President Donald Trump’s State of the Union speech, which started with a litany of good news on jobs, income and economic growth, was a “great celebration of America,” Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers said.
“The economic numbers are off the charts,” the Spokane Republican said shortly after Trump delivered his speech Tuesday. “It’s something we all should celebrate.”
Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, called it one of the best speeches he’s heard in a lifetime in public service.
“I’ve sat through hundreds of these,” Risch said. “It’s an instant classic.”
While it was long on statistics, it was short on specifics of what he wants done in the future, said Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash.
She was surprised he didn’t mention anything about environment. And while she agrees with Trump’s call to have vocational training in every high school, fight the opioid epidemic and invest in infrastructure, Cantwell said she wants to see the budget requests.
“You always expect the president to take some victory laps,” Cantwell said. “You always see the next day how these things pencil out.”
Risch, who previously criticized President Barack Obama for proposing programs in his annual speeches without explaining how to pay for them, said that concern hasn’t gone away. But he doesn’t think Trump proposed any big new expenses.
None of them were surprised Trump didn’t mention the impeachment trial, which is expected to end Wednesday afternoon with a vote to acquit in the Senate.
“There wasn’t anybody who wanted to hear about that,” Risch said.
Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., said the country needs someone who will put the country’s best interests ahead of his own and help everyone work together.
“Unfortunately, what we heard from President Trump tonight was more blunder and broken promises,” she said in a statement released shortly after the speech.
Cantwell was skeptical of Trump’s promise to protect medical coverage for pre-existing conditions, considering the administration isn’t defending the Affordable Care Act in court. As her guest for the speech, Cantwell invited Jake Satake, a Spokane high school senior with Type 1 diabetes to the Capitol, and introduced him to members of Congress from both parties.
“He made the rounds,” Cantwell said of Satake, who thanked Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, for her vote on the bill and impressed Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah. Although Satake has plans to be a doctor, politics might also be in his future, she said.
No one is sure what the courts will do on the challenge to the ACA, McMorris Rodgers said. But Republicans are committed to protecting pre-existing conditions and “we would act quickly” if the court overturns the act or those provisions, she vowed.
Trump’s invited guests provided some of the most notable moments of the evening.
A member of the Senate Foreign Relations and Intelligence committees, Risch said one of his biggest surprises was the appearance of Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido, whom Trump called “the true and legitimate” leader of that country.
“Nobody knew much about that,” Risch said. He wasn’t surprised the United States had the ability to get Guaido secretly out of Venezuela, but getting him back in “is going to be tricky.”
Cantwell enjoyed seeing Charles McGee, a surprisingly young-looking 100-year-old former Tuskegee airman who accompanied his great-grandson Iain Lanphier, an eighth-grader interested in Space Force. It was McGee’s second national exposure in three days. He also delivered the coin that was tossed before the start of Sunday’s Super Bowl.
The arrival of Sgt. 1st Class Townsend Williams, who surprised his wife, Amy, and their two young children as Trump was honoring her for volunteer work with other military families while he serves in Afghanistan, had some on the floor wiping tears from their eyes, Risch said.
“I thought that was the highlight of the entire night,” McMorris Rodgers said.
Editor’s note: Jake Satake’s name was misspelled in an early version of this story.