Trump urges unity in State of the Union speech

Frederick Owens
February 8, 2019

With Vice President Mike Pence and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi standing behind him, President Donald J. Trump is set to deliver his State of the Union address tonight on the House floor in Washington, D.C. The speech will give Trump an opportunity to rally his Republican base, but at the same time, it will reflect a new political reality for the president: it will be his first State of the Union address since the 2018 midterms, which found Democrats regaining control of the House of Representatives with a net gain of 40 seats.

The President is expected to frame his policy agenda for the coming year and reiterate last year's appeal to bipartisanship, but the prospect of a government shutdown will not be completely behind him.

Yet when Trump was asked on Friday whether he might use the speech to declare executive action on his promised border wall - perpahs by declaring a national emergency, even though 66 percent of Americans would oppose such a move - he replied, "I don't want to say".

"It's that alternative. It's a national emergency, it's other things".

But opposition Democrats nearly instantly rejected the overture, while Trump's steadfast insistence on building US-Mexico border walls promised new political strife in the near future.

Such a declaration, a legally-mandated executive power of a US president, would enable him to bypass congressional approval and redirect funds already allocated by Congress for other purposes, possibly at the Pentagon, to his desired border wall.

Should the president do that Tuesday night, it would likely be met with an uncomfortable reaction from Republicans inside the chamber.

Some of Trump's own fellow conservatives are urging Trump not to declare an emergency.

While the government is open now, it will shut down again in 10 days if the president, the Democratic-majority House and the Republican-majority Senate don't come to an agreement on border security, which Trump demands must include billions of dollars for a wall along the Southern border.

And watching Trump from the House will be 2020 Democratic presidential candidates, including Kamala Harris, the first Indian-origin Senator and Tulsi Gabbard, the first Hindu lawmaker in the US Congress. He will call for unity as predecessors have done in the century since the custom of in-person State of the Union addresses was revived by President Woodrow Wilson.

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"I really think it's going to be a speech that's going to cover a lot of territory, but party of it's going to be unity", the President told reporters this week.

The president will specifically address the political standoff between Venezuela's opposition leader Juan Guaido and President Nicolas Maduro.

The audience will be more blue and less red, but on the heels of a November election that brought in a historically diverse Congressional class, Trump will be delivering his address to a House chamber filled with more women and people of color than ever before. Cory Booker and Elizabeth Warren?

Once the address is over, the Democratic response will immediately follow. "And he's going to point out a couple of examples of where this has actually happened on his watch", she added.

Critics listening to the speech, Conway said, "should listen to the message, not always just look at the messenger", and look for ways to work together.

The White House classified this year's speech as "visionary" - looking toward the future and presenting a "common-sense path forward" with a "very American and can-do optimistic approach". That list includes Syria and Afghanistan, two hotspots from which the commander in chief is expected to make his case to end American's post-9/11 "endless wars," as a senior administration official called them.

While the theme of the address is "Choosing Greatness", the president's top aides say Trump will respect tradition in his speech.

Trump's address amounted to an opening argument for his re-election campaign. After Pelosi and the lawmakers made a decision to fly commercial instead, the Trump administration denied them military support and instructed them to get permission from Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House Chief of Staff. Pelosi called this a "complete violation of separation of powers".

US First Lady Melania Trump in the First Lady's box attends the State of the Union address by US President Donald Trump at the Capitol in Washington. Nancy & Chuck don't want me to speak, Mainstream Media outlets don't want me to speak, and the Hollywood Elites don't want me to speak.

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