Washington, DC – Congressman Jim Langevin (D-RI), a senior member of the House Committees on Armed Services and Homeland Security, issued the following statement in response to President Donald Trump’s first State of the Union address:
“President Trump’s first year in office continued the long upswing of economic growth that began during President Obama’s term. While some Americans continue to struggle in the long tail of the Great Recession, businesses are adding jobs, and wages are slowly ticking up. Tonight, the President took full credit for the healthy economy. But at a time of historic partisan dysfunction in Washington, DC, it’s important to remember much of that progress has taken place despite the President’s action, not as a result of them. In order to keep America growing and ensure the growth does not leave anyone behind, we need to put the gridlock behind us and work together to give our country the government it deserves.
“The President spoke tonight of bipartisanship, and after the speech, I took the opportunity to personally thank him for the tone of his address. I also urged him to work with me on some of our shared interests including expanding career and technical education, investing in infrastructure projects, lowering prescription drug prices, and increasing access to experimental treatments for terminally ill patients.
“Overall, however, the President’s tone this evening must be weighed against the legacy of his first year, which was largely devoid of bipartisan accomplishments or even sincere attempts at collaboration. Rather than work together to address rising healthcare premiums and the high price of prescription drugs, the President and Congressional Republicans attempted to sabotage the Affordable Care Act, increasing uncertainty and driving costs up further. Rather than pass much needed tax reform, the President rammed through an unpaid tax giveaway to corporate America that provides only crumbs to middle-class Rhode Islanders in need of real tax relief. If the President does wish to work with Democrats and put aside the political posturing, it will mark a dramatic shift from his first year – and I would certainly welcome the development.
“The President mentioned infrastructure prominently in his speech, and I agree that rebuilding our crumbling roads and bridges is a top priority. Every day, Rhode Islanders traverse bridges that are in worse condition than anywhere else in the country, and I introduced the SAFE Bridges Act to restore an important funding mechanism for bridge construction and repair. We need increased federal investment immediately to ensure that our transportation and technological infrastructure can keep people and data moving in our 21st Century economy. However, we heard promises on this topic at the beginning of the President’s term, and he has yet to follow through. And I remain concerned that projects backed predominately by private investors will disproportionately benefit wealthy developers instead of the public at large.
“With respect to immigration, the President called upon both parties to work together to address the looming deportation crisis facing DACA recipients, the young people brought to this country through no fault of their own. I agree that these productive and patriotic immigrants need our protection. What the President failed to mention, however, was that this was a crisis of his own making, as he signed off on the memo putting “dreamers” at risk. The President also failed to address why he rejected the bipartisan proposal put forth by Senators Durbin and Graham to strengthen our border security and keep these students, service members and workers safe. I have long said that we need comprehensive immigration reform to fix the broken system and secure our borders, but the President will need to stop his divisive rhetoric and keep to a consistent position if we are to make progress.
“The President’s speech tonight also touched on our national security, and what was most significant was what he left out. He did not mention his decision yesterday not to sanction Russia despite an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote in Congress to do just that. He also failed to address the rise of threats in cyberspace facing our nation, particularly those targeting our election systems, the very core of our democracy. And the President made no mention of the changing climate and the investments we will need to make to ensure our military’s resilience going forward. We must continue to support the brave service members protecting our country, but we need to do so in a way that anticipates the threats of the future, not the isolationism of yesteryear.
“The President also left out important details on policy priorities that are of particular interest to Rhode Islanders. I was glad the President said that his Administration is committed to fighting the opioid epidemic that is taking the lives of three Rhode Islanders every week. However, his first year in office has been deeply disappointing on that front as the 56 recommendations of the President’s own opioid commission remain on the shelf. Similarly, as co-chair of the House Career and Technical Education Caucus, I was pleased to hear the President call for investments in workforce development, and I challenge him to follow through on that commitment so businesses have the talent they need to thrive. Finally, the President neglected to mention that the regulations he was so proud of eliminating include a number of vital consumer protections, including the net neutrality rules that ensure the Internet remains free and open.
“The first year of the Trump era has epitomized the problems of Washington, DC, as even the basic task of funding the government has proven to be an insurmountable challenge. I came to the President’s speech this evening hoping he would turn the page on a failed year. Instead, he celebrated it. I will happily work with the President and my Republican colleagues in Congress to return to our duty of responsible governance. But I cannot say that tonight’s speech has given me much hope that the second year of the Trump Administration will be different from the first.”