President Trump delivered his State of the Union address, which the White House said would outline a “policy agenda both parties can rally behind.” Yet the speech follows the longest shutdown in U.S. history, and the deadline to avoid another one is in less than two weeks. NPR reporters covering the White House, Congress, immigration, national security and more are annotating his remarks live, adding context and analysis.
Thank you very much. Madam speaker, Mr. Vice president, members of Congress, the First Lady of the United States, (Applause.) And my fellow Americans, we meet tonight at a moment of unlimited potential as we begin a new Congress. I stand here ready to work with you to achieve historic breakthroughs for all Americans. Millions of our fellow citizens are watching us now gathered in this great chamber, hoping that we will govern not as two parties but as one nation. (Applause.)
President Trump did not acknowledge the new power dynamic in Washington. The last four presidents have all lost the House during their presidency. The immediate three before Trump — Bill Clinton in 1995, George W. Bush in 2007 and Barack Obama in 2011 — all hit gracious notes at the beginning of their speeches, congratulating the opposition party for its electoral success. Trump did not.
The agenda I will lay out this evening is not a Republican agenda or a Democrat agenda. It’s the agenda of the American people. Many of us have campaigned on the same core promises: to defend American jobs and demand fair trade for American workers; to rebuild and revitalize our nation’s infrastructure; to reduce the price of healthcare and prescription drugs; to create an immigration system that is safe, lawful, modern and secure; and to pursue a foreign policy that puts America’s interests first. There is a new opportunity in American politics, if only we have the courage together to seize it. (Applause.) Victory is not winning for our party; victory is winning for our country. (Applause.)
This year America will recognize two important anniversaries that show us the majesty of America’s mission and the power of American pride. In June, we mark 75 years since the start of what General Dwight D. Eisenhower called the Great Crusade, the Allied liberation of Europe in World War II. On D-day, June 6, 1944, 15,000 young American men jumped from the sky and 60,000 more stormed in from the sea to save our civilization from tyranny.
Here with us tonight are three of those incredible heroes: Private First class Joseph Reilly, Staff Sergeant Irving Locker, and Sergeant Herman Zeitchik.
Gentlemen, we salute you.
In 2019, we also celebrate 50 years since brave young pilots flew a quarter of a million miles through space to plant the American flag on the face of the moon. Half a century later, we are joined by one of the Apollo 11 astronauts who planted that flag: Buzz Aldrin.
Thank you, Buzz.
This year, American astronauts will go back to space on American rockets. (Applause.)
Both SpaceX and Boeing are supposed to fly crewed missions with American astronauts to the International Space Station this year. Currently American astronauts travel to the station aboard Russian rockets.
In the 20th century, America saved freedom, transformed science, redefined the middle class, and when you get down to it, there’s nothing anywhere in the world that can compete with America. (Applause.)
Now we must step boldly and bravely into the next chapter of this great American adventure, and we must create a new standard of living for the 21st century.
An amazing quality of life for all of our citizens is within reach. We can make our communities safer, our families stronger, our culture richer, our faith deeper, and our middle class bigger and more prosperous than ever before. (Applause.)
But we must reject the politics of revenge, resistance, and retribution and embrace the boundless potential of cooperation, compromise, and the common good. (Applause.)
Together we can break decades of political stalemate. We can bridge all divisions, heal old wounds, build new coalitions, forge new solutions, and unlock the extraordinary promise of America’s future. The decision is ours to make. We must choose between greatness or gridlock, results or resistance, vision or vengeance, incredible progress or pointless destruction.
This language is strikingly similar to what President Trump said on election night 2016, when he said it was “time for America to bind the wounds of division” and “come together as one united people.” Of course, America didn’t come together, and more than two years later, the president is still reading lines from a teleprompter about healing those wounds. Less than a week ago, Trump said, “The Democrats are doing a tremendous disservice to our country” and “should be ashamed of themselves.” And mere hours before his address he taunted Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., about election losses Democratic senators experienced in the midterms.
Tonight I ask you to choose greatness. (Applause.)
Over the last two years, my administration has moved with urgency and historic speed to confront problems elected by leaders of both parties over many decades. In just over two years since the election, we have launched an unprecedented economic boom, a boom that has rarely been seen before. There’s been nothing like it. We have created 5.3 million new jobs, and importantly added 600,000 new manufacturing jobs, something which almost everyone said was impossible to do, but the fact is we are just getting started. (Applause.)
The U.S. has enjoyed steady but hardly unprecedented growth since Trump’s election. The economy grew at an annual rate of 4.2 percent during the second quarter of last year. But it grew by 5.1 percent in the second quarter of 2014 and by 4.9 percent the quarter after that.
It’s not clear which wage measure Trump might be referring to here, but by multiple measures, wages are not growing at their fastest pace in decades. Hourly wages for nonsupervisory employees are up from last year by 3.4 percent, for example — a substantial pickup from recent years, signaling a tightening labor market — but by no means the highest rate in decades.
Similarly, median hourly wage growth, as tracked by the Atlanta Fed, is up from a few years ago but is not quite at pre-recession levels and is well below where it was before the 2001 recession. Weekly wage growth, similarly, is not at its highest point in decades.
Nearly 5 million Americans have been lifted off food stamps. (Applause.)
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as food stamps, helps needy Americans purchase food.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees SNAP, participation in the safety net program has dropped in recent years. But the numbers have not dipped as low as the president claimed. According to December 2018 figures by the USDA, the average yearly participation rate was 44,219,000 in 2016, 42,123,000 in 2017, and 40,324,000 in 2018.
The difference in participation rates between 2016 and 2018 is just shy of 4 million. The drop is closer to 3,895,000, about 1.1 million short of the figure the president quoted.
Those are year-over-year figures. When figures are broken down from January 2017 (42,698,301) according to the latest figures available, September 2018 (38,577,141) the figures show a decrease in participation of about 4.12 million people.
Sure, there could be some yet-to-be-released data that show 5 million people have been “lifted off food stamps.” But based off what is publicly available, this claim appears exaggerated.
The U.S. economy is growing almost twice as fast today as when I took office, and we are considered far and away the hottest economy anywhere in the world. Not even close. (Applause.)
The state of the U.S. economy is strong, as indicated by last week’s blockbuster jobs report. Employers added a better-than-expected 304,000 jobs in January. Since Trump took office, the U.S. has added nearly 4.9 million jobs. While that is slightly below the 5.1 million jobs added in the previous 24 months, job growth in recent months appears to be accelerating.
The GOP tax cut passed in December 2017, together with increased government spending on both military and domestic programs, undoubtedly contributed to faster economic growth. Forecasters disagree, however, on whether that faster growth can be sustained. The White House predicts continued growth in the 3 percent range for a decade. Other forecasters, including the Congressional Budget Office, believe growth will quickly slow, averaging less than 2 percent over the decade.
Unemployment has reached the lowest rate in over half a century. (Applause.)
African-American, Hispanic-American and Asian-American unemployment have all reached their lowest levels ever recorded. (Applause.)
Right now, unemployment is at 4 percent. That’s not quite the lowest point in over half a century — it was at or below 4 percent for much of 2000, for example. However, as of last fall, when unemployment hit 3.7 percent, it was at the lowest point in roughly half a century.
Similarly, black, Hispanic and Asian-American unemployment are near record-low levels.
That said, black and Hispanic unemployment remains significantly above the white unemployment rate — the black unemployment rate, in fact, is regularly roughly twice the level of the white rate.
Not only that, but as NPR wrote in 2016 (when then-President Barack Obama took credit for private sector job growth), presidents often can’t take credit for the job growth that occurs under their administrations.
Unemployment for Americans with disabilities has also reached an all-time low. (Applause.)
More people are working now than at any time in the history of our country, 157 million people at work. (Applause.)
The U.S. population grows every year, so the fact that more people are working is not a surprise. What matters is the rate of labor force participation, which fell sharply after the Great Recession. It has steadily risen ever since but is still below pre-recession levels.
We passed a massive tax cut for working families and doubled the child tax credit. (Applause.)
We virtually ended the estate tax or death tax, as it is often called, on small businesses for ranches and also for family farms. (Applause.)
We eliminated the very unpopular Obamacare individual mandate penalty. (Applause.) And to give critically ill patients access to life-saving cures, we passed — very importantly — Right to Try. (Applause.)
Congress passed the “right to try” bill in May. Advocates for seriously ill patients say the new law will allow terminally ill patients access to experimental drugs that could prolong their lives. But opponents, including the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, fear that the new law will muddy medical research and won’t do much because there was already a system in place to get drugs in clinical trials to patients who would benefit.
My administration has cut more regulations in a short period of time than any other administration during its entire tenure. (Applause.)
The president, along with a GOP Congress, moved aggressively in the last two years to unwind regulations, including rules governing carbon emissions, fuel economy, water pollution, and payday lending. Two big Obama-era rules on overtime and investment advice were also blocked by the courts. However, some of these deregulatory moves could be stymied by legal challenges, unless the administration can demonstrate a factual rationale for the proposed changes. “You can’t just say you want to change this rule because you won the election,” said Peter Van Doren of the libertarian Cato Institute. “The law doesn’t allow that.”
Companies are coming back to our country in large numbers, thanks to our historic reductions in taxes and regulations, and we have unleashed a revolution in American energy. The United States is now the No. 1 producer of oil and natural gas anywhere in the world. (Applause.)
Thanks to the fracking revolution, the U.S. became the world’s largest oil producer last year.
The Trump administration has taken steps to expand oil and gas production. But the boom predates his time in office and has been fueled by a mix of market forces and advancing technology including hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling. “Sometimes it seems the world’s No. 1 natural gas/[liquefied natural gas] salesman is Donald Trump,” said energy historian Daniel Yergin. Trump has championed oil and gas drilling both offshore and on public lands. But his support for fossil fuels has not sparked a similar boom in the coalfields. Coal continues to lose market share for electricity generation in the U.S., partly because of competition from cheap natural gas and increasingly affordable wind and solar power.
And now for the first time in 65 years, we are a net exporter of energy. (Applause.)
After 24 months of rapid progress, our economy is the envy of the world. Our military is the most powerful on earth by far, and America is again winning each and every day. (Applause.)
Members of Congress, the state of our union is strong. (Applause.) (Chants of U-S-A)
One of the matters of suspense leading up to these addresses is how the president will characterize the state of the union. This year, President Trump chose the same adjective as he did last year. “The state of our union is strong,” Trump said in both 2018 and now 2019.
That sounds so good.
Our country is vibrant and our economy is thriving like never before. On Friday, it was announced that we added another 304,000 jobs last month alone, almost double the number expected. (Applause.)
An economic miracle is taking place in the United States, and the only thing that can stop it are foolish wars, politics, or ridiculous partisan investigations. (Applause.) If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation. It just doesn’t work that way. We must be United at home to defeat our adversaries abroad.
Democrats campaigned explicitly in the 2018 midterms on their commitment to vigorous oversight of the Trump administration through congressional committee investigations. The legislative branch is responsible for oversight of the executive branch — a role House Speaker Nancy Pelosi reiterated just hours after Democrats won control of the House in November.
“We believe that we have a responsibility to seek common ground where we can,” Pelosi said in a speech the day after the election. “Openness and transparency, accountability [and] bipartisanship [are] a very important part of how we will go forward.”
Committees have begun the initial stages of several investigations, but committee leaders have cautioned that the process could take months or longer to complete. Several House committees are holding hearings later this week.
NPR’s Domenico Montanaro adds: The president is essentially firing off a warning shot to Democrats, saying if they want him to compromise or work with them, they should drop the investigations. Arguably, the most consequential result of the 2018 Democratic wave election in the House is that Democrats now have the investigations gavel. There have been myriad Trump administration ethics scandals that Republicans overlooked. Democrats have already listed dozens of areas they want to investigate — and a warning from this president isn’t going to change that.
House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings, D-Md.,responded to Trump’s criticism — arguing that voters want Democrats to follow through on their promise to investigate the Trump administration.
“They want Congress to serve as a truly independent check on the Executive Branch,” Cummings said in a written statement. “And they want us to stand up to the President’s repeated attacks on our nation’s institutions, including our judicial system, our intelligence officials, our law enforcement agencies, our international alliances, our public health system, the environmental protection laws, the census, and the right to vote.”
This new era of cooperation can start with finally confirming the more than 300 highly qualified nominees who are still stuck in the Senate, in some cases years and years waiting. Not right. (Applause.)
Trump often complains about the slow pace of Senate confirmations of his nominees, but the details of the approval rate are complicated. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has advanced judicial nominees at a record pace.
McConnell boasted about that progress last year in an interview with NPR in which he called filling the federal courts his top priority.
“There are over 1,200 executive branch appointments that come to us for confirmation, and among the most important — in fact, I would argue, the most important — confirmations we have are lifetime appointments to the judiciary,” McConnell told NPR. “Obviously, this is my top priority.”
In 2017, the Senate confirmed 12 of Trump’s circuit court nominees, which McConnell noted was a first-year record for a president since the modern court system was created more than a century ago.
Cabinet appointments and other political appointee slots in federal agencies have been slower to fill. That is due in part to the slow pace of nominations made by Trump himself. The Washington Post’s Fact Checker reported last year that Trump was far behind his predecessors, Presidents Obama and Bush, in nominating Cabinet slots.
Believe it or not, we have already proven that that’s possible in the last Congress. Both parties came together to pass unprecedented legislation to confront the opioid crisis, a sweeping new farm bill, historic VA reforms, and after four decades of rejection, we passed VA accountability so that we can finally terminate those who mistreat our wonderful veterans. (Applause.)
In October 2018, Trump signed legislation to combat the opioid epidemic. The bill focused on improving access to treatment and services by getting rid of restrictions in Medicaid and Medicare. This bill did not include much money to fight the epidemic. But two previous bills — the 21st Century Cures Act and the 2018 budget bill — included billions to increase treatment and research.
It would be more precise to say the VA accountability effort has been underway since 2014.
Despite the new law, bipartisan critics in Congress say it has more often been used to dismiss low-level employees. And the Department of Veterans Affairs still leads all federal agencies in the number of whistleblowers who say they have faced retaliation.
And just weeks ago, both parties united for groundbreaking criminal justice reform. They said it couldn’t be done. (Applause.)
Last year, I heard through friends the story of Alice Johnson. I was deeply moved. In 1997, Alice was sentenced to life in prison as a first-time non-violent drug offender. Over the next 22 years, she became a prison minister, inspiring others to choose a better path. She had a big impact on that prison population — and far beyond. Alice’s story underscores the disparities and unfairness that can exist in criminal sentencing and the need to remedy this total injustice. She served almost that 22 years, and had expected to be in prison for the remainder of her life.
Kim Kardashian West visited President Trump at the White House last May seeking a commutation for Alice Marie Johnson. Kardashian West had heard Johnson’s story on a news website and decided to take up her cause. Johnson was sentenced to life in prison in 1996 for a first-time drug offense. Trump commuted Johnson’s sentence a few days after Kardashian West’s visit.
In June, I commuted Alice’s sentence. When I saw Alice’s beautiful family greet her at the prison gates, hugging and kissing and crying and laughing, I knew I did something right. Alice is with us tonight, and she is a terrific woman. Terrific. Alice, please. (Applause.)
Trump has granted 11 petitions for clemency or pardon so far. They tend to be prominent people or, in the case of Alice Johnson, someone whose case was championed by a celebrity. The small number is fairly typical for a president only two years into his term. At the end of 2010, President Obama had yet to grant a single pardon or petition for clemency. That pace sped up substantially: By the end of his second term, Obama had granted 212 pardons and 1,715 petitions for clemency.
Alice, thank you for reminding us that we always have the power to shape our own destiny. Thank you very much, Alice. Thank you very much.
Inspired by stories like Alice’s, my administration worked closely with members of both parties to sign the First Step Act into law. Big deal. It’s a big deal.
This legislation reformed sentencing laws that have wrongly and disproportionately harmed the African-American community. The First Step Act gives nonviolent offenders the chance to reenter society as productive, law-abiding citizens.
The First Step Act overcame opposition from a small minority of Senate Republicans once President Trump threw his weight behind it. It softens some sentencing rules for federal prisoners, partly by making retroactive a 2010 law that sought to reduce sentencing disparities for drug crimes involving crack and cocaine. That will allow an estimated 4,000 to 6,000 federal prisoners to qualify for immediate release. Other measures, such as a more generous formula for time off for good behavior and a change to the federal three-strikes rule, will allow tens of thousands more to get out early over the next decade.
Incarceration reform advocates say this first step is a small one, considering that federal prisons account for only a small slice of America’s incarcerated population, which stands at about 2 million people. But some of them also think the federal law may pave the way for more state efforts to reduce incarceration.
Now states across the country are following our lead. America is a nation that believes in redemption. We are also joined tonight by Matthew Charles from Tennessee. In 1996 at the age of 30, Matthew was sentenced to 35 years for selling drugs and related offenses. Over the next two decades, he completed more than 30 Bible studies, became a law clerk, and mentored many of his fellow inmates.
But a pilot program started under the Obama administration is giving some prisoners Pell Grants, to help them pay for college while incarcerated.
Now Matthew is the very first person to be released from prison under the First Step Act. (Applause.)
Matthew, please. Thank you, Matthew. Welcome home. (Applause.)
Now Republicans and Democrats must join forces again to confront an urgent national crisis. Congress has 10 days left to pass a bill that will fund our government, protect our homeland, and secure our very dangerous southern border. Now is the time for Congress to show the world that America is committed to ending illegal immigration and putting the ruthless coyotes, cartels, drug dealers, and human traffickers out of business. (Applause.)
As we speak, large organized caravans are on the march to the United States. (Booing.) We have just heard that Mexican cities, in order to remove the illegal immigrants from their communities, are getting trucks and buses to bring them up to our country in areas where there is little border protection. I have ordered another 3,750 troops to our southern border to prepare for this tremendous onslaught. This is a moral issue. The lawless state of our southern border is a threat to the safety, security, and financial well-being of all America.
There are reports that 1,600 to 1,800 mainly Central American migrants arrived Monday in the Mexican border city of Piedras Negras and are camped out in that industrial city waiting to request asylum. Border agents in riot gear were stationed on the Eagle Pass, Texas, international bridge. Mexican authorities reportedly escorted the migrants for their own protection from ruthless Zeta cartel members, who control the area. The area around Eagle Pass, upriver from Laredo, is not as heavily protected by border barriers as are U.S. urban areas such as San Diego and El Paso.
While Trump is correct about the size of the group of migrants, he is incorrect in calling them “illegal immigrants.” Most of the migrants have obtained what is known as a “humanitarian visa” from the Mexican government. They are traveling with legal permission in Mexico.
There are thousands more migrants that have entered Mexico in recent weeks, the Associated Press reports. The week of Jan. 17-29, 12,564 migrants requested a humanitarian visa as they entered Mexico’s southern border, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. The U.N.’s refugee agency surveyed nearly 1,000 migrants. Nearly a third said their goal was to make it to the U.S. border, while nearly half said they planned to stay in Mexico.
As for the “state of our Southern border,” mayors along the Southwest border consistently say that their communities are among the safest in the nation. McAllen, Texas, Mayor Jim Darling asserted that his city is the third safest in Texas, according to FBI crime statistics, and seventh safest in the nation. “Send social workers to process the asylum-seekers, not soldiers,” Darling said in a recent call with reporters. Eddie Trevino, Cameron County judge in Brownsville, added, “It is a misconception that the border is insecure. There is no Central American invasion. This is a manufactured crisis.”
We have a moral duty to create an immigration system that protects the lives and jobs of our citizens. This includes our obligation to the millions of immigrants living here today who followed the rules and respected our laws. Legal immigrants enrich our nation and strengthen our society in countless ways. (Applause.)
I want people to come into our country in the largest numbers ever, but they have to come in legally. (Applause.)
Tonight I am asking you to defend our very dangerous southern border out of love and devotion to our fellow citizens and to our country. No issue better illustrates the divide between America’s working class and America’s political class than illegal immigration. Wealthy politicians and donors push for open borders while living their lives behind walls and gates and guards. (Applause.)
Meanwhile, working-class Americans are left to pay the price for mass illegal immigration, reduced jobs, lower wages, over-burdened schools, hospitals that are so crowded you can’t get in, increased crime, and a depleted social safety net. Tolerance for illegal immigration is not compassionate, it is actually very cruel. (Applause.)
A respected 2016 report by the National Academy of Sciences showed that “immigration, legal and illegal, does create an economic benefit for some native-born Americans, but this benefit is generated by reducing the wages of native-born workers, often the least-educated and poorest. … By lowering wages, immigration provides higher incomes and profits for businesses. The NAS also finds that immigrants (legal and illegal) at the present time create a net fiscal deficit (taxes paid minus services used) that is as large as or larger than the economic benefit.”
NPR’s Scott Horsley adds that, according to the Washington Post, the president’s company has recently dismissed at least 18 workers from five golf courses because those workers were living in the country illegally.
The Supreme Court ruled in 1982 that all children in the U.S. have a right to a free public education regardless of immigration status. In recent years the proportion of first- and second-generation children in U.S. schools has grown; one study by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that nearly 1 in 4 children in the United States has at least one immigrant parent. Students who are still learning English, in particular, are more likely to struggle to pass state tests and to graduate, and serving them requires more resources. Still, public educators have often vocalized support for and solidarity with immigrant students, as heard most recently during the teacher strike in Los Angeles.
One in three women is sexually assaulted on the long journey north. Smugglers use migrant children as human pawns to exploit our laws and gain access to our country. Human traffickers and sex traffickers take advantage of the wide open areas between our ports of entry to smuggle thousands of young girls and women into the United States and to sell them into prostitution and modern-day slavery.
Tens of thousands of innocent Americans are killed by lethal drugs that cross our border and flood into our cities, including meth, heroin, cocaine, and Fentanyl. The savage gang MS-13 now operates in at least 20 different American states, and they almost all come through our southern border. Just yesterday, an MS-13 gang member was taken into custody for a fatal shooting on a subway platform in New York City. We are removing these gang members by the thousands, but until we secure our border, they’re going to keep streaming right back in.
According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, the vast majority of illicit drugs smuggled into the U.S. from Mexico come through legal ports of entry, not the area between ports where Trump has proposed his border wall.
Year after year, countless Americans are murdered by criminal illegal aliens. I’ve gotten to know many wonderful Angel Moms and dads and families. No one should ever have to suffer the horrible heartache that they have had to endure.
Here tonight is Debra Bissell. Just three weeks ago, Debra’s parents, Gerald and Sharon, were burglarized and shot to death in their Reno, Nevada, home by an illegal alien. They were in their 80s and they’re survived by four children, 11 grandchildren and 20 great grandchildren.
Also here tonight are Gerald and Sharon’s granddaughter Heather and great granddaughter Madison. To Debra, Heather, Madison, please stand. Few can understand your pain. Thank you, and thank you for being here. Thank you very much. (Applause.)
I will never forget, and I will fight for the memory of Gerald and Sharon, that it should never happen again. Not one more American life should be lost because our nation failed to control its very dangerous border.
In the last two years, our brave ICE officers made 266,000 arrests of criminal aliens, including those charged or convicted of nearly 100,000 assaults, 30,000 sex crimes and 4,000 killings or murders.
Four academic studies in 2018 show that illegal immigration does not increase the prevalence of violent crime or drug and alcohol problems. A study by the libertarian Cato Institute found that native-born residents were more likely to be convicted of a crime than were immigrants in the country lawfully or unlawfully. In an interview with NPR last May, then-White House chief of staff John Kelly acknowledged that most people crossing the border illegally “are not bad people.” “They’re not criminals,” Kelly said. “They’re not MS-13 gang members.”
We are joined tonight by one of those law enforcement heroes, ICE special agent Elvin Hernandez. (Applause.)
When Elvin was a boy, he and his family legally emigrated to the United States from the Dominican Republic. At the age of 8, Elvin told his dad he wanted to become a Special Agent. Today he leads investigations into the scores of international sex trafficking.
Elvin says that if I can make sure these young girls get their justice, I’ve really done my job. Thanks to his work and that of his incredible colleagues, more than 300 women and girls have been rescued from the horror of this terrible situation, and more than 1,500 sadistic traffickers have been put behind bars. (Applause.)
We will always support the brave men and women of law enforcement, and I pledge to you tonight that I will never abolish our heroes from ICE. Thank you. (Applause.)
My administration has sent to Congress a common sense proposal to end the crisis on the southern border. It includes humanitarian assistance, more law enforcement, drug detection at our ports, closing loopholes that enable child smug willing, and plans for a new physical barrier or wall to secure the vast areas between our ports of entry.
In the past, most of the people in this room voted for a wall, but the proper wall never got built. I will get it built. (Applause.)
About a third of the 2,000-mile border between the U.S. and Mexico already has fencing or some other form of barrier. In recent negotiations with Congress, the Trump administration sought $5.7 billion to build an additional 234 miles of “new physical barrier.” That works out to about $24 million per mile. Democrats have so far refused to authorize that money, triggering a 35-day government shutdown and leading the president to consider using “emergency” powers to fund the wall without congressional approval.
This is a smart, strategic, see-through steel barrier — not just a simple concrete wall. It will be deployed in the areas identified by the border agents as having the greatest need, and these agents will tell you, where walls go up, illegal crossings go way, way down. (Applause.)
San Diego used to have the most illegal border crossings in our country. In response, a strong security wall was put in place. This powerful barrier almost completely ended illegal crossings.
Border Patrol officials in El Paso, Texas, and San Diego, as well as civic officials, have long acknowledged that steel border barriers erected to protect these two major U.S. border cities over the past 20 years have reduced both illegal crossings and petty crime such as backyard burglaries. But El Paso was never one of the most dangerous American cities, according to FactCheck.org.
The border city of El Paso, Texas, used to have extremely high rates of violent crime, one of the highest in the entire country, and considered one of our nation’s most dangerous cities. Now, immediately upon its building, with a powerful barrier in place, El Paso is one of the safest cities in our country. Simply put, walls work and walls save lives. (Applause.)
A variety of barriers currently exist, in segments, along 654 miles of the Southern U.S. border. In South Texas, construction crews are preparing to erect an additional 33 miles of new fence, with funds appropriated last year. Protesters are upset that it will cut through the National Butterfly Center, Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park, and the century-old La Lomita chapel. Trump is asking Congress for 234 miles of additional “see-through, steel slat” fencing, and accompanying technology, for a total of $5.7 billion. If he gets it, which is unlikely, the total length of the border wall would still cover less than half of the U.S.-Mexico border.
So let’s work together, compromise and reach a deal that will truly make America safe.
As we work to defend our people’s safety, we must also ensure our economic resurgence continues at a rapid pace. No one has benefited more from our thriving economy than women who have filled 58 percent of the newly created jobs last year. (Applause.)
You weren’t supposed to do that. Thank you very much. Thank you very much.
There are more women in the labor force than ever before, but then, there are also more men in the labor force than ever before.
Meanwhile, the labor force participation rate for women — the share of women who are working or looking for work — has leveled off and started to drop, after decades of growing. While the level for men is falling as well, the two have never come close to converging.
This has led economists to dig into what is keeping women from working. One 2017 paper from the Brookings Institution found that while some factors are likely affecting women and men alike, more access to paid leave and affordable child care could help more women get into the workforce.
Don’t sit yet. You’re going to like this.
And exactly one century after Congress passed the Constitutional amendment giving women the right to vote, we also have more women serving in Congress than at any time before. (Applause.) (U-S-A chants.)
There are more women in Congress than ever before, but that is almost entirely because of Democrats, not Trump’s party. The number of Republican women in the House has, in fact, fallen from 23 in the last Congress to 13 in this one.
Altogether, there are 127 women in Congress, up from 110 in 2018. But even with that large jump, women remain hugely underrepresented on Capitol Hill — less than 1 in 4 members of Congress is a woman. (Meanwhile, women are the majority of voters.)
As part of our commitment to improving opportunity for women everywhere, this Thursday, we are launching the first ever government-wide initiative focused on economic empowerment for women in developing countries, to build on — thank you. (Applause.)
To build on our incredible economic success, one priority is paramount: Reversing decades of calamitous trade policies — so bad — we are now making it clear to China that after years of targeting our industries and stealing our intellectual property, the theft of American jobs and wealth has come to an end. (Applause.)
Like other presidents, Trump came to office criticizing Chinese trade practices. Unlike other presidents, he has tried to force Beijing to the bargaining table, by imposing tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of imported Chinese goods. He has promised to increase them by next month if no progress has been made in current talks. Last week, U.S. and Chinese officials met in Washington. They emerged from the talks still without an agreement but sounding cordial and hopeful about a resolution.
Therefore we recently imposed tariffs on $250 billion of Chinese goods, and now our treasury is receiving billions and billions of dollars. But I don’t blame China for taking advantage of us. I blame our leaders and representatives for allowing this travesty to happen.
I have great respect for president Xi, and we are now working on a new trade deal with China. But it must include real structural change to end unfair trade practices, reduce our chronic trade deficit, and protect American jobs. (Applause.)
The deadline the Trump administration has set for making a trade deal with the Chinese is March 2, after which he has promised to raise tariffs on $250 billion worth of Chinese goods from 10 percent to 25 percent. China’s leadership seems prepared to help draw down its trade surplus with the United States – a big concern of President Trump’s – by purchasing more American goods. It also appears poised to make policy changes to prevent the theft of intellectual property. However, for China to make “structural changes” as President Trump mentions, it would require China’s leadership to lessen the power and influence its state-owned enterprises have over the overall economy, something most China watchers say is unlikely to happen.
Another historic trade blunder was the catastrophe known as NAFTA. I have met the men and women of Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana, New Hampshire, and many other states whose dreams were shattered by the signing of NAFTA. For years, politicians promised them they would renegotiate for a better deal, but no one ever tried until now. Our new U.S.-Mexico-Canada agreement, the USMCA, will replace NAFTA and deliver for American workers like they haven’t had delivered to for a long time.
Trump has long been highly critical of the North American Free Trade Agreement, saying it placed U.S. companies at a big disadvantage against foreign competitors. After lengthy talks, North American leaders last year approved a successor agreement they called the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement. It made some changes in trade laws by, for instance, requiring cars sold in North America to have more domestically produced parts. But most trade experts say the changes are incremental. At any rate, the agreement has to be approved by Congress, which is not a sure thing.
I hope you can pass the USMCA into law so that we can bring back our manufacturing jobs in even greater numbers, expand American agriculture, protect intellectual property, and ensure that more cars are stamped with our four beautiful words: “Made in the USA.”
Tonight I am also asking you to pass the United States Reciprocal Trade Act so that if another country places an unfair tariff on an American product, we can charge them the exact same tariff on the exact same product that they sell to us. (Applause.)
Both parties should be able to unite for a great rebuilding of America’s crumbling infrastructure. (Applause.)
Indeed, this should be one of the few areas on which the president and Democrats in Congress can find common ground. And according to the American Society of Civil Engineers, the need is great. The group’s Infrastructure Report Card gives the nation a dismal grade of D+ across 16 categories, with a $2 trillion gap in funded needed improvements over the next decade. But reaching an agreement on which parts of our infrastructure systems to repair, rebuild and improve — and, more important, how to pay for it — will be easier said than done.
NPR’s Kelsey Snell adds: Democrats and Republicans both often talk about passing an infrastructure package, but the two sides differ on how big the package should be and how it should be funded. Trump released a proposal last year that allocated roughly $200 billion in federal funding out of a planned $1.5 trillion in overall spending.
The new House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee chairman, Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., has criticized Trump’s proposal as “a scam” and has vowed to introduce a bill of his own.
I know that Congress is eager to pass an infrastructure bill, and I am eager to work with you on legislation to deliver new and important infrastructure investment, including investments in the cutting-edge industries of the future. This is not an option, this is a necessity.
As a candidate, Trump often promised to rebuild the nation’s crumbling infrastructure, and in his inaugural address, he promised a $1 trillion “national rebuilding,” saying the country’s “crumbling infrastructure will be replaced with new roads, bridges, tunnels, airports, and railways gleaming across our very, very beautiful land.” He initially promised a plan within his first 100 days in office, but it took over a year for him to deliver what ended up being just an outline of a plan.
In his 2018 State of the Union, Trump upped the ante, promising to spend “at least $1.5 trillion for the new infrastructure investment that our country so desperately needs.” But his proposal, finally delivered the next month, was very light on specifics and included very little federal funding — only $200 billion over 10 years. The rest of the money would have to come from state and local taxpayers and private investors, who would most likely be repaid by higher tolls and fees. When members of both parties balked, Trump suggested he would be willing to raise the federal gas tax up to 25 cents per gallon to help fund the plan, but that idea went nowhere with many of his fellow Republicans, and the entire issue disintegrated faster than a crack in a Chicago roadway in winter grows into a gigantic pothole.
Tonight, the president again tells Congress, “I am eager to work with you on legislation to deliver new and important infrastructure investment,” but this time he offers no promises and no dollar amounts. Since Democrats won control of the House in the November midterm elections, they have proposed several ideas for funding a massive rebuilding of the nation’s highways, bridges, transit and water systems, with a variety of funding sources, including higher gas taxes. The first hearing on those proposals will be held by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee this Thursday.
The next major priority for me and for all of us should be to lower the cost of health care and prescription drugs and to protect patients with pre-existing conditions. (Applause.)
The president frequently says he wants to protect health care coverage for people with pre-existing medical conditions. Those protections are among the most popular features of the Affordable Care Act. However, Trump’s Justice Department last year chose not to defend the ACA against a legal challenge to it by a group of state attorneys general. That lawsuit specifically argued that the law’s pre-existing-condition protections are unconstitutional. In December, a Texas judge agreed with that argument and struck down the ACA as a whole, including those pre-existing-condition protections.
Already as a result of my administration’s efforts in 2018, drug prices experienced their single largest decline in 46 years. But we must do more. It’s unacceptable that Americans play vastly more than people in other countries for the exact same drugs, often made in the exact same place.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics, which keeps tabs on inflation, did find that prescription drug prices were slightly lower in December than they were a year earlier.
The net prices of brand-name drugs fell a little more than 5 percent in the third quarter of 2018, according to research by SSR Health. 2018 was the first calendar year to show such a decline in nearly half a century, but there have been other 12-month periods when prices declined, most recently in 2013.
Experts don’t attribute the recent drop to action by the Trump administration. They say decline is is due to new competition for some very expensive drugs, including medication to treat hepatitis C, and because of the decision by some prescription drug plans to refuse to pay for some medications that they deemed too expensive.
The administration has tried to promote competition in the prescription drug market, for example by accelerating the approval of generic alternatives to brand-name drugs. A White House report in October showed that generic medicines introduced since January 2017 have saved consumers $26 billion. Without the accelerated approval process, those savings might have been lower — perhaps around $22 billion. The report also suggested that presidential jawboning may have discouraged pharmaceutical companies from aggressively raising prices. But an Associated Press study last fall suggested that effect was limited. AP found 96 price hikes for every price cut during the first seven months of 2018, although the price increases were not quite as steep as in years past.
This is wrong. This is unfair. And together, we will stop it, and we’ll stop it fast. (Applause.)
Trump and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar have repeatedly accused other countries of “freeloading” on the U.S. over drug prices because prices in the U.S. are consistently higher than in other developed countries. Most analysts say those lower prices are the result of negotiating between foreign governments and drugmakers and that raising those prices won’t lower prices in the U.S. In October, the administration proposed basing some prescription drug prices on an “international pricing index.”
I am asking Congress to pass legislation that finally takes on the problem of global freeloading and delivers fairness and price transparency for American patients, finally. (Applause.)
We should also require drug companies, insurance companies, and hospitals to disclose real prices to foster competition and bring costs way down. (Applause.)
No force in history has done more to advance the human condition than American freedom.
In recent years — (Applause.)
In recent years, we have made remarkable progress in the fight against HIV and AIDS. Scientific breakthroughs have brought a once-distant dream within reach. My budget will ask Democrats and Republicans to make the needed commitment to eliminate the HIV epidemic in the United States within 10 years. We have made incredible strides. Incredible. (Applause.)
The call to end HIV transmission in 10 years echoes many other targeted “stop HIV” campaigns from the past, most of which have not made much of a dent in the rate of new infections. Last year, there were approximately 38,000 new HIV infections in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — and the rate has hovered around the 40,000 mark for more than two decades despite various “targeted” prevention campaigns.
Several HIV/AIDS advocates who have been watching the administration in recent weeks tell NPR that they are encouraged by the efforts by public health leaders within the Trump administration to address HIV/AIDS. But like everything in health care, the devil will be in the details, which were not available at the time of the president’s speech. And critics are quick to point out that the Trump administration’s actions to date on health care — partially dismantling the Affordable Care Act and reducing the number of people able to get insurance coverage — along with targeting Planned Parenthood for cuts and various challenges to LGBTQ rights works at cross-purposes with a goal of ending HIV.
Together we will defeat AIDS in America and beyond. (Applause.)
Tonight I am also asking you to join me in another fight that all Americans can get behind: The fight against childhood cancer. (Applause.)
Joining Melania in the gallery this evening is a very brave 10-year-old girl, Grace Ee-line. Every birthday — (Applause.)
Every birthday since she was four, Grace asked her friends to donate to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. She did not know that one day she might be a patient herself. That’s what happened. Last year, Grace was diagnosed with brain cancer. Immediately, she began radiation treatment. At the same time she rallied her community and raised more than $40,000 for the fight against cancer. (Applause.)
When Grace completed treatment last fall, her doctors and nurses cheered. They loved her. They still love her. With tears in their eyes, as she hung up a poster that read, “Last day of chemo.” (Applause.)
Thank you very much, Grace. You are a great inspiration to everyone in this room. Thank you very much.
Many childhood cancers have not seen new therapies in decades. My budget will ask Congress for $500 million over the next 10 years to fund this critical life-saving research to help support working parents.
The time has come to pass school choice for American children. (Applause.)
The availability of school choices, such as publicly funded charter schools, online charter schools, or vouchers to pay for private school, is largely determined at the state level. Trump’s education secretary, Betsy DeVos, is well-known as a strong proponent of school choice, but federal proposals to use Education Department money to fund charters or vouchers, or to include new school-choice tax credits as part of tax reform, have faltered so far.
I am also proud to be the first president to include in my budget a plan for nationwide paid family leave so that every new parent has the chance to bond with their newborn child. (Applause.)
There could be no greater contrast to the beautiful image of a mother holding her infant child than the chilling displays our nation saw in recent days. Lawmakers in New York cheered with delight upon the passage of legislation that would allow a baby to be ripped from the mother’s womb moments from birth. These are living, feeling, beautiful babies who will never get the chance to share their love and their dreams with the world. And then we had the case of the governor of Virginia, where he stated he would execute a baby after birth. To defend the dignity of every person, I am asking Congress to pass legislation to prohibit the late-term abortion of children, who can feel pain in the mother’s womb. (Applause.)
Last week, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam sparked controversy commenting on a failed bill in his state that would have removed a requirement that three doctors certify that a woman in her third trimester needs an abortion to protect her life or health.
He was asked what would happen if a woman wanted an abortion near the end of her pregnancy.
“So in this particular example, if a mother is in labor, I can tell you exactly what would happen. The infant would be delivered. The infant would be kept comfortable. The infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired. And then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother.”
That led President Trump and Republican lawmakers to accuse Northam of supporting infanticide.
In fact, only about 1 percent of abortions take place after 21 weeks of gestation, which is still the second trimester. Third-trimester abortions are exceedingly rare and usually happen only when the fetus is not viable.
Let us work together to build a culture that cherishes innocent life. (Applause.)
And let us reaffirm a fundamental truth: All children born and unborn are made in the holy image of God.
The final part of my agenda is to protect American security. Over the last two years we have begun to fully rebuild the United States military with $700 billion last year and $716 billion this year.
We are also getting other nations to pay their fair share, finally. (Applause.)
For years, the United States was being treated very unfairly by friends of ours, members of NATO. But now we have secured over the last couple of years more than $100 billion of increase in defense spending from our NATO allies. They said it couldn’t be done.
Trump’s frequent criticism of NATO prompted the House to pass a measure recently that said the White House could not use federal funds to leave NATO. However, Jens Stoltenberg, the secretary general of the alliance, said Sunday that Trump was “committed to NATO” and deserves credit for obtaining $100 billion in increased defense spending commitments by NATO countries. NATO members have long pledged to spend at least 2 percent of their GDP on defense, though fewer than 10 of the alliance’s 29 members have met that commitment. Former President Obama had pressed NATO members to meet that target, but Trump has made spending the focus of his relationship with the alliance.
As part of our military buildup, the United States is developing a state-of-the-art missile defense system. Under my administration, we will never apologize for advancing America’s interests.
For example, decades ago, the United States entered into a treaty with Russia in which we agreed to limit and reduce our missile capability. While we followed the agreement and the rules to the letter, Russia repeatedly violated its terms. It’s been going on for many years. That is why I announce that the United States is officially withdrawing from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty, or INF treaty. (Applause.)
We really have no choice. Perhaps we can negotiate a different agreement, adding China and others, or perhaps we can’t, in which case we will out-spend and out-innovate all others by far.
Russia denies that it violated the 1987 INF treaty signed by President Ronald Reagan and Soviet Leader Mikhail Gorbachev. Both the Obama administration and the Trump administration, however, say Russia has developed a missile that violates the terms of the Cold War-era deal. The U.S. has begun the six-month process of withdrawing, and Russia is withdrawing now too, raising fears among arms control experts of a new arms race. The president’s warning of outspending others is likely to fuel those concerns.
As part of a bold new diplomacy, we continue our historic push for peace on the Korean Peninsula. Our hostages have come home. Nuclear testing has stopped. And there has not been a missile launch in more than 15 months. If I had not been elected President of the United States, we would right now, in my opinion, be in a major war with North Korea. (Applause and boos.)
Much work remains to be done, but my relationship with Kim Jung Un is a good one. Chairman Kim and I will meet again on February 27th and 28th in Vietnam. (Applause.)
U.S. intelligence officials have disputed Trump’s account of the nuclear threat posed by North Korea. In testimony to the Senate intelligence committee last week, National Intelligence Director Dan Coats said Pyongyang is unlikely to surrender its nuclear weapons despite the president’s efforts, because North Korean leaders “ultimately view nuclear weapons as critical to regime survival.”
The new element here is the date and place for the next summit. The State Department’s envoy on North Korea is visiting Pyongyang to work out details. It is true that North Korea has stopped nuclear and missile tests, but it has not taken steps to denuclearize. Nor has it given the U.S. an accounting of its program. Trump overstates the concerns of “a major war” had he not been elected. He ratcheted up the rhetoric about “Little Rocket Man” at the start of his administration, threatening “fire and fury” should North Korea attack the U.S.
Two weeks ago, the United States officially recognized the legitimate government of Venezuela and its new president, Juan Guaidó. (Applause.)
We stand with the Venezuelan people in their noble quest for freedom, and we condemn the brutality of the Maduro regime, whose socialist policies have turned that nation from being the wealthiest in South America into a state of abject poverty and despair.
Here in the United States, we are alarmed by the new calls to adopt socialism in our country. (Booing.)
America was founded on liberty and independence and not government coercion, domination, and control. We are born free, and we will stay free. (U-S-A chants.)
Tonight we renew our resolve that America will never be a socialist country. (Applause.)
Breaking with previous administrations of both parties, the Trump White House endorsed Israel’s position that Jerusalem is its capital. The U.S. moved its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in May.
It was a controversial move. Israel took control of the eastern parts of city in the 1967 war, and there are hundreds of thousands of Palestinians living there along with hundreds of thousands of Israelis mainly in West Jerusalem.
Palestinians seek part of the city for the capital of what they hope is their future independent state. The vast majority of countries see the status of Jerusalem as something to be settled in peace talks between the two sides. The United Nations rejected the move by the U.S., and Palestinian leaders reduced ties with U.S. officials. The U.S. responded by cutting aid for poor Palestinians and infrastructure programs in Palestinian areas.
Our brave troops have now been fighting in the Middle East for almost 19 years. In Afghanistan in Iraq, nearly 7,000 American heroes have given their lives. More than 52,000 Americans have been badly wounded. We have spent more than $7 trillion in fighting wars in the Middle East. As a candidate for president, I loudly pledged a new approach. Great nations do not fight endless wars. (Applause.)
When I took office, ISIS controlled more than 20,000 square miles in Iraq and Syria, just two years ago. Today we have liberated virtually all of the territory from the grip of these bloodthirsty monsters. Now as we work with our allies to destroy the remnants of ISIS, it is time to give our brave warriors in Syria a warm welcome home.
The president’s statement that the U.S. will “destroy the remnants” of ISIS is actually backing off from statements he made Dec. 19 when he announced in tweets and a video that he was pulling the roughly 2,000 U.S. troops out of Syria. “We have defeated ISIS in Syria,” he tweeted. “We won,” he said in a video.
Trump announced plans to withdraw all U.S. troops from Syria and about half the American troops from Afghanistan. No U.S. troops have actually left either country yet, however. And any withdrawal in Syria is expected to be weeks away. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis resigned in December over the Syrian withdrawal. (Trump later claimed he asked for the secretary’s resignation.) And Senate Republicans took the president to task regarding the plans, warning that ISIS and al-Qaida remain a threat. Trump brushed off the criticism, saying he is simply keeping a campaign promise to end long-running wars.
Trump says he plans to maintain the force of more than 5,000 U.S. troops in Iraq. But his suggestion that Iraqi bases could be used to monitor Iran sparked political pushback this week in Baghdad.
U.S. security officials and Syrians themselves say that though ISIS holds very little territory it still has thousands of fighters who could mount a resurgence. It is not completely defeated.
ISIS took over much of the territory in Syria and Iraq after the Obama White House withdrew troops from Iraq. But Obama later sent troops back and they, along with Iraqi fighters, forced ISIS from much of the land it held.
And it is unclear now whether the U.S. is indeed withdrawing as Trump says it is. Some equipment was removed Jan. 11, but military officials are concerned that a withdrawal could allow Turkey to attack Kurdish forces who have been fighting alongside the U.S. against ISIS. Turkey says the fighters are linked to militants in Turkey.
And ISIS has mounted attacks recently, leading to more concerns about what could happen if the U.S. pulls out.
I have also accelerated our negotiations to reach, if possible, a political settlement in Afghanistan. The opposing side is also very happy to be negotiating. Our troops have fought with unmatched valor, and thanks to their bravery, we are now able to pursue a possible political solution to this long and bloody conflict. (Applause.)
In Afghanistan, my administration is holding constructive talks with a number of Afghan groups, including the Taliban. As we make progress in these negotiations, we will be able to reduce our troops’ presence and focus on counterterrorism. And we will indeed focus on counterterrorism. We do not know whether we’ll achieve an agreement, but we do know that after two decades of war, the hour has come to at least try for peace. And the other side would like to do the same thing. It’s time. (Applause.)
The U.S. and the Taliban are holding the most serious peace talks since the U.S. entered the Afghan war in 2001. However, major obstacles remain. The Taliban wants all U.S. troops — numbering some 14,000 — to leave. Also, the Taliban has refused to meet with the Afghan government. Even with a deal, the hard part would be ensuring all parties abide by it. The Americans want guarantees that Afghanistan will not be used to launch terrorist attacks, as al-Qaida did. And the Afghan government wants assurances that the Taliban will lay down arms and join the political process.
Above all, friend and foe alike must never doubt this nation’s power and will to defend our people. 18 years ago, violent terrorists attacked the USS Cole, and last month American forces killed one of the leaders of that attack. (Applause.)
We are honored to be joined tonight by Tom Wibberley, whose son, Navy seaman Craig Wibberley, was one of the 17 sailors we tragically lost. Tom, we vow to always remember the heroes of the USS Cole. (Applause.)
My administration has acted decisively to confront the world’s leading state sponsor of terror, the radical regime in Iran. It is a radical regime. They do bad, bad things. To ensure this corrupt dictatorship never acquires nuclear weapons, I withdrew the United States from the disastrous Iran nuclear deal.
While the U.S. has pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal, some European countries, Russia and China are working to save it. Iran has complied with the 2015 deal — which requires limits and inspections of its nuclear facilities in return for relief from economic sanctions.
U.S. officials acknowledge Iran’s compliance but say the deal should require broad changes in Iran’s behavior in the Middle East and on human rights. Iran backs militant groups in the Mideast including Hezbollah. And it has jailed many, including U.S. citizens, in arrests decried by human rights groups. Trump says he will force Iran to renegotiate a new deal.
Iran’s economy has suffered and the country warns that it could pull out of the deal if it does not get enough benefits from it. Despite new sanctions the administration has imposed, it allowed Iran’s two biggest oil consumers, China and India, to continue buying oil for a few months.
And last fall, we put in place the toughest sanctions ever imposed by us on a country. We will not avert our eyes from a regime that chants “death to America” and threatens genocide against the Jewish people. (Applause.)
We must never ignore the vile poison of anti-Semitism or those who spread its venomous creed. With one voice we must confront this hatred anywhere and everywhere it occurs. Just months ago, 11 Jewish Americans were viciously murdered in anti-Semitic attack on the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. SWAT officer Timothy Matson raced into the gunfire and was shot seven times chasing down the killer, and he was very successful. Timothy has just had his 12th surgery, and he’s going in for many more, but he made the trip to be here with us tonight. Officer Matson, please. (Applause.)
Thank you. We are forever grateful. Thank you very much.
Tonight, we are also joined by Pittsburgh survivor Judah Samet. He arrived at the synagogue as the massacre began, but not only did Judah narrowly escape death last fall, more than seven decades ago, he narrowly survived the Nazi concentration camps. Today is Judah’s 81st birthday. (Applause.)
(Singing happy birthday.)
They wouldn’t do that for me, Judah. (Laughter.)
Judah says he can still remember the exact moment nearly 75 years ago, after 10 months in a concentration camp, when he and his family were put on a train and told they were going to another camp. Suddenly, the train screeched to a very strong halt. A soldier appeared. Judah’s family braced for the absolute worst. Then his father cried out with joy, “It’s the Americans. It’s the Americans!” (Applause.)
A second Holocaust survivor who is here tonight, Joshua Kaufman, was a prisoner at Dachau. He remembers watching through a hole in the wall of a cattle car as American soldiers rolled in with tanks. “To me,” Joshua recalls, “the American soldiers were proof that God exists, and they came down from the sky, they came down from heaven.”
I began this evening by honoring three soldiers who fought on D-Day in the second world war. One of them was Herman Zeitchick, but there is more to Herman’s story. A year after he stormed the beaches of Normandy, Herman was one of the American soldiers who helped liberate Dachau. (Applause.) He was one of the Americans who helped rescue Joshua from that hell on Earth. Almost 75 years later, Herman and Joshua are both together in the gallery tonight, seated side by side, here in the home of American freedom. Herman and Joshua, your presence this evening is very much appreciated. Thank you very much. (Applause.) Thank you.
When American soldiers set out beneath the dark skies over the English Channel in the early hours of D-Day 1944, they were just young men of 18 and 19, hurtling on fragile landing craft toward the most momentous battle in the history of war. They did not know if they would survive the hour. They did not know if they would grow old. But they knew that America had to prevail. Their cause was this nation and generations yet unborn.
Why did they do it? They did it for America. They did it for us. Everything that has come since, our triumph over Communism, our giant leaps of science and discovery, our unrivaled progress towards equality and justice — all of it is possible thanks to the blood and tears and courage and vision of the Americans who came before.
Think of this Capitol. Think of this very chamber where lawmakers before you voted to end slavery, to build the railroads and the highways, and defeat fascism, to secure civil rights, and to face down evil empires.
Here tonight, we have legislators from across this magnificent republic. You have come from the rocky shores of Maine and the volcanic peaks of Hawaií, from the snowy woods of Wisconsin and the red deserts of Arizona, from the green farms of Kentucky and the golden beaches of California.
Together we represent the most extraordinary nation in all of history.
What will we do with this moment? How will we be remembered? I ask the men and women of this Congress: look at the opportunities before us.
Our most thrilling achievements are still ahead. Our most exciting journeys still await. Our biggest victories are still to come.
We have not yet begun to dream. We must choose whether we are defined by our differences or whether we dare to transcend them. We must choose whether we squander our great inheritance, or whether we proudly declare that we are Americans.
We do the incredible. We defy the impossible. We conquer the unknown.
This is the time to reignite the American imagination. This is the time to search for the tallest summit and set our sights on the brightest star. This is the time to rekindle the bonds of love and loyalty and memory that link us together as citizens, as neighbors, as patriots.
This is our future, our fate, and our choice to make.
I am asking you to choose greatness. No matter the trials we face, no matter the challenges to come, we must go forward together. We must keep America first in our hearts. We must keep freedom alive in our souls. And we must always keep faith in America’s destiny: that one nation, under God, must be the hope and the promise and the light and the glory among all the nations of the world.
Thank you, God bless you, and God bless America. Thank you very much. (Applause.)