Spotlight: Trump to stress unity in State of the Union address amid divided Congress, border wall fight

Source: Xinhua| 2019-02-05 13:10:05|Editor: Mu Xuequan
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WASHINGTON, Feb. 4 (Xinhua) -- U.S. President Donald Trump will deliver his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress in the House of Representatives at 9 p.m. EST (0200 GMT) on Tuesday.

In the past days, Trump has built anticipation around his forthcoming speech, including hinting at potential news-making announcements when addressing the nation.

The State of the Union address will be Trump's second during his presidency but also his first one facing a divided Congress, with Democratic heavyweight Nancy Pelosi taking gavel in the House, who will be sitting just behind the president, next to Vice President Mike Pence.


Trump is expected to address his concerns about border security and immigration, arguing how a U.S.-Mexico border wall, a plank of his 2016 presidential campaign, could fix those problems, amid speculation that he would declare a national emergency over illegal immigration.

Such a declaration, a legally-mandated executive power of a U.S. president, would enable him to bypass congressional approval and redirect funds already allocated by Congress for other purposes, possibly at the Pentagon, to his desired border wall.

The lack of agreement between the White House and Congressional Democrats over the border wall funding had led to a historic 35-day partial government shutdown, which stretched from late December to the end of January.

While claiming that there is "a massive humanitarian crisis" at the U.S.-Mexico border, Trump has insisted that a wall or "a steel barrier" is essential to border security and keeping out "criminals, gangs, human traffickers and drugs."

The Democrats have viewed Trump's border wall as expensive, ineffective and "immoral" and call the proposal "a political theater." They prefer the use of technology like drones and sensors in strengthening border security.

Pelosi has said that "there's not going to be any wall money" in legislation as part of border security measures for the rest of this year.

A group of bipartisan lawmakers are negotiating a deal on border security, with a deadline of Feb. 15, to avoid another partial shutdown, while Trump has appeared downbeat about the prospect about the talks but has stopped short of confirming if he would declare a national emergency to secure funding for the border wall.

"I think there's a good chance that we'll have to do that," he told reporters last week. "Well, I'm saying listen closely to the State of the Union. I think you'll find it very exciting."

The move would appear to be unpopular. In a CBS poll published Sunday, 66 percent of Americans said the president should not declare a national emergency if Congress did not fund a wall. Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell has reportedly told him that the declaration would threaten unity in the Republican Party coalition.

Justin Bogie, senior policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation, told Xinhua that Trump "has fairly broad power to do so, though it would almost certainly be challenged in the court system."


According to an excerpt of the State of the Union released by the White House, Trump also intends to call for unity and bipartisan cooperation, when laying out policy priorities for the next period of time.

"Together we can break decades of political stalemate," the excerpt wrote. "We can bridge old divisions, heal old wounds, build new coalitions, forge new solutions and unlock the extraordinary promise of America's future."

Besides border security and immigration, Trump will touch on topics like trade, infrastructure, drug-pricing and national security, according to USA Today, citing a senior administration official speaking on condition of anonymity.

Trump will seek a "unifying, optimistic tone" in what the official described as a "standard State of the Union," which analysts say would mean that the president is almost certain to tout the U.S. economy and jobs numbers, as well as the criminal justice reform bill that the White House helped pass with bipartisan support.

"I really think it's going to be a speech that's going to cover a lot of territory, but part of it's going to be unity," Trump said last week.

Kellyanne Conway, a counselor to the president, told reporters Monday that Trump will call for cooperation, comity and also compromise.

The administration, meanwhile, has also been teasing other announcements, including on the president's planned withdrawal from Syria.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told a Fox News interview that the president would "make a significant announcement" during the State of the Union address, "with respect of the status of the caliphate, the real estate, the grounds from which (the Islamic State group) had been operating in Syria."

"We will soon have destroyed 100% of the Caliphate, but will be watching them closely," Trump tweeted last week.

And Trump has also told reporters he would probably be announcing the details of his upcoming second meeting with Kim Jong Un, top leader of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. Their second summit is expected to take place late this month.


This year's State of the Union speech has itself been a source of drama.

Pelosi originally invited Trump to deliver his annual address to Congress on Jan. 29, but later rescinded the invitation citing security concerns since federal agencies designated to provide security for the event had not been funded due to the record-breaking shutdown.

Trump retaliated by postponing a planned foreign trip by Pelosi and other lawmakers.

In late January, Trump signed a bill to fund parts of the government for three weeks before he and Pelosi agreed to schedule the State of the Union for Feb. 5.

The annual speech is traditionally made by the U.S. president before a joint session of Congress in the House chamber at the invitation of the speaker.

U.S. Constitution requires the president "shall from time to time give the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient."

Democrats plan this year to send of a message of opposition against the White House on the occasion of the speech.

Their guests include federal workers who were affected by the government shutdown as well as Victorina Morales, an immigrant from Guatemala who was in the U.S. illegally and who had worked for Trump at his golf club in Bedminster, state of New Jersey.

The House Democratic Women's Working Group has also invited female members of both parties to wear white to Trump's speech as a symbol of solidarity.

Stacey Abrams, who lost a high-profile gubernatorial battle in Georgia's 2018 midterm election but has been talked about as a rising star among Democrats, will deliver the party's rebuttal.

"At a moment when our nation needs to hear from leaders who can unite for a common purpose, I am honored to be delivering the Democratic State of the Union response," Abrams tweeted.