(UPI) — President Donald Trump plowed through a long list of issues facing his presidency and raised in news media during his de facto State of the Union address Tuesday night.
First-year presidents don’t give official State of the Union speeches because they have been in office for such a short time, but debut commanders in-chief do typically address a joint session of Congress at some point early in their administration. Trump spoke for a little more than an hour on Tuesday night.
“We are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all of its very ugly forms,” Trump said after honoring the end of Black History Month. “I’m here tonight to deliver a message of unity and strength.”
“What we are witnessing today is the renewal of the American spirit,” Trump said.
The president has faced intense media and political scrutiny in the five weeks since his inauguration over a wide range of matters — including Russia, immigration, national security, border security, environmental regulations and business.
On Jan. 27, Trump signed Executive Order 13769, an action to close off U.S. borders to all refugees worldwide and immigrants from seven majority-Muslim countries.
“We have defended the borders of other nations while leaving our own borders wide open,” he said. “We want all Americans to succeed — but that can’t happen in an environment of lawless chaos. We must restore integrity and the rule of law at our borders.”
The order has been blocked in federal court while its legality is fully weighed. Trump’s administration, though, has hinted that it might scrap the old order and produce a new draft that can better stand up to legal scrutiny.
“It is not compassionate, but reckless, to allow uncontrolled [U.S.] entry from places where proper vetting cannot occur. Those given the high honor of admission to the United States should support this country and love its people and its values,” Trump said. “We cannot allow a beachhead of terrorists to form inside America.”
The president also announced the creation of a new Department of Homeland Security office, called VOICE — which stands for victims of immigration crime engagement. It was met with several groans in the chamber. Trump said the new office will represent victims he said were forgotten by the government and “ignored” by the news media.
“I want you to know — we will never stop fighting for justice. Your loved ones will never be forgotten; we will always honor their memory,” he told a family impacted by immigrant crime in attendance.
As expected, the president also pledged to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, Obama’s signature healthcare package.
In his pledge to replace the ACA with a better system, Trump assured that people with pre-existing conditions will still be able to find coverage and that Americans can choose the plan that is right for them instead of having plans “forced” on them.
Two other key elements of the president’s healthcare vision, he said, is lowering the cost of drugs and allowing citizens to buy insurance plans in other states.
“Our citizens deserve this and so much more, so why not join forces and finally get the job done and get it done right?” Trump asked. “Democrats and Republicans should get together to unite.”