There was not much hope for bipartisan compromise on major issues going into last night’s State of The Union address by President Trump and it appears those low expectations were met.
Massachusetts Congressman Richard Neal, a member of the Democratic leadership in the House, said there was very little for his side of the aisle to cheer in last night’s speech from the Republican president.
"He had an hour-and-a-half last night for a one-way conversation with the American People," said Neal. " The response on our side was tepid applause. Polite and courteous, but not embracing."
Neal, speaking with reporters Wednesday in the lobby of the federal courthouse in Springfield, where his district office is located, held out little hope for progress in the areas the president highlighted such as immigration and infrastructure.
Democrats shut down the government earlier this month over the issue of finding a way for the so-called “Dreamers” (immigrants brought to this country as children) to stay. But Neal said Mr. Trump offered “an edict” and not a compromise by linking citizenship for the Dreamers with construction of a border wall and new restrictions on legal immigration.
" Part of what he was suggesting last night included recrimination and I don't think that is helpful to the dialogue," said Neal.
Mr. Trump touted what he said would amount to a $1.5 trillion effort to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure.
" We will build gleaming new roads, bridges, highways, railways and waterways all across our land," declared Mr. Trump.
But, Neal, who is the ranking Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee, said there is a fundamental difference over how to pay for what Mr. Trump says he wants to build – Democrats want to spend taxpayers’ dollars while Republicans favor tax credits.
" At one time, infrastructure was the easiest legislation to pass because Republicans and Democrats found common ground on the need to continually invest in American's long term needs," said Neal.
Hampden County Sheriff Nick Cocchi was Neal’s guest for Tuesday night’s speech, invited, the Congressman explained, to underscore the seriousness of the opioid crisis in western Massachusetts. Neal said it was disappointing that Mr. Trump devoted less than a minute of his 1-hour, 28-minute speech to the opioid epidemic.
" I was hoping there would be more of a specific proposal from the administration declaring not only that this is a national emergency, but putting sufficient resources behind it to address it," said Neal.
Massachusetts Congressman Joe Kennedy III gave the Democrat’s response to the State of The Union speech. He dismissed the first year of Mr. Trump’s presidency declaring “we all feel the fault lines of a fractured country.”
He said the Trump administration was turning America into “a zero-sum game” where one group wins only if another loses.
" We are bombarded with one false choice after another. Coal miners or single moms. Rural communities or inner cities. The coast or the heartland," said Kennedy. "Here is the answer Democrats offer tonight: We chose both."
Kennedy delivered the speech in front of students in an automotive shop at a vocational high school in Fall River, Massachusetts.