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Looking Back: Trump's First State of the Union

(OP: FEBRUARY 7, 2018)

Last week, President Trump gave his first State of the Union to both houses of Congress, and he left us with a lot to unpack after one of the longest such speeches in history.

There were plenty of poignant moments in the speech and Stephen Miller and the President’s other writers filled it with inspiring rhetoric and calls for bipartisanship (“Tonight, I call upon all of us to set aside our differences, to seek out common ground, and to summon the unity we need to deliver for the people we were elected to serve”).

The President touted many of his administration’s first-year accomplishments, and emphasized the state of economy and his signature achievement of year one - sweeping tax cuts.

He then introduced the agenda for the coming year.  Many of his proposals are measures which (in isolation, at least) should and would attract support on both sides of the aisle.  He called for reducing the price of prescription drugs, investment in job training and vocational schools, paid family leave, and prison reform - all of which are familiar rallying cries for Democrats, and could also attract support from GOP moderates.

He finished by unveiling two major proposals which will dominate and define the agenda in the coming year, and perhaps turn into cornerstones his presidency.  

The first is another familiar policy for Democrats, and one which was a central plank on the campaign trail: a massive infrastructure improvement package.  And it truly is massive - he surprised lawmakers from both parties by calling for $1.5 trillion.  Funding the bill is going to be a major challenge - the President called for utilizing private investment “where necessary” to find the money, a measure which could spark controversy, especially among some Democrats.

The Four Pillar Plan

The second is his four-pillar plan to overhaul the immigration system.

  1. Opening a path to citizenship for 1.8 million ‘Dreamers’

  2. Securing the Southern border by building a “great wall”

  3. Replacing the visa lottery with a merit-based system

  4. Ending “chain migration”

The plan has ingredients which appeal to both parties. Democrats have made it clear that protecting the so-called ‘Dreamers’ - migrants who came to the country illegally as children - is their top priority. Meanwhile getting tougher at the border, replacing the Visa lottery, and ending “chain migration” (also referred to as “family migration”) is sure to play well with many Republicans, especially hardliners and immigration hawks.

It will be interesting in the coming weeks to see if both parties and both houses can bring themselves to begin to implement the President’s vision, or find answers to any of these questions.  Trump claimed last night that this is “our new American moment,” but the future might hold just more of the same.

What are your thoughts?