IN announcing what was called a “new American moment,” jobs, the economy, infrastructure, national security, trade, and immigration were all a part of President Donald Trump’s first State of the Union (SOTU) address on Tuesday night, January 31.
In the crowd, House Democrats, invited advocates and survivors of sexual assault dressed up in black to send a statement about sexual misconduct and gender iniquity in #SOTUBlackout movement by Rep. Lois Frankel (D-FL). First Lady Melania Trump broke tradition by arriving with guests she invited. Republican lawmakers broke out into chants of “USA! USA!”; and a few boos were elicited by Democrats.
Here are some highlights from Trump’s SOTU address:
Amidst immigration talks on Capitol Hill, Trump reiterated his unexpected proposal that would give the nearly 1.8 million possible Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients a 10 to 12-year path to citizenship.
The Trump administration announced late last year the end of the Obama-era DACA program, giving Congress up until March of this year to make a saving move. Around 800,000 had initially applied for DACA but not everyone sent in their renewals — approximately 690,000 are said to be still enrolled as of September 2017.
The 1.8 million people that Trump said covered “three times more people than the previous administration” refers to those potentially eligible for his proposed citizenship path.
The solution package though would come with three additional conditions: funding for Trump’s border wall and accompanying security measures, ending the diversity visa lottery program, and putting limits on family-based visas.
“This vital reform is necessary not just for our economy, but for our security and for the future of America,” said Trump.
Under the family-based visa limits, U.S. citizens would be allowed to petition visas for minor children and spouses, but not for siblings, adult children, or parents. According to the Migration Policy Institute, roughly 30 percent of Filipino immigrants use family sponsorship as a pathway to permanent residency.
In touting economic moves from his first year in office, a big part of Trump’s SOTU was dedicated to the tax overhaul he signed at the end of last year, which he said included “the biggest tax cuts and reforms in American history”.
The tax rate for businesses was cut down to 21 percent, from 35 percent last December.
“Our massive tax cuts provide tremendous relief for the middle class and small business, to lower tax rates for hard-working Americans,” said Trump. “We nearly doubled the standard deduction for everyone.”
Trump added that since passing the tax bill, around three million workers got tax cut bonuses — “many of them thousands of dollars per worker.”
Following the December signing, a number companies like Walmart, Home Depot, American Airlines, and Wells Fargo announced bonuses, 401(k)s, and raises.
Three million workers did in fact benefit from the tax cuts according to Americans for Tax Reform, a group that supported the tax bill. But out of the 154 million workers, three million makes up only about two percent. Around 38 percent of workers were already bound to get a bonus of some form in 2017, regardless of tax legislation, according to the Labor Department.
Trump also reintroduced plans for putting money into railways, roads, bridges, and waterways as part of his infrastructure plan.
“Tonight, I’m calling on Congress to produce a bill that generates at least $1.5 trillion for the new infrastructure investment that our country so desperately needs,” said Trump Tuesday night.
He added, “Every federal dollar should be leveraged by partnering with State and local governments and, where appropriate, tapping into private sector investment — to permanently fix the infrastructure deficit.”
Of the $1.5 trillion, $200 billion would come from direct federal investment which leaves the rest to come from state, local, and private investment.
Trump did not provide much other details on the bill, but improving infrastructure has been a concern for people from both parties.
The American Society of Civil Engineers gave an overall grade of a D-plus for U.S. infrastructure. On Tuesday, the American Road and Transportation Builders Association released a report that summed over 54,000 structurally deficient bridges in the U.S.
Approximately 64,000 Americans died in 2016 as a result of drug overdoses, emphasized Trump. Members of Congress highlighted the crisis by donning purple ribbons Tuesday evening.
“One hundred seventy-four deaths per day. Seven per hour,” he added. “We must get tougher on drug dealers and pushers if we are going to succeed in stopping this scourge.”
Preliminary figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that 2017’s numbers may be even worse.
Trump declared a public health emergency in October in regards to the opioid epidemic, but not much else in regards to upcoming efforts was addressed Tuesday.
Congress has yet to receive a funding request, and the Office of National Drug Policy remains without a head.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions has though led the Justice Department in getting tough with drug offenses.
North Korea threats, ISIS, and keeping Guantánamo Bay open were key in Trump’s talks on foreign policy.
“When necessary, we must be able to detain and question. But we must be clear — terrorists are not merely criminals. They are unlawful enemy combatants and when captured overseas, they should be treated like the terrorists they are,” said Trump.
“In the past, we have foolishly released hundreds of dangerous terrorists only to meet them again on the battlefield — including the ISIS leader, al-Baghdadi,” he added.
In addressing North Korea as being a nuclear threat, Trump said that North Korea’s “reckless pursuit of nuclear missiles could very soon threaten our homeland.”
He added, “We are waging a campaign of maximum pressure to prevent that from happening.”
The parents of Otto Warmbier, a university student who was detained in North Korea before being sent back to the U.S. where he later died from injuries, were present. So was Ji Sung-Ho, a North Korean who escaped the country on crutches.