WASHINGTON —Urging Congress to “reject the politics of revenge, resistance and retribution,” President Donald Trump Tuesday encouraged Congress to approve his nominees, spend the money for his much-touted wall along the U.S.–Mexico border and stop investigating him.
Arguing that his administration was responsible for “an economic miracle,” he said that “the only thing that can stop it are foolish wars, politics or ridiculous partisan investigations."
“If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation,” he said as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi appeared to suppress a laugh behind him.
In a speech billed as aimed at unifying the country during one of its most politically divided moments in recent history, Trump urged Washington to turn a corner and heal the divisions that literally brought large parts of the government to a halt during the first month of this year.
He urged the nation to “break decades of political stalemate, bridge old divisions, heal old wounds, build new coalitions, forge new solutions and unlock the extraordinary promise of America’s future.”
"Our most exciting journeys still await. Our biggest victories are still to come. We have not yet begun to dream," he said, adding, "We must choose whether we are defined by our differences — or whether we dare to transcend them."
Yet for all his talk of unity, Trump plunged into the divisive issues of abortion rights and immigration, while suggesting that some Democrats are issuing "new calls to adopt socialism in our country."
Although no Democratic presidential candidate has adopted a socialist platform, Trump declared to loud applause from Republican lawmakers that "America was founded on liberty and independence and not government coercion, domination and control. We are born free, and we will stay free. Tonight, we renew our resolve that America will never be a socialist country."
He delivered his address at a time when his poll numbers are sagging and those of Pelosi, D-Calif., are rising. Voters clearly held Trump and the Republicans responsible for a partial shutdown of the federal government in December and January — the longest such shutdown in history.
Despite the polarized nature of Washington, the night had its moments of levity. When Trump pointed out that "no one has benefitted more from our thriving economy than women," both sides of the chamber, including dozens of the newly elected Democratic women who helped win the House majority last fall, stood up and cheered enthusiastically.
"You weren't supposed to do that," Trump ad-libbed wryly.
But he decided to embrace the applause, telling the Democratic women, mostly dressed in white in honor of women's suffrage, "don't sit yet, you're going to like this," before pointing out that "exactly one century after the Congress passed the constitutional amendment giving women the right to vote, we also have more women serving in the Congress than ever before." The crowd erupted into chants of "U.S.A! U.S.A!"
Later, both sides joined in singing "Happy Birthday" to Judah Samet, a Holocaust survivor who also survived a mass shooting this year in a Pittsburgh synagogue. He was seated not far from first lady Melania Trump.
Trump, who has made it clear in comments and tweets throughout his presidency that he does not believe he gets enough credit for the strong economy, once again defended his two-year-old presidency, saying “our economy is the envy of the world, our military is the most powerful on Earth by far, and America is again winning each and every day.”
But despite those achievements and the strong economy, Trump’s approval ratings have sagged, in large part because of his chaotic governing style.
Trump has infuriated Democrats with his demands for a $5.7 billion barrier along hundreds of miles of the U.S.-Mexico border — a demand that provoked the 35-day government shutdown.
He devoted a significant portion of his address to immigration, with Trump declaring “no issue better illustrates the divide between America’s working class and America’s political class than illegal immigration.”
“The lawless state of our southern border is a threat to the safety, security and financial well-being of all Americans,” he said. “We have a moral duty to create an immigration system that protects the lives and jobs of our citizens.”
He also waded into abortion, calling on Congress to approve a ban on late-term abortions. In sharp language, he denounced the New York legislature for passing a bill he claimed "would allow a baby to be ripped from the mother's womb moments from birth."
But Trump steered toward more common ground when he once again called for an investment in roads and bridges, renewed his vow to reduce the price of prescription drugs and offered harsh criticism of Iran.
Trump also claimed that had he "not been elected president of the United States, we would right now, in my opinion, be in a major war with North Korea."
He announced that at the end of this month during a trip to Vietnam he would meet for the second time with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un in an effort to persuade North Korea to end its nuclear weapons program.
Among those watching from the galleries was Ashley Evans, a Kettering native who just passed one year in recovery from an opioid addiction. Evans, who now lives in an apartment in Columbus, was among the 11 guests of Mrs. Trump, who watched the speech from a box in the U.S. House chamber.
Trump also cited 10-year-old Grace Eline, another guest of Mrs. Trump's, who has undergone radiation treatment for brain cancer. Declaring that "many childhood cancers have not seen new therapies in decades," Trump said he would "ask the Congress for $500 million over the next 10 years to fund this critical life-saving research."