Highlights of President Donald Trump’s speech to Congress

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Highlights of President Donald Trump’s speech to Congress

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President Donald Trump (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Saying “the time for small thinking is over,” President Donald Trump outlined an ambitious agenda Tuesday in which he pressed Congress to boost defense spending, overhaul the federal tax code, and adopt sweeping revisions to the nation’s health care system.

Following a turbulent and divisive first month in office, Trump delivered his first address to a joint session of Congress where he directly faced his legion of Democratic critics and Republican supporters, many of whom have waited years for the chance to simplify the tax code while scrapping the 2010 health law known as Obamacare.

In a nod to the intense fights that have divided the two political parties and the nation itself, Trump said “the time for small thinking is over, the time for trivial fights is behind us,” adding that “from now on, America will be empowered by our aspirations, not burdened by our fears.”

“Each American generation passes the torch of truth, liberty and justice – in an unbroken chain all the way down to the present,” Trump said. “That torch is now in our hands. And we will use it to light up the world. I am here tonight to deliver a message of unity and strength, and it is a message deeply delivered from my heart.”

President Trump on 'radical Islamic terrorism'

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Here’s some highlights from the speech: 

On defense spending: “I am sending Congress a budget that rebuilds the military, eliminates the defense sequester, and calls for one of the largest increases in national defense spending in American history.”  

Healthcare: “Tonight, I am also calling on this Congress to repeal and replace Obamacare, with reforms that expand choice, increase access, lower costs, and at the same time, provide better Healthcare.”  

On Washington: “We have begun to drain the swamp of government corruption by imposing a 5-year ban on lobbying by Executive Branch Officials - and a lifetime ban on becoming lobbyists for a foreign government.”  

On fighting ISIS: “We will work with our allies, including our friends and allies in the Muslim World, to extinguish this vile enemy from our planet.”

On jobs: “But to accomplish our goals at home and abroad, we must restart the engine of the American Economy – making it easier for companies to do business in the United States, and much harder for companies to leave.”

On trade: “I believe strongly in free trade but it also has to be FAIR TRADE.  The first Republican President, Abraham Lincoln, warned that “The abandonment of the protective policy by the American government will produce want and ruin among our people.”  Lincoln was right – and it is time we heeded his words.”

On infrastructure: “The time has come for a new program of national rebuilding. America has spent approximately six trillion dollars in the Middle East, all this while our infrastructure at home is crumbling.  With this six trillion dollars we could have rebuilt our country – twice.”

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Trump: Time for small thinking is over

Trump entered the chamber to loud cheers and applause, shaking hands with lawmakers from both parties, members of his cabinet, and Chief Justice John Roberts four other justices of the U.S. Supreme Court.

No freshly sworn in president has delivered such a crucial speech at a time when the country and Congress is so bitterly polarized.

A NBC/Wall Street Journal poll released this week shows just 44 percent of Americans approve of the job Trump is doing as president, a historically low mark for new presidents who normally enjoy high approval ratings during their first few months in office.

In the speech’s most dramatic moment, Trump hailed Chief Special Warfare Operator William “Ryan” Owens who was killed in action last month during an anti-terrorist raid in Yemen. He told lawmakers “we are blessed to be joined tonight” by Owens’ widow Carryn. The chamber erupted in applause as she struggled to fight back tears.

Trump vowed to end the automatic spending reductions for national defense imposed by Congress in 2013 and signed into law by former President Barack Obama.

Instead, he called for what he insisted was “one of the largest increases in national defense spending in American history,” adding that to “to keep America safe we must provide the men and women of the United States military” with the weapons they need to fight.

During his more than one-hour speech, Trump focused on many of the themes from his presidential campaign – cutting taxes, scrapping Obamacare, and curbing immigration.

He urged the Republican-controlled Congress to dramatically re-shape the tax code to reduce taxes on American companies and the middle class. He called on Congress to “restart the engine of the American economy – making it easier for companies to do business in the United States, and much harder for companies to leave.”

“Right now, American companies are taxed at one of the highest rates anywhere in the world,” Trump said. “My economic team is developing historic tax reform that will reduce the tax rate on our companies so they can compete and thrive anywhere and with anyone,” adding “we will provide massive tax relief for the middle class.”

What’s next for Obamacare?

He also urged lawmakers to “repeal and replace” the 2010 health law “with reforms that expand choice, increase access, lower costs, and at the same time provide better health care.”

He insisted that Obamacare is “is collapsing – and we must act decisively to protect all Americans. Action is not a choice – it is a necessity. So I am calling on all Democrats and Republicans in Congress to work with us to save Americans from this imploding Obamacare disaster.” 

In perhaps a nod to Gov. John Kasich and other governors fearful of losing hundreds of millions of federal dollars to provide health coverage to millions of low-income Americans, Trump said “we should give our state governors the resources and flexibility they need with Medicaid to make sure no one is left out.”

And even as Trump said “real and positive immigration reform is possible,” he returned to many of the anti-immigration themes from his campaign, including a vow to “soon begin the construction of a great, great wall along our southern border.” 

“By finally enforcing our immigration laws, we will raise wages, help the unemployed, save billions and billions of dollars, and make our communities safer for everyone,” Trump said. “We want all Americans to succeed – but that can’t happen in an environment of lawless chaos. We must restore integrity and the rule of law to our borders.”

He said any overhaul of the immigration system must include “a basic principle that those seeking to enter a country ought to be able to support themselves financially.”

“Yet, in America, we do not enforce this rule, straining the very public resources that our poorest citizens rely upon,” Trump said.

He insisted that Obamacare is “is collapsing – and we must act decisively to protect all Americans. Action is not a choice – it is a necessity. So I am calling on all Democrats and Republicans in Congress to work with us to save Americans from this imploding Obamacare disaster.”

But in perhaps a nod to Gov. John Kasich and other governors fearful of losing hundreds of millions of federal dollars to provide health coverage to low-income Americans, Trump said “we should give our state governors the resources and flexibility they need with Medicaid to make sure no one is left out. 

Immigration reform

And even as Trump said “real and positive immigration reform is possible,” he returned to many of the anti-immigration themes from his campaign, including a vow to “soon begin the construction of a great, great wall along our southern border.” 

“By finally enforcing our immigration laws, we will raise wages, help the unemployed, save billions and billions of dollars, and make our communities safer for everyone,” Trump said. “We want all Americans to succeed – but that can’t happen in an environment of lawless chaos. We must restore integrity and the rule of law to our borders.” 

He said any overhaul of the immigration system must include “a basic principle that those seeking to enter a country ought to be able to support themselves financially.”

“Yet, in America, we do not enforce this rule, straining the very public resources 

that our poorest citizens rely upon,” Trump said. 

He also vowed to re-issue an order which would restrict immigration from seven countries which have majority Muslim populations, including Iraq.

“We cannot allow a beachhead of terrorism to form inside America – we cannot allow our nation to become a sanctuary for extremists. That is why my Administration has been working on improved vetting procedures, and we will shortly take new steps to keep our nation safe – and to keep out those who would do us harm.” 

Although Trump’s speech had all the trappings of a State of the Union, technically it was an address to a joint session of Congress. By tradition, presidents do not deliver a State of the Union speech until they have been office for a year. 

But since President Ronald Reagan in 1981, newly inaugurated presidents have been invited by the speaker of the House to deliver a speech to a joint session. 

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