking to the nation on the eve of his acquittal in the Senate.
Looking over his shoulder on the House rostrum will be Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the leader of what Mr. Trump called on Monday “the totally partisan Impeachment Hoax.” It will be their first face-to-face encounter since the House voted to impeach Mr. Trump on Dec. 18.
The president is certain to defend his honor somehow, and supporters wouldn’t blame him for indulging in a little gloating over his pending exoneration in the Senate trial. Mr. Trump told Sean Hannity of Fox News that he didn’t know whether he would address impeachment in his speech, but he plans to strike an optimistic tone for the country.
“Nobody’s made achievements like we’ve made,” he said.
Rep. Ilhan Omar, Minnesota Democrat, apparently unaware of more recent U.S. history, asked on Twitter, “Have we ever had an impeached President, deliver the State of the Union address while he is on trial in the Senate? Given the audience in the room will be both his prosecutors and jurors on said trial.”
President Clinton gave a State of the Union address on Jan. 19, 1999, in the midst of his impeachment trial and never mentioned it.
But people familiar with Mr. Trump’s speech preparation say the prime-time address also gives him an opportunity to make a broad appeal to independents and traditionally Democratic groups by highlighting the success of his economic agenda.
“The economy is doing so well, and the president’s emphasis on continuing the policies that are lifting people from all walks of life — every age, background — that’s unifying,” said a senior administration official.
Mr. Trump comes into the speech with his approval rating at 44% and his disapproval rating at 53%, according to the latest Gallup polling. By the time he enters the House chamber Tuesday night, the president and his campaign team will have digested the results of the Iowa caucuses, where a strong performance by Sen. Bernard Sanders of Vermont would give Team Trump even more optimism.
Aides say themes for the president’s address can be found in his speech last month at the annual global economic forum in Davos, Switzerland, when Mr. Trump proclaimed that “the American dream is back — bigger, better and stronger than ever before.
“No one is benefiting more than America’s middle class,” the president said at the time. “Every decision we make — on taxes, trade, regulation, energy, immigration, education and more — is focused on improving the lives of everyday Americans. And we’re determined to ensure that the working and middle class reap the largest gains.
“For the first time in decades, we are no longer simply concentrating wealth in the hands of a few. We’re concentrating and creating the most inclusive economy ever to exist. We are lifting up Americans of every race, color, religion, and creed.”
The president will talk about his successes on trade, fresh from agreements with Canada, Mexico, China and Japan. Mr. Trump said those deals and his aggressive deregulation agenda will “start kicking in toward the end of the year.”
Among the priorities he will address are expanding school choice, lowering the cost of prescription drugs, and doubling down on immigration policies such as a travel ban for certain nations and bolstering security along the Mexican border.
Mr. Trump will issue a call for Congress to approve tax credits designed to provide more scholarships for students to attend private schools. The legislation would give up to $5 billion in tax breaks to people and businesses who donate to scholarships for use at private, faith-based schools or to pay for homeschooling.
On health care, the president is expected to call on Congress to address twin proposals to slash drug prices and end “surprise medical billing,” in which patients are blindsided by charges for out-of-network care. Lawmakers plan to grapple with them when various health programs expire May 22.
An end-of-year spending bill purposely set up the deadline, buying time for negotiation, though it’s not clear if stakeholders can come together in an election year.
Mr. Trump wants lawmakers to back a bipartisan Senate bill that would impose an inflation cap on drug prices under Medicare and limit seniors’ out-of-pocket costs.
But the bill is a tough sell among some Republicans. And while Democrats like the measure, the House went its own way with a more liberal bill that would allow the federal government to negotiate down the price of the costliest drugs.
Meanwhile, industry players have objected to aspects of the surprise-billing measures being considered.
Mr. Trump and his Republican allies tried and failed to replace Obamacare in 2017. Since then, the president has settled for tweaks to his predecessor’s health law and pivoted to an all-of-health care strategy.
He has proposed ways to match kidney donors with patients, and last year’s State of the Union featured a push to end HIV/AIDS by 2030.
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