Local lawmakers react to State of the Union address

By: News Staff

Email: news@abc6.com

Twitter: @ABC6

FALL RIVER, M.A. (WLNE) — Massachusetts Congressman Joe Kennedy offered a harsh critique of the President’s hour and twenty minute State of the Union address. 

The full transcript can be read below: 

Good evening ladies and gentlemen.  It is a privilege to join you tonight.

We are here in Fall River, Massachusetts – a proud American city, built by immigrants. 

From textiles to robots, this is a place that knows how to make great things.

The students with us this evening in the autoshop at Diman Regional Technical School carry on that rich legacy.

Like many American hometowns, Fall River has faced its share of storms. But people here are tough. They fight for each other. They pull for their city. 

It is a fitting place to gather as our nation reflects on the state of our union.

This is a difficult task.  Many have spent the past year anxious, angry, afraid.  We all feel the fault lines of a fractured country.  We hear the voices of Americans who feel forgotten and forsaken.

We see an economy that makes stocks soar, investor portfolios bulge and corporate profits climb but fails to give workers their fair share of the reward.

A government that struggles to keep itself open.

Russia knee-deep in our democracy.

An all-out war on environmental protection.

A Justice Department rolling back civil rights by the day.

Hatred and supremacy proudly marching in our streets.

Bullets tearing through our classrooms, concerts, and congregations.  Targeting our safest, sacred places. 

And that nagging, sinking feeling, no matter your political beliefs: this is not right.  This is not who we are.

It would be easy to dismiss the past year as chaos. Partisanship. Politics.

But it’s far bigger than that.  This administration isn’t just targeting the laws that protect us – they are targeting the very idea that we are all worthy of protection.

For them, dignity isn’t something you’re born with but something you measure. 

By your net worth, your celebrity, your headlines, your crowd size.

Not to mention, the gender of your spouse.  The country of your birth.  The color of your skin.  The God of your prayers.

Their record is a rebuke of our highest American ideal: the belief that we are all worthy, we are all equal and we all count.  In the eyes of our law and our leaders, our God and our government.

That is the American promise.

But today that promise is being broken.  By an Administration that callously appraises our worthiness and decides who makes the cut and who can be bargained away.

They are turning American life into a zero-sum game.

Where, in order for one to win, another must lose.

Where we can guarantee America’s safety if we slash our safety net.

We can extend healthcare to Mississippi if we gut it in Massachusetts. 

We can cut taxes for corporations today if we raise them for families tomorrow.

We can take care of sick kids if we sacrifice Dreamers.

We are bombarded with one false choice after another:

Coal miners or single moms.  Rural communities or inner cities.  The coast or the heartland.

As if the mechanic in Pittsburgh and the teacher in Tulsa and the daycare worker in Birmingham are somehow bitter rivals, rather than mutual casualties of a system forcefully rigged for those at the top.

As if the parent who lies awake terrified that their transgender son will be beaten and bullied at school is any more or less legitimate than the parent whose heart is shattered by a daughter in the grips of opioid addiction.

So here is the answer Democrats offer tonight: we choose both.  We fight for both.  Because the strongest, richest, greatest nation in the world shouldn’t leave any one behind. 

We choose a better deal for all who call this country home.

We choose the living wage, paid leave and affordable child care your family needs to survive.

We choose pensions that are solvent, trade pacts that are fair, roads and bridges that won’t rust away, and good education you can afford.

We choose a health care system that offers mercy, whether you suffer from cancer or depression or addiction.

We choose an economy strong enough to boast record stock prices AND brave enough to admit that top CEOs making 300 times the average worker is not right. 

We choose Fall River.

We choose the thousands of American communities whose roads aren’t paved with power or privilege, but with honest effort, good faith, and the resolve to build something better for their kids.

That is our story. It began the day our Founding Fathers and Mothers set sail for a New World, fleeing oppression and intolerance.

It continued with every word of our Independence – the audacity to declare that all men are created equal. An imperfect promise for a nation struggling to become a more perfect union.

It grew with every suffragette’s step, every Freedom Riders voice, every weary soul we welcomed to our shores.

And to all the Dreamers watching tonight, let me be clear: Ustedes son parte de nuestra historia. Vamos a luchar por ustedes y no nos vamos alejar.

You are a part of our story. We will fight for you. We will not walk away.

America, we carry that story on our shoulders.

You swarmed Washington last year to ensure no parent has to worry if they can afford to save their child’s life.

You proudly marched together last weekend – thousands deep — in the streets of Las Vegas and Philadelphia and Nashville.

You sat high atop your mom’s shoulders and held a sign that read: “Build a wall and my generation will tear it down.”

You bravely say, me too.  You steadfastly say, black lives matter.

You wade through flood waters, battle hurricanes, and brave wildfires and mudslides to save a stranger.

You fight your own, quiet battles every single day.

You drag your weary bodies to that extra shift so your families won’t feel the sting of scarcity.

You leave loved ones at home to defend our country overseas, or patrol our neighborhoods overnight. 

You serve.  You rescue.  You help.  You heal.

That – more than any law or leader, any debate or disagreement – that is what drives us toward progress.

Bullies may land a punch.  They might leave a mark.  But they have never, not once, in the history of our United States, managed to match the strength and spirit of a people united in defense of their future.

Politicians can be cheered for the promises they make.  Our country will be judged by the promises we keep.

That is the measure of our character.  That’s who we are.

Out of many.  One.

Ladies and gentlemen, have faith: The state of our union is hopeful, resilient, enduring.

Thank you, God Bless you and your families, and God Bless the United States of America.

                                                                                                                                                 -Representative Joe Kennedy.

Local lawmakers also reacted to the State of the Union address. 

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse issued the following statement saying:

“Tonight the President tried to paint a very different picture of his first year from the one the American people saw.  He touted his massive tax giveaway for corporations and the wealthiest few, which offers mere scraps to middle class families and puts vital programs like Social Security and Medicare in the crosshairs.  He tried to spin his handouts for industry special interests that are eroding protections for Americans’ health and safety.  And he called for bipartisan cooperation as if we have ever seen a sign of that in his divisive, erratic behavior every day.

“Rhode Islanders aren’t buying it. They know that their children and grandchildren will have to fill the $1.5 trillion hole he blew in the federal budget. They know his offshore drilling plan threatens the jobs of hardworking fishermen on Narragansett Bay like my guest tonight, Chris Brown. Rhode Island companies and workers watch jobs and business flow overseas, and see a trade deficit that’s risen to historic levels. Rhode Islanders, like Americans everywhere, are sick of the special interest influence and dark money dealing that’s made a mockery of the President’s promises to drain the swamp. Tonight’s speech just didn’t stand up to reality.

“Democrats and Republicans will work in Congress to solve our long-term budget impasse, bring some common sense to our immigration policy, and put Americans to work building the infrastructure that will power our economy.  If the President wants to join those efforts in a constructive way, I welcome his help.  Otherwise, just let us do our work.”

    Congressman David Cicilline also issued a statement that read:

“Tonight, President Trump had the opportunity to bring our country together, but instead he chose to double down on his divisive and destructive agenda – comprised of little substance or facts – that has come to define his failing Administration.

“Over the last year, President Trump’s policies have come at grave costs to the very people he pledged to protect. He said he would bring American jobs back, but has overseen jobs being shipped overseas at an alarming rate.  He has led Republicans’ ideological crusade to repeal the Affordable Care Act, driving up health care costs and taking away health coverage from millions of Americans. He has torn families apart and threatened to deport young people who are Americans in every sense of the word except for a sheet of paper. His only ‘legislative accomplishment’ is a tax scam that has sold the future of our workers, seniors, and the middle class to pad the pockets of big corporations, the wealthy, and the well-off. This is not what the American people signed up for.

“While President Trump and Washington Republicans have caused confusion, crisis, and chaos, Democrats are focused on investing in hardworking families. We’re working to build an economy that puts Americans first. We’re fighting to create good-paying jobs, to ensure hard work is rewarded with good wages and to deliver workers the tools they need to be successful in the 21st century. A Better Deal – better jobs, better wages, and a better future – that is our collective vision for a stronger, more prosperous America, and we stand ready to work with any Republican willing to work in a bipartisan fashion to solve some of America’s biggest challenges.”

Senator Jack Reed issued the following statement:

“President Trump is a salesman, but when you look at the fine print, his sales pitch tonight just doesn’t add up. 

“President Trump tried to whitewash over his divisiveness and his record.

“We are a nation of laws.  And nobody, not even the President, is above the law.  It is long past time for the Republican majority in both the House and Senate to restore Congress’ role as an effective check on the executive branch.  We need a return to honest, accountable government that puts people first and can get things done.

“On key issues like education, health care, immigration, infrastructure, and national defense, the federal government needs to start working to strengthen our nation and improve people’s lives. 

“The President finally seems to recognize that he needs to start working with Democrats to get our country back on track.  We have offered commonsense proposals to improve our schools and infrastructure.  We want to wisely invest in innovation and research to keep America on top now and in the future.  And we have passed bipartisan legislation to enhance military readiness and meet evolving national security challenges today and in the future.

“I hope President Trump will change course and start working with us on forward-looking policies to keep our economy on an upward trajectory that benefits all Americans.  But many of the items on his agenda would shift increasing tax burdens to states and working families, leaving more Americans worse off in the long run.  And it is curious that President Trump called for things like workforce training investments in this speech, while his actual budget cuts existing job training programs.  He paid lip service to fighting the opioid epidemic, but his administration hasn’t taken any real steps or provided the resources needed to actually tackle the issue.

“Tonight the President briefly mentioned infrastructure, but he’s spent the last year ignoring our nation’s infrastructure needs, and spent $1.5 trillion on tax cuts for the wealthiest instead of on our nation’s infrastructure needs. Meanwhile, Democrats have put forth a comprehensive, smart-growth plan to revamp America’s transportation network — upgrading roads, bridges, airports, railways, and ports, while also investing in 21st century public schools, clean water systems, digital infrastructure, and hospitals. Improving our infrastructure will create blue-collar jobs, increase productivity and better connect people to jobs and opportunities.

“I encourage President Trump to get off the sidelines and start providing real concrete proposals to this debate.  Congressional Republicans haven’t been willing to move on infrastructure without a clear signal from the President.  Democrats can’t do this alone.  I hope President Trump can help break Republican gridlock and get his party moving forward because we need a bipartisan bill.

“We also must do more to strengthen national security.  So far, President Trump’s unsteady leadership, diplomatic blunders, and coziness with Vladimir Putin has been troubling to say the least.  From Iran to North Korea to Europe, the Trump doctrine has isolated America from our allies and emboldened our adversaries. 

“The gap between the President’s rhetoric and policies runs wide and deep.  He needs to change course and help us lead the country in a better direction, toward bipartisan solutions that will improve the lives of all Americans, not just the wealthy and powerful.”

©WLNE-TV / ABC6 2018