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State of Union

The reviews are in. Here's what lawmakers thought of Trump's State of the Union


Welcome to spin city. Once a year, following the Sate of the Union speech, lawmakers flood the halls of Capitol Hill to give reporters their take on the president's remarks. We were at the scene to get first hand reactions from politicians who were in the chamber. What was the takeaway? Well, it depends who you ask.

"Great speech. He celebrated the American people, the ability of the American people to make America great again," said Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.)

"The President in that chamber was a divider in chief" said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.).

"If he wanted to prove tonight that he knows how to read, I think he proved that. But if he wants to prove that he can actually lead, he’s going to have to roll up his sleeves and do the hard work and work with Congress," said Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.).

Republicans lauded Trump's tone and rallied what they considered his successes from 2017, including tax reform, repealing parts of Obamacare and hundreds of federal regulations, and victories over the Islamic State terrorist group.

"I was really happy that he explained the accomplishments, especially the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act," said Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-N.Y.)

"It's bee so misinterpreted, misstated in the media and misunderstood by most Americans and it was really important because in my district 95 percent of the people that live in my district are getting a tax cut and it's really important that the president explained it in detail," she said.

But Democrats were unimpressed by Trump's promises for solutions to bipartisan issues like rebuilding America's infrastructure and curbing the opioid crisis.

"I agreed with what he said on vocational training, on opiates, on rebuilding the country. But, at the end of the day when you look at the budget he actually submitted, it guts vocational education, he doesn't have money in there for the opiate issue, he's kicked people off of healthcare that would need it in order to get the treatment that they need to get off of the drug and into the workforce. No real transportation plan to rebuild the country, so he says one thing, but at the end of the day sometimes the reality on the ground isn't there," said Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio).

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Trump made two major requests to Congress during his speech. The first; produce a $1.5 trillion infrastructure bill to fix America's crumbling roads, bridges, and tunnels and speed up the permitting process for new construction.

Some lawmakers in the chamber guffawed at the request, asking "where's the money?"

"When we talk about how we’re going to solve our infrastructure challenges, we don’t have a lot of money to pay for that," said Swalwell.

"We’re really behind the 8-ball now when it comes to the infrastructure bill, $1.5 trillion because President Trump and the Republicans just borrowed, will end up borrowing $2.2 trillion, primarily from China in order to pay for the tax cut," Ryan said.

Others were confident that an infrastructure bill was the most achievable goal on Trump's State of the Union agenda, but warned it would take some serious leadership from the president to get it done.

"Infrastructure is probably the most doable of any of the issues we have before us because everybody wants to produce jobs, and rebuild our roads bridges, broadband, VA facilities. So there is the potential for unity and consensus" said Blumenthal.

"But not if it's simply 'you do it,' with no specifics from the president," he added. "There is a plan for public-private partnership that would work, but proposing it in the way he did is an abdication of leadership."

One of the most controversial parts of Trump's speech was his remarks on immigration. Trump opened this segment of his speech by introducing the parents of two teenage girls who were murdered by members of the El Salvador-based MS-13 gang, and demanded Congress pass an immigration bill that would crack down on illegal immigration by securing the border, ending chain migration and the visa lottery program. In exchange, Trump said his plan would provide a 12-year path to citizenship for 1.8 million undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. by their parents as children, often referred to as Dreamers.

Trump said he considers the plan a fair compromise, "one where nobody gets everything they want, but where our country gets the critical reforms it needs and must have."

Democrats didn't see much of a compromise on citizenship for Dreamers.

"I was disappointed that he seemed to be saying it’s our way or the highway," Blumenthal said.

"He gave no attention at all to the fact that we have a tremendous number of dreamers across the country who have grown up in our communities, gone to our high schools…contributed to our economy," said Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), accompanied by Leonardo Reyes, a Dreamer from his home state.

But Cassidy said the president proved he's capable of making fair deals.

"That’s a down the middle trade. He doesn’t get everything, neither do they. And I think our country ends up better off," he said.

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