Adirondack Daily Enterprise - STEFANIK, CANDIDATES REACT TO STATE OF THE UNION SPEECH

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President Donald Trump delivered his State of the Union speech Tuesday evening, wrapping up his first year in office, addressing current and future legislative plans and receiving bipartisan support on few issues.

In a speech lasting an hour and 20 minutes, one of the longer State of the Union addresses in history, he tackled everything from the NFL to North Korea, listing the actions and accomplishments of his first year of the presidency.

From historic tax cuts to the current economic and pension boom, Trump received long applause for the implementation of what he called “the new American model.”

“The era of economic surrender is totally over,” Trump said. “From now we expect trading relationships to be fair, and very importantly, reciprocal. We will work to fix bad trade deals and negotiate new ones, and they’ll be good ones, but they’ll be fair.”

He declared that he ended the war on “beautiful, clean coal” and that Detroit, the “Motor City,” is now revving business up again with factories moving from Mexico to Michigan.

North Country Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Willsboro attended with Sarah Pratt, of South Glens Falls, the daughter of Timothy Pratt, a state Trooper, who in 2016, died in the line of duty. She said Pratt was “an ordinary American doing extraordinary things.”

“I thought it was a very positive, optimistic speech, focused on economic growth, economic opportunity and the American dream,” Stefanik said following the speech. “I think the president sought to unify both parties on issues that should be bi-partisan.”

She said issues like improving infrastructure, addressing the opioid crisis, rebuilding military and making sure the federal Department of Veterans Affairs is accountable to the veterans it represents and serves should be supported across the aisle.

Partisan, bipartisan support

While infrastructure and general platitudes about the military received bipartisan ovations, the details of the military and opioid plans were mostly supported by Republican applause and some measures even garnered boos and groans from the left side of the aisle.

Trump said one of his top priorities this year would be lowering the price of prescription drugs. Gesturing toward the Democratic side of the room, he conducted them to rise in applause of his proposed legislation, and showing visible displeasure when some didn’t. He did the same when he proposed Congress designate $1.5 trillion to update infrastructure nationwide. When a request for paid family leave in the U.S. received a bipartisan standing ovation, he raised his hands to his head, showing his surprise for the Democratic support.

More of his initiatives that received bipartisan support were investment in vocational schools, and the elimination of VA employees deemed harmful to their facilities.

Speaking at length on immigration reform, Trump detailed four pillars to focus on: Creating a path to citizenship for the 1.8 million recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, fully securing the border with technology and a wall, ending the visa lottery and ending chain migration.

“I support the president’s focus on securing our southern border,” Stefanik said. “I believe that it needs to be increasing technology, increasing border personnel, as well as, when applicable, physical barriers.”

She said she wants reform to create a better agriculture worker program, specifically for dairy farmers. She has introduced legislation she hopes will be included in the final immigration deal to move the H-2A Temporary Agricultural Workers program from the Department of Labor to the Department of Agriculture, which she said has more people familiar with what it takes to run a farm.

Stefanik also said she would like to raise the cap on J-1 visas, which many seasonal businesses rely on.

Though he described this as a “down the middle compromise, one where nobody gets everything they want,” there were boos and generally unhappy-looking Democrats as Trump talked about ending the practice of “catch and release,” ending chain migration and accepting immigrants based on skill, merit and safety.

“Struggling communities, especially immigrant communities, will also be helped by immigration policies that focus on the best interests of American workers and American families,” Trump said. “For decades, open borders have allowed drugs and gangs to pour into our most vulnerable communities. They’ve allowed millions of low-wage workers to compete for jobs and wages against the poorest Americans.”

Trump presented a grim view of immigrants, saying illegal members of the MS13 gang have caused the loss of many innocent lives, and saying, “Americans are dreamers, too.”

Identifying countries like China and Russia as rivals, Trump said that weakness equals conflict and that “unmatched power is the surest means of our true and great defense.” He proposed modernizing and rebuilding the nation’s nuclear arsenal to be so strong it will deter action from other countries.

Democratic response

“During the State of the Union, the president discussed the opioid crisis and called it a scourge. Sadly, members of his own party, including Elise Stefanik, take large political donations from the very companies who have created this problem,”Democratic candidate Ron Kim wrote in an email. “Since 2014, Stefanik has received $22,000 from ‘Big Opioid.'”

“What is clear from his first year in office is that this president needs a congress that will hold him to his promises and hold him accountable for his misdeeds,”Democratic candidate Katie Wilson wrote in an email. “Elise Stefanik has failed in this regard. Whether it’s voting to take healthcare from thousands of residents in the district, or more recently, voting in favor of a shamelessly partisan effort to undermine the integrity of FBI, Elise Stefanik has shown time and again that she votes the way Paul Ryan and Donald Trump allow her to, and not on behalf of the residents of the North Country.”

“Tonight, the president was at his best in presenting to the American people an alternate view of reality that is not supported by evidence,” Democratic candidate Patrick Nelson wrote in an email. “Look no further than the fact that there was zero mention of a current crisis and fundamental challenge of our time in climate change. In fact, the president trumpeted policies which threaten our way of life and the legacy of the human race. It seems to be a recurring theme of this president’s agenda to propel the American people closer to danger.”

“Instead of focusing on helping working families, President Trump touted the tax bill that hurts northern New Yorkers and rewards company shareholders,”Democratic candidate Tanya Boone wrote in an email. “While it was encouraging to hear a refocus on infrastructure investment, so far, we’ve only seen lip service from the president on this, no funding or action.”

“Last night we heard from an unpredictable president who says one thing and does another, much like our current congresswoman who claims to care about her constituents while she receives huge sums from the hedge fund and corporate donors who she truly serves,” Tedra Cobb wrote in an email. “President Trump paid lip service to bipartisanship and advocated for wrong-headed policies like punitive approaches to the opioid crisis and immigration reform, while ignoring the challenges of climate change and making healthcare accessible to all.”

“Among all the policy talk and rhetoric, the priority I would have really liked to have seen is the one that’s about valuing all people equally and making sure everyone has the chance to succeed. That is truly what should be at the heart of our region and our nation,” Democratic candidate Emily Martz wrote in an email. “Our region is losing population and we depend upon immigrant labor for farming, so for the North Country, indeed for the entire nation, anti-immigration policies are damaging. Rather than inflammatory rhetoric, we need to focus on creating a common sense, safe, and secure immigration system that allows immigration based both on family and employment.”

Patrick Nelson