WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump delivered his third — and possibly final — State of the Union address Tuesday night on the floor of the U.S. House, where he was impeached in December.
And the partisan animosity that has gripped Washington throughout the impeachment proceedings was on stark display throughout the annual speech by the president to both chambers of Congress.
Democrats — including U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) — sat soberly throughout most of Trump’s speech, some looking down and others shaking their heads in dismay as the president touted his administration’s first three years in office.
The House impeachment managers were seated prominently and together, which was ostensibly intended as a reminder of the as-yet unfinished impeachment trial against the president, who is expected to be acquitted by the Senate on Wednesday. Trump did not mention his impeachment during his speech.
For Trump, the event amounted to a pitch for his reelection. He was greeted with unprecedented chants of “four more years” by congressional Republicans before he began speaking.
And to hear Trump tell it, “The state of our union is stronger than ever before.”
The future of the United States “is blazing bright,” he said as he heralded his administration’s economic policies, regulatory rollbacks, trade negotiations and foreign policy. He took several shots at former President Obama administration policies, labeling them disastrous.
“Jobs are booming, incomes are soaring, poverty is plummeting, crime is falling, confidence is surging and our country is thriving and highly respected again,” Trump said.
He pointed to the 187 new federal judges appointed under his watch as he’s reshaped the federal bench with the help of U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). Trump also boasted about the appointments of Supreme Court Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, both of whom were in the audience. And Trump suggested to his supporters that he’ll plow ahead, if re-elected.
“And we have many in the pipeline,” he said.
Trump assailed the progressive healthcare policies pushed by Democrats in Congress and on the campaign trail. He warned that Democrats were attempting a “socialist takeover of our health care system,” in an apparent reference to Medicare for all proposals.
As Trump called on Congress to pass legislation to lower the cost of prescription drugs, many House Democrats stood to chant, “H.R. 3,” referring to legislation the chamber passed that aims to lower those costs but that’s stalled in the Senate.
Much of the speech appeared to be aimed directly at Trump’s GOP base as he prepares to face voters again in November.
He spoke of the “long, tall and very powerful wall” being built at the southern U.S. border. He also cited examples of violence in so-called “sanctuary cities,” where officials refuse to cooperate with federal immigration enforcement.
And Trump awarded conservative icon and radio host Rush Limbaugh the Presidential Medal of Freedom, one of the highest civilian awards. Trump called Limbaugh, who’s being treated for advanced lung cancer, “the greatest fighter and winner that you will ever meet.”
Some of Trump’s speech did win applause from both sides of the aisle, including calls for efforts to combat the opioid epidemic, expand paid family leave and pass infrastructure legislation.
U.S. Rep. Fred Upton (R-St. Joseph), a 2020 Democratic target, took a conciliatory approach.
“Tonight during the State of the Union, I wore a purple tie in unity with the Problem Solvers Caucus to highlight the fact that there are not red issues or blue issues. Rather, both parties need to come together to solve the issues that are facing all Americans,” he said.
But Trump’s comments mostly appeared to inflame the partisan strife on Capitol Hill.
“Listening to the State of the Union address tonight, I could not stop thinking about the more than 275 bipartisan bills passed by the House this Congress that are stuck in the Senate. House Democrats have worked tirelessly to craft legislative solutions to problems faced by everyday Americans,” said U.S. Rep. Andy Levin (D-Bloomfield Twp.) “In return, President Trump and Mitch McConnell have simply and stubbornly obstructed progress.
“While House Democrats put in the work, President Trump shouts empty words,” he said.
Following Trump’s remarks, Pelosi — in full view of the cameras trained on the president — tore up her copy of Trump’s speech. She told reporters afterward that it was “the courteous thing to do considering the alternative.”
Advance Editor Susan J. Demas contributed to this story.