US President Donald Trump appealed to Congress Tuesday to unite at a moment of deep partisan division as he made the case for a new era of compromise on immigration and security in his State of Union address.
“We can make our communities safer, our families stronger, our culture richer, our faith deeper, and our middle class bigger and more prosperous than ever before,” Trump said.
“But we must reject the politics of revenge, resistance, and retribution — and embrace the boundless potential of cooperation, compromise, and the common good. Together, we can break decades of political stalemate.”
It was the president’s first speech in the House since the Democrats took the lower chamber back in a landslide last year — leaving Congress split with Trump’s Republicans still in control of the Senate.
He was cheered repeatedly by his side during the speech, which lasted around 85 minutes, but was met with stony silence from the Democrats, led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, as he turned to the thorny subject of immigration.
Vowing to get his disputed border wall built despite opposition by Democratic lawmakers, he urged Congress to “work together” and forge a deal to improve border security.
“In the past, most of the people in this room voted for a wall — but the proper wall never got built. I’ll get it built,” he said, referring to lawmakers from both political parties who he repeatedly stresses voted for physical barriers in previous years.
Trump’s speech came ahead of a February 15 deadline for Congress to agree on funding for building a border wall which the president made a key pledge in his election campaign.
Democrats, who control the lower house, have repeatedly rejected Trump’s funding demands, saying that he has made the wall project a political crusade to demonize immigrants and to satisfy his base.
Trump previously tried to pressure Congress into backing his idea by refusing to sign off on budgets for swathes of the federal government, leading to a five-week shutdown of some 800,000 government jobs.
“Simply put, walls work and walls save lives. So let’s work together, compromise, and reach a deal that will truly make America safe,” Trump added.
Trump’s second State of Union address came with the Democrats vowing to use their new control over House committees to launch multiple investigations into everything from his charity foundation and tax returns to possible collusion with Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
“An economic miracle is taking place in the United States, and the only thing that can stop it are foolish wars, politics, or ridiculous partisan investigations,” Trump said.
Trump had accepted House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s invitation to deliver his State of the Union address on February 5, putting Trump on track to deliver his prime-time speech to a nation still reeling from the longest government shutdown in history.
Pelosi had stood firm and got Trump to concede to reopen the government earlier in January without getting any of the $5.7 funding for his long-promised US-Mexico border wall.
The 35-day partial shutdown ended on January 25 with Trump agreeing to temporarily reopen the government without any money for his wall.
The annual speech had been initially scheduled for January 29, but Pelosi suggested Trump postpone the address due to the partial government shutdown.
(With agency inputs)