President Trump declared Tuesday that a “new chapter of American greatness is now beginning” as he made economic revival the centerpiece of his first address to Congress – issuing a clarion call to “restart the engine of the American economy” through tax cuts, better trade deals, immigration enforcement and a $1 trillion infrastructure program.
He also called on Congress to replace what he called the “imploding ObamaCare disaster” with legislation that lowers costs and expands access, an ambitious goal for GOP lawmakers still trying to come together on a plan.
The president outlined his agenda in an address to a joint session of Congress that lasted roughly an hour and focused largely on priorities at home, more than abroad. He offered a decidedly upbeat vision for the future of the country that stood in contrast to his at-times foreboding inauguration address.
“Everything that is broken in our country can be fixed. Every problem can be solved. And every hurting family can find healing, and hope,” Trump said, urging lawmakers to “join forces” to deliver.
Trump called for a “national rebuilding,” urging Congress to pass legislation that produces a $1 trillion public-private investment in infrastructure.
Speaking to a key campaign promise that has yet to be realized, he said his team is developing “historic tax reform that will reduce the tax rate on our companies so they can compete and thrive anywhere and with anyone.” He vowed a “big, big cut” including “massive tax relief for the middle class.”
And he urged Congress to replace ObamaCare “with reforms that expand choice, increase access, lower costs, and at the same time, provide better health care.”
He outlined “principles” to guide negotiations, including a call for Americans with pre-existing coverage to keep access to care, for states to have “flexibility” with Medicaid, and for Americans to be able to buy insurance across state lines.
In calling to “restart” the American jobs engine, Trump said the U.S. must make it “easier for companies to do business in the United States, and much, much harder for companies to leave our country.”
The biggest task ahead is Republicans’ drive to repeal and replace ObamaCare. As Trump appealed for a comprehensive package, some in the party have been divided over the plans being privately discussed at the Capitol.
House Speaker Paul Ryan played down divisions ahead of Tuesday’s speech. “This is a plan that we are all working on together,” he told reporters. “There aren’t rival plans here.” After the speech, Ryan applauded Trump for what he called a “home run.”
But the official Democratic response offered a reminder of the resistance Trump will face on his legislative agenda, particularly on ObamaCare.
Former Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear warned those efforts would strip affordable health insurance from Americans. “This isn’t a game. It’s life and death for people,” he said.