Saturday 18 August 2018

Donald Trump to herald economic progress in State of the Union address

The speech is traditionally a president’s biggest platform to speak to the nation.

The speech marks the ceremonial kick-off of Donald Trump's second year in office (Matt Cardy/PA)
The speech marks the ceremonial kick-off of Donald Trump's second year in office (Matt Cardy/PA)

By Julie Pace, Associated Press

US President Donald Trump will herald a robust economy and push for bipartisan congressional action on immigration in Tuesday’s State of the Union address, as he seeks to rally a deeply divided nation.

The speech marks the ceremonial kick-off of his second year in office and is traditionally a president’s biggest platform to speak to the nation.

However, Mr Trump has redefined presidential communications with his high-octane, filter-free Twitter account and there is no guarantee that the carefully crafted speech will resonate beyond his next tweet.

Still, White House officials are hopeful the president can use the prime-time address to Congress and millions of Americans watching at home to take credit for a soaring economy.

Though the trajectory of lower unemployment and higher growth began under his predecessor, Mr Trump argues that the tax overhaul he signed into law late last year has boosted business confidence and will lead companies to reinvest in the United States.

Considering the strength of the economy, Mr Trump will step before lawmakers in a remarkably weak position.

His approval rating has hovered in the 30s for much of his presidency and at the close of 2017, just three in 10 Americans said the United States was heading in the right direction, according to a poll by The Associated Press-NORC Centre for Public Affairs Research.

In the same survey, 67% of Americans said the country was more divided because of Mr Trump.

It is unlikely Mr Trump will be able to rely on a robust legislative agenda to reverse those numbers in 2018.

Congress has struggled with the basic function of funding the government, prompting a brief government shutdown earlier this month that was resolved only with a short-term fix that pushed the spending deadline to February 8.

Against the backdrop of the spending fight, Republicans and Democrats are also wrestling with the future of some 700,000 young immigrants living in the United States illegally.

Mr Trump has vowed to protect the so-called Dreamers from deportation, but is also calling for changes to legal immigration that are controversial with both parties.

Though Democrats are eager to reach a resolution for the young immigrants, the party is hardly in the mood to compromise with Mr Trump ahead of the midterm elections.

Lawmakers see his unpopularity as a key to their success in November, and are eager to mobilise Democratic voters itching to deliver the president and his party a defeat at the ballot box.

Seeking to set the tone for their election-year strategy, party leaders have tapped Massachusetts Republican Joe Kennedy, the grandson of Robert F Kennedy, to deliver a post-speech rebuttal aimed at casting Democrats, not Mr Trump, as champions of the middle class.

Democrats are also looking to make their mark in other ways.

A handful of lawmakers are planning to boycott the president’s remarks, and several Democratic women plan to wear black to protest against sexual harassment, an issue that has tarnished several lawmakers in both parties.

Mr Trump himself has been accused of assault or harassment by more than a dozen women, accusations he has denied.

Press Association

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