President Donald Trump attacked Democrats over the hot-button election-year issue of health care in his State of the Union speech on Tuesday night, as he sought to tout his economic accomplishments and called for action on drug costs and infrastructure.
The address came at a dramatic moment for the president, with the Senate expected to vote to acquit him on Wednesday, after his impeachment by the House in December. Trump spoke in the same chamber that voted to charge him with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi looked on from behind him. Trump appeared to snub the California Democrat when she offered her hand to shake, and she was later seen tearing up a copy of his speech.
Saying the U.S. economy is “the best it’s ever been,” Trump called the state of the union “stronger than ever before,” and hailed low U.S. unemployment, his trade agreement with China and the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement.
“Our agenda is relentlessly pro-worker, pro-family, pro-growth, and, most of all, pro-American,” Trump said.
Trump’s speech came a day after Democrats began choosing a nominee to take him on in November — though the results of the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses are still coming in after technical difficulties.
With his eye firmly on voters, Trump said “we will never let socialism destroy American health care,” a charge that amounted to an attack on plans like Sen. Bernie Sanders’ “Medicare for All.” Sanders, a leading Democratic challenger to Trump, was narrowly behind Pete Buttigieg in partial results from Iowa’s caucuses.
Trump also slammed Democrats for backing what he said was “free health care to illegal aliens.” In their June debate, all the presidential hopefuls raised their hands when asked if unauthorized immigrants should be covered under proposed health plans.
Democrats responded by attacking Trump’s claim that he would protect people with preexisting conditions, noting his administration’s court efforts to toss out the Obama-era health law.
At the same time, Trump showed a willingness to work with lawmakers on issues including infrastructure and drug prices.
“I am calling for bipartisan legislation that achieves the goal of dramatically lowering prescription drug prices. Get a bill to my desk, and I will sign it into law immediately,” Trump said.
He called on Congress to “rebuild America’s infrastructure,” by passing a bill authored by Republican Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming. Democrats have offered their own plan.
Trump on Tuesday became just the second president, after Bill Clinton, to deliver the State of the Union address after being impeached. Still, Trump did not mention the House’s charges against him, or the Senate trial.
Trump’s speech came as Gallup reported Tuesday that his approval rating, at 49%, has never been higher. The strong U.S. economy factored into the rating, Gallup said.
U.S. stocks DJIA, +1.44% rose sharply on Tuesday, as the stock market rebounded from a selloff inspired by the spread of the coronavirus. The day after Trump’s 2019 speech, the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost just 0.08%, after rising about 0.3% after his first address in 2018. Trump said Tuesday night that “millions of people” holding 401(k)s and pensions are doing far better than ever before.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer gave Democrats’ response to Trump, saying it didn’t matter what he said about stock-market milestones. “What matters is that millions of people struggle to get by or don’t have enough money at the end of the month after paying for transportation, student loans, or prescription drugs,” she said.
Other Democrats, including New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, boycotted the speech.
“I have decided that I will not use my presence at a state ceremony to normalize Trump’s lawless conduct & subversion of the Constitution,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted.