President Trump touted the United States’ military strength, last year’s tax overhaul and reductions in federal regulations in his first State of the Union address Tuesday night.
The address, delivered by U.S. presidents to Congress and the nation annually, with the exception of their first year in office, also focused on immigration reform and the U.S.'s relationship with other countries .
“For the last year we have sought to restore the bonds of trust between our citizens and their government,” Trump said.
Trump touched upon future goals of his administration, which included immigration overhaul and border security, two issues which put a stop to votes on a temporary government spending bill earlier in January. The president spoke about many policy issues, but the focus kept coming back to the economy.
“We have ended the war on American energy,” Trump said. “And we have ended the war on beautiful, clean coal.”
The industry term “clean coal” refers to the process of capturing carbon emissions from coal consumption, not an actual commodity. While the government has slashed environmental regulations regarding coal, demand for it has not increased.
Trump went on to take aim at the current immigration system and what he characterized as its contribution to gang-related crime, claiming “many of these gang members took advantage of glaring loopholes and our laws to enter the country as illegal, unaccompanied, alien minors.”
He also brought up the opioid epidemic which has swept the country, promoting addiction treatment but also putting focus on a law enforcement solution which followed party lines.
The president sits at a record low in terms of approval rating at this point in the presidency — 38 percent on average according to Gallup’s last count between Jan. 22 and 28. This sits below the 47 percent approval rating held by former president Ronald Reagan at the same time in his presidency. Reagan had the second lowest of the past nine presidents, according to Gallup.
Like the rest of their colleagues, Indiana’s two U.S. senators brought guests.
Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Indiana, announced in a Jan. 26 release he would bring Taylor Nielsen, a police officer from Lebanon, Indiana.
Donnelly credited Nielsen’s openness about mental health with assisting in the introduction and passage of the Law Enforcement Mental Health and Wellness Act, legislation both Donnelly, and Sen. Todd Young, R-Indiana introduced last year.
“Taylor’s courage talking about the mental health challenges she has faced is a testament to her strength and resilience,” Donnelly said in the release.
Indiana’s Republican senator announced his guests in a release the same day as Donnelly. Young planned to bring Chelsee Hatfield of Windfall, Indiana and Gene Miles of Greentown, Indiana, who would serve as representatives of First Farmers Bank & Trust. The bank is based in Converse, Indiana.
Young’s guests were were a hat tip to the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the tax code rewrite passed by Congress and signed into law by the president at the end of last year.
“The actions taken by First Farmers Bank & Trust to invest in their employees and give back to their community are perfect examples of tax reform already benefiting our state,” Young said in the release.
The Democrats' response
Democrats’ official response to the State of the Union was delivered by Massachusetts’ U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy III, D-4th District, great-grandson of former Senator and Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy.
His response, delivered from Fall River, Massachusetts, was focused on the political rhetoric of the last year, some of which was exhibited in the president’s speech.
“Folks, it would be easy to dismiss this past year as chaos,” Kennedy said in his response. “Partisanship as politics. But it’s far, far bigger than that. This administration isn’t just targeting the laws that protect us — they're targeting the very idea that we are all worthy of protection.”