WASHINGTON — The White House says President Donald Trump will call for optimism and unity in his State of the Union address, using the moment to attempt a reset after two years of bitter partisanship and deeply personal attacks.
But will anyone buy it?
Skepticism will emanate from both sides of the aisle when Trump enters the House chamber for the prime-time Tuesday address to lawmakers and the nation. Democrats, emboldened after the midterm elections and the recent shutdown fight, see little evidence of a president willing to compromise. And even the president’s staunchest allies know that bipartisan rhetoric read off a teleprompter is usually undermined by scorching tweets and unpredictable policy maneuvers.
Still, the fact that Trump’s advisers feel a need to try a different approach is a tacit acknowledgment that the president’s standing is weakened as he begins his third year in office.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders indicated the president would highlight what he sees as achievements and downplay discord.
Few Signs of Cooperation Between Trump and Democrats
“You’re going to continue see the president push for policies that help continue the economic boom,” Sanders said Monday night while appearing on “Hannity” on Fox News. “You’re also going to see the president call on Congress and say, ‘Look, we can either work together and get great things done or we can fight each other and get nothing done.’ And frankly, the American people deserve better than that.”
With the new Feb. 15 funding deadline looming, Trump is expected to use his address to outline his demands, which still include funding for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. He’s teased the possibility of declaring a national emergency to secure wall funding if Congress doesn’t act, though it appeared unlikely he would take that step Tuesday night. Advisers have also been reviewing options to secure some funding without making such a declaration.
“You’ll hear the State of the Union, and then you’ll see what happens right after the State of the Union,” Trump told reporters.
The president’s address marks the first time he is speaking before a Congress that is not fully under Republican control. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who won plaudits from Democrats for her hardline negotiating tactics during the shutdown, will be seated behind the president — a visual reminder of Trump’s political opposition.
US Economy Added a Robust 304,000 Jobs in January
In a letter Monday night to House Democrats, Pelosi wrote that she hopes “we will hear a commitment from the President on issues that have bipartisan support in the Congress and the Country, such as lowering the price of prescription drugs and rebuilding America’s infrastructure.”
In the audience will be several Democrats running to challenge Trump in 2020, including Sens. Kamala Harris of California, Cory Booker of New Jersey, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York.
Another Democratic star, Stacey Abrams, will deliver the party’s response to Trump. Abrams narrowly lost her bid in November to become Georgia’s first black governor, and party leaders are aggressively recruiting her to run for Senate.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer previewed Democrats’ message for countering Trump, declaring Monday, “The number one reason the state of the union has such woes is the president.”
While White House officials cautioned that Trump’s remarks were still being finalized, the president was expected to use some of his televised address to showcase a growing economy. Despite the shutdown, the U.S. economy added a robust 304,000 jobs in January, marking 100 straight months of job growth. That’s the longest such period on record.
Trump: ‘At 99 Percent Right Now’ in Defeating IS
In a weekend interview with CBS, Trump said efforts to defeat the IS group were “at 99 percent right now. We’ll be at 100.”
However, a Defense Department inspector general report released Monday said the Islamic State group “remains a potent force of battle-hardened and well-disciplined fighters that could likely resurge in Syria” absent continued counterterrorism pressure. According to the Pentagon, the group is still able to coordinate offensives and counteroffensives.
Administration officials say the White House has also been weighing several “moonshot” goals. An announcement is expected on a new initiative aimed at ending transmissions of HIV by 2030. “He will be asking for bipartisan support to make that happen,” said White House counselor Kellyanne Conway.
Trump’s guests for the speech include Anna Marie Johnson, a 63-year-old woman whose life sentence for drug offenses was commuted by the president, and Joshua Trump, a sixth-grade student from Wilmington, Delaware, who was allegedly bullied because of his last name. They will sit with first lady Melania Trump during the address.