Trump’s moment of truth: A nod to ‘more women serving in Congress than ever’

SHARE Trump’s moment of truth: A nod to ‘more women serving in Congress than ever’
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Vice President Mike Pence (l) stands to applaud as he and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi listen to President Donald Trump deliver the State of the Union address at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 5, 2019. | Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s line that really got the joint jumping at his State of the Union on Tuesday was when he said “we have more women serving in Congress than ever before.”

The Democrats, especially the women members, almost all dressed in white, the color of the suffragettes, started chanting “USA, USA,” a cry more often associated with Republican shouters. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, taking her first turn at the gavel with Trump as president, was also in white.

And for once, Trump spoke the truth.

And it served to highlight the shortcomings of Republicans when it comes to electing women.

There are a record number of women in the House — 127, with 106 of them Democrats and only 21 Republicans. Of the 25 women in the Senate, 17 are Democrats and eight are Republican.

If the Democratic women wanted to send a message through optics to the nation, they certainly did with their sea of white.

Congresswomen, dressed in white in tribute to the women’s suffrage movement, applaud as they attend the State of the Union address at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 5, 2019. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP) MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images

Congresswomen, dressed in white in tribute to the women’s suffrage movement, applaud as they attend the State of the Union address at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 5, 2019. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP) MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images

I sat in the House gallery for Trump’s speech — his first to a majority Democratic chamber — a subdued 82 minutes where he did not dwell on his promised wall. And he never mentioned the record 35-day partial federal shutdown the nation just endured because of Trump’s insistence on $5.7 billion for his wall on the southern border — the one Mexico was supposed to pay for.

OPINION

Trump also did not dwell on the ongoing negotiations to avoid another shutdown. A group of 17 House and Senate Democratic and Republican lawmakers are working out a deal, with Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., in the group. A few days ago Trump said they were wasting their time; on Tuesday night he left that divisive rhetoric back home in the White House.

The chamber became a giant focus group, of sorts, based on applause from either or both sides or what made Democrats or Republicans leap to their feet.

Observations:

  • There are times when partisanship can be set aside, and we saw it with lawmakers and Trump honoring astronaut Buzz Aldrin.
  • On the matter of the wall, where semantics play a role here, Trump talked about a “new physical barrier, or wall, to secure the vast areas between our ports of entry.” While Trump vowed again to get the wall built, maybe the end deal will be Democrats agreeing to more physical barriers, which will let Trump declare victory for his wall and move on.
  • Areas of agreement were visibly obvious as Democrats and Republicans both stood to cheer a call from Trump for “a great rebuilding of America’s crumbling infrastructure.”
  • Missing from Trump’s address were overt calls to end Obamacare. He’s tried and failed to do that. He called for lowering the cost of prescription drugs and to “protect patients with pre-existing conditions.” Democrats running on health care successfully was a reason they won control of the chamber. Durbin is taking a lead on proposing legislation to address the cost of drugs. Talk of dealing with high drug prices won cheers from both sides of the aisle.
  • Trump made news with his call to “eliminate the HIV epidemic in the United States within 10 years; there’s potential to work together on that.”
  • Trump asked Congress to ban late-term abortion and pass school-choice legislation. It won’t get passed in the Democratic House.
  • Trump made a not-so-veiled reference to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe and the spate of Trump-related congressional investigations launched by the newly empowered House Democrats when he called for a stop of “ridiculous partisan investigations.” The Democrats are just starting – not ending their probes.
Heading to a pre-State of the Union reception Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019, at Sen. Dick Durbin’s office are (l to r) Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Ill.; Allie Bland, a 7-year-old from Naperville who is the guest of Rep. Lauren Underwood, D-Ill.; and Davis guest Taylorvi

Heading to a pre-State of the Union reception Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019, at Sen. Dick Durbin’s office are (l to r) Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Ill.; Allie Bland, a 7-year-old from Naperville who is the guest of Rep. Lauren Underwood, D-Ill.; and Davis guest Taylorville Fire Chief Mike Crews. | Lynn Sweet photo

Afterwards, I talked with Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill., a member of two investigative committees, Oversight and Intelligence, about Trump’s comments.

“I thought that was a shot across the bow,” Krishnamoorthi said. “That was a threat that if you people, meaning people on Intel, or Oversight or a similar committee, conduct investigations, then we are not going to be able to actually work together on other issues. We are not going to be bullied by threats.”

Bottom line: In Trump’s address, he didn’t dwell on the wall, stuck to the script and put little on the table to make it easier for the gang of 17 to reach a border security deal. But he didn’t repeat his threat to declare a national emergency to build his wall.

Maybe he’s saving that for his next show.

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