Langevin Statement on President Trump’s 2019 State of the Union Address

Feb 6, 2019

WASHINGTON – Congressman Jim Langevin (D-RI), a senior member of the House Committees on Armed Services and Homeland Security, issued the following statement in response to President Donald Trump’s 2019 State of the Union address:

“Tonight, President Trump had the opportunity to unite a nation riven by the trauma of an unprecedented 35 day government shutdown. While the President did touch on many important challenges facing our nation, too often he returned to proposals like a border wall that drive wedges between us, not those that bring the country together. His policies of division do not live up to his rhetoric of unity. Thankfully, our newly empowered Democratic majority is ready and willing to tackle infrastructure, prescription drug prices, and border security with sensible policies that work.

“Every day, Rhode Islanders experience the pains of our crumbling infrastructure. From increased traffic congestion to reduced economic investment, out of date infrastructure has real costs for people and businesses. I invited Stephen Cardi, one of our state’s foremost leaders in the construction industry, as my guest to the State of the Union because I believe investments in our infrastructure is an area where we can find common ground. There is bipartisan interest in rebuilding our transportation, communication and education infrastructure. But for two years, we have waited in vain for a substantial proposal from the President to make the needed investments and create high-skilled, high-paying jobs. We can wait no longer. I am excited to work with my Democratic colleagues to craft a real infrastructure proposal, and I will fight to ensure that funds are also allocated to career and technical education programs to train the workforce we will need to complete these projects. I hope the President will stay true to his word and engage with us in this process.

“Unfortunately, his willingness to work with Congress has been erratic at best. For 35 days, the President shut down portions of the government, including the Department of Transportation, in a vain attempt to build an unnecessary border wall. The President took 800,000 federal workers hostage in this misguided gambit. He has threatened to do it again when government funding runs out next Friday. This is simply unacceptable. I believe in strong border security, but I also recognize the inefficiency and futility of building a barrier to do it. Democrats believe in smart border solutions, including enhanced surveillance and more customs personnel. We also believe in humane immigration policies, including relief for the dreamers put in jeopardy by the President’s own actions. Yet, rather than looking to bring the country together and find a way out of this impasse, the President continued his divisive rhetoric – and his demand for a wall. Ours is a nation of immigrants, and it is long past time for the President to acknowledge the contributions made by the thriving communities of these aspiring Americans.

“I was grateful that the President did choose to touch on an issue of great importance to my constituents, that of rising prescription drug prices. Healthcare is a fundamental right, and we must do everything possible to ensure everyone has access to affordable, quality care. During his campaign for the White House, President Trump proposed allowing Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices on behalf of its millions of beneficiaries. I have cosponsored legislation to do just that, yet, tonight, the President again failed to follow up on this campaign promise, instead making vague commitments to price transparency. My constituents know they’re paying too much. We need real reforms, not half steps that will continue to let drug companies off the hook and hit Americans in their pocketbooks.

“The President began his speech by reflecting on the decade-long economic expansion we have experienced. I agree that our economic recovery has been impressive, but the strength at the top belies the reality faced by many middle class families who have not seen their incomes rise in years. The President touted his tax cut as an area of unity, ignoring the fact that one hundred percent of the permanent benefits go to corporations – and that the vast majority of individual breaks go to the wealthiest of Americans. Democrats believe in a strong minimum wage. We believe that the hollowing out of the middle class, driven in part by increased costs for healthcare and education, must end. These are proposals that all of us can get behind, and they will ensure that every one gets a shot at the American dream.

“Finally, the President closed his address by recognizing the amazing talents of the members of our armed forces. I have often said that the defense of our nation is the area where we are most likely to find common ground, and I appreciate the President recognizing the sacrifices our soldiers, sailors, seamen, and marines have made and continue to make in service to our country. Yet his message of support stands in sharp contrast to his actions. He has regularly ignored the professional opinions of his military advisers and the assessments of our intelligence community, leading to the unprecedented resignation of the Secretary of Defense not two months ago. His statement that we would be in a war with North Korea but for his election is beyond puzzling. I know that we all agree on the need to support our troops and protect our national security, but the President must match his words with actions.

“I agree with President Trump that the politics of division do not do justice to our great nation and the legacy of our past leaders. I believe that we can find common ground with our colleagues from different backgrounds and different ideologies. More than that, I believe that we must work together now more than ever. Yet, despite the President’s speech, I cannot ignore his track record of the past two years. I pledge tonight to continue my efforts to find that common ground. I can only hope that, come next Friday, I find the President there with me.”