WASHINGTON — A real attempt to bring the nation together, or another hunk of red meat for his most fervent supporters? We’ll find out Tuesday night, when President Donald Trump makes his first address to a joint session of Congress.
“He recognizes the problems our nation faces, but he also charts a vision forward,” said White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer on Monday.
Spicer says the address “reaffirms the President’s desire to unite the country, and unite the parties in the area of shared common ground.”
One of the area’s top lawmakers says he’ll have to hear it to believe it.
“If it’s anything like his inaugural address, it will be extremely disappointing,” said Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Maryland.
“He [had] an opportunity in his inaugural address to bring us together. And he didn’t do that. He gave a campaign speech,” he told students Monday at the University of Maryland.
Billed as a joint address rather than a State of the Union Address, Trump’s speech upholds a tradition of presidents speaking to Congress in their Inaugural years.
Spicer said the speech will not include a defense of the president’s executive orders on travel – the one still before the court or the one to come. However, he says, Trump will frame the immigration debate in terms of both public safety and the economy.
“You will hear a lot about immigration … and he will talk about why it matters,” Spicer told reporters in Monday’s briefing.
Tradition dictates that the party not in power deliver a response to the presidential address. Former Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear has that duty.
The speech is often seen as a chance for a rising star in the opposition party to get some national exposure. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio delivered the 2013 Republican response to President Obama’s State of the Union Address, while Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal did it in 2009.
But Beshear, who left the Kentucky statehouse in 2015, is 72 years old. A Democratic governor in a deeply Republican state, he extended access to affordable health care – primarily via the Affordable Care Act.
According to the Courier-Journal, Kentucky’s uninsured rate dropped from around 20 percent to around 7 percent during Beshear’s tenure.