GOP welcomes, Dems wary of Trump’s speech

Melissa Nann Burke
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — Michigan Republicans welcomed President Donald Trump’s first State of the Union speech, while Democrats mostly criticized the rhetoric while holding out hope to reach a deal on improving America’s infrastructure.

One of Trump’s best lines in the Tuesday night speech was that “The era of economic surrender is over” – a nod to the general optimism that Americans are feeling about the economy, said U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-Zeeland.

“For a guy who is given the reputation for being partisan all the time, I thought there were a lot of bipartisan calls,” Huizenga said.

“When he’s laying out his four pillars on immigration, he knows he’s got Republicans not happy, he knows he’s got Democrats not happy. He’s looking for that middle – center right, center left – to come together and figure out a solution.”

The president re-emphasized his recent pledge to offer a path to citizenship for 1.8 million young immigrants as part of a package that would also require increased funding for border security, including a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, ending the nation’s visa lottery method and revamping the current legal immigration system.

Rep. Brenda Lawrence, D-Southfield, said she felt generally disconnected from the president’ words.

“When you know his policies and the things he has said and the disrespect, I cannot connect the words to the person standing there,” said Lawrence, who wore black with other members of the Congressional Black Caucus in solidarity with victims of sexual assault.

“He kept talking about us as Americans. I don’t feel like I’m his America. I’ve been feeling that way for a long time.”

Lawrence also thought Trump was disrespectful in saying that “Americans are dreamers, too.”

“We know clearly that Dreamers is a term for Americans who came to this country without any ability to make decisions about their lives,” Lawrence said, referring to the one-time children of illegal immigrants.

The Democratic lawmaker stood and applauded Trump’s call to invest in more vocational schools, but said she was disappointed that he offered no details on how to fund his infrastructure plan.

Rep. Paul Mitchell, R-Dryden, said he liked that Trump’s framework leverages federal money with private investment to boost spending on roads, bridges and other infrastructure.

“I think it’s a good plan. We’ll see as a bill comes together, but it’s a start,” he said.

“We need to deal with infrastructure in this country. It’s not just bridges and roads but short-line railroads in my district, broadband access,” said Mitchell, who sits on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

“The good news about his proposal is that we leave those decisions up to states and local communities on how to apply and spend that money, and not to send out money from Washington saying, ‘Do this with it.’”

But Trump’s approach lacked enough specifics for U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, the Bloomfield Township Democrats who is the ranking member of the Surface Transportation Subcommittee.

“Although President Trump campaigned on a promise to improve infrastructure, I’m concerned that his barebones infrastructure proposal lacks meaningful federal investments and instead forces cash-strapped state and local governments to make up for the lack of strong federal support or shifts the burden to American people through tolls and fees,” Peters said in a statement.

But U.S. Rep. Sander Levin, D-Royal Oak, was disappointed.

“This presidency has been so much witnessed by telling lies, by essentially incorporating values of dishonesty and disrespect of others,” Levin said. “It was still hard for me to believe he represented the best in America.”

On infrastructure, Trump promised it would be “glorious, but he never told us how we’d reach the glory,” he added. “It was so void of any challenge on policy, so that made his plea for bipartisanship ring very hollow.”

But U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, indicated he was pleased with the speech.

“I’d like to commend the president on his first State of the Union address tonight,” Upton tweeted. “We have much work ahead of us. It’s time to roll up our sleeves and get the job done.”

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