Langevin Statement on Trump’s Address to Congress

Congressman Jim Langevin (D-RI) issued the following statement in response to President Trump’s first address to a joint session of Congress:

“Tonight’s speech was not as unifying as I’d hoped – it was disappointingly long on rhetoric and short on details. Although the President claimed to strike a more conciliatory tone, noticeably lacking were serious, bipartisan policies that lawmakers of both parties could get behind. Instead, the President doubled down on the chaotic course he has set with empty promises and ill-conceived ideas that will only set our country back.

“Central to the President’s speech was his commitment to repealing the Affordable Care Act. Just this week, the President admitted his lack of experience with health care policy, but rather than take the time to work through this challenging issue, he continued to press for the dismantling of a law that has provided 22 million Americans – and tens of thousands of Rhode Islanders – with health coverage. While there is no doubt that positive changes can be made to fix and strengthen the ACA, those changes need to be built on bipartisan collaboration not unilateral action.

“During his speech, the President lauded his Administration’s executive actions on immigration and announced a revised travel ban order. As I have said repeatedly, the President’s actions are not based on any specific, credible threats. Tearing families apart by deporting mothers or brothers who have committed no crime will do nothing to improve our homeland security. Banning refugees, many of whom are fleeing war-ravaged countries and all of whom have been extensively vetted, is unconscionable. By basing these decisions on stigma and fear instead of reliable intelligence, the President and his advisors will only make our communities less safe and further isolate our country at a time when we should be engaging with our allies and forging new alliances.

“On education policy, the President made it clear he supports his unqualified Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos, in her prescription for our schools. Vouchers – which simply drain resources from public schools – are not the answer. Instead, we need to ensure our education system is tuned to the demands of the 21st Century economy. Investments in career and technical education and efforts to improve college affordability will help ensure today’s students are college- and career-ready. Continued federal support is completely at odds with the President’s voucher plan, which would gut public education and the resources made available to state and local school systems.

“Also notable in the President’s speech were issues he did not touch upon. Despite his commitment during the campaign, he made no mention of releasing his tax returns. He did not address the glaring ethical concerns raised by his refusing to place his assets in a blind trust. He ignored the very real actions his Justice Department is taking to roll back LGBT rights and protections for minority voters. Most worrisome, he made no mention of the Russian election influence operation that occurred around the 2016 election. This attack on the very foundation of our democracy requires full Congressional and independent investigations, and the President’s refusal to address the issue continues to raise questions about his aides’ ties to Russia.

“The President did speak accurately about the need to rebuild our nation’s roads, bridges, dams, and transit systems. Infrastructure is the foundation on which our economy is based, and we need major investments – and the jobs those projects will bring – to grow. Unfortunately, the promises to work in a bipartisan fashion have yet to come to fruition. While Democrats stand ready to work with our Republican colleagues to invest in our future, the President has still not released a proposal to do so.

“My guest, Dr. Ehsun Mirza, and I hoped that President Trump would speak to the fear that Americans have felt over the past month of chaos. We hoped that the President would begin the process of righting the ship of state and unifying the country. Instead, the speech this evening was a continuation of misguided ideas backed by muddled policies, of contradictory statements and empty rhetoric. In short, it was the epitome of a state of affairs that is rapidly becoming the signature of the Trump Presidency. I can only hope that the President does take the time to listen to the advice of the many fine civil servants working in government and work in a bipartisan fashion to solve our nation’s problems, rather than continuing to govern disastrously from the hip.”