WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump delivered his third — and possibly final — State of the Union address Tuesday night on the floor of the U.S. House, where he was impeached in December.
And the partisan animosity that has gripped Washington throughout the impeachment proceedings was on stark display throughout the annual speech by the president to both chambers of Congress.
Democrats — including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) — sat soberly throughout most of Trump’s speech, some looking down and others shaking their heads in dismay as the president touted his administration’s first three years in office.
The House impeachment managers were seated prominently and together, which was ostensibly intended as a reminder of the as-yet unfinished impeachment trial against the president, who is expected to be acquitted by the Senate on Wednesday. Trump did not mention his impeachment during his speech.
For Trump, the event amounted to a pitch for his re-election. He was greeted with chants of “four more years” by congressional Republicans before he began speaking.
The future of the United States “is blazing bright,” Trump said as he heralded his administration’s economic policies, regulatory rollbacks, trade negotiations and foreign policy. He took several shots at Obama administration policies, labeling them disastrous.
“Jobs are booming, incomes are soaring, poverty is plummeting, crime is falling, confidence is surging and our country is thriving and highly respected again,” Trump said.
He pointed to the 187 new federal judges appointed under his watch as he’s reshaped the federal bench with the help of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). Trump also boasted about the appointments of Supreme Court Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, both of whom were in the audience. And Trump suggested to his supporters that he’ll plow ahead, if re-elected. “And we have many in the pipeline,” he said.
Trump assailed the progressive healthcare policies pushed by Democrats in Congress and on the campaign trail. He warned that Democrats were attempting a “socialist takeover of our healthcare system,” in an apparent reference to Medicare for all proposals.
As Trump called on Congress to pass legislation to lower the cost of prescription drugs, many House Democrats stood to chant, “H.R. 3,” referring to legislation the chamber passed that aims to lower those costs but that’s stalled in the Senate.
Much of the speech appeared to be aimed directly at Trump’s GOP base as he prepares to face voters again in November.
He spoke of the “long, tall and very powerful wall” being built at the southern U.S. border. He also cited examples of violence in so-called “sanctuary cities,” where officials refuse to cooperate with federal immigration enforcement.
And Trump awarded conservative icon and radio host Rush Limbaugh the Presidential Medal of Freedom, one of the highest civilian awards. Trump called Limbaugh, who’s being treated for advanced lung cancer, “the greatest fighter and winner that you will ever meet.”
Some of Trump’s speech did win applause from both sides of the aisle, including calls for efforts to combat the opioid epidemic, expand paid family leave and pass infrastructure legislation.
But his comments appeared to inflame the partisan strife on Capitol Hill.
Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) blasted the speech as “full of half-truths and outright lies” in a statement late Tuesday.
“In his boasts about the economy, the president ignored that the American economy is creating jobs at a slower rate than when Barack Obama was in his second term. He ignored that farm bankruptcies are at an eight high as a result of his reckless trade policies. He bragged instead about his tax cut that gave $37 billion to the wealthiest Americans and large corporations.”
Likewise, Rep. Joe Neguse, a Democrat from Colorado, dismissed the speech as one that was misleading and divisive.
“Making matters worse, the President has degraded the character of our nation, inciting fear in the hearts of immigrants with dangerous and cruel deportation efforts, and he has blatantly abused his power through soliciting foreign interference in our elections for his own personal and political gain, which is why the House of Representatives voted to impeach him.” Neguse said in a Tuesday night statement.
On the GOP side, Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado said in a statement that the speech was a call by the President “to put division behind us and to come together to create new opportunities for Americans from every walk of life.”
Gardner said there remains “ample opportunity” for Democrats and Republicans to work together to “provide strong national security, to lower health care costs for American families, and to repair our country’s crumbling infrastructure,” along with tackling immigration reform, rising suicide rates and protection of public lands.
Rep. Doug Lamborn, also of Colorado, praised the speech on Twitter as “forward leaning” and “above partisan politics.”
Following Trump’s remarks, Pelosi — in full view of the cameras trained on the president — tore up her copy of Trump’s speech. She told reporters afterward that it was “the courteous thing to do considering the alternative.”