Republican lawmakers in Congress predicted that President Donald Trump will use tonight’s State of the Union Address to emphasize some of the successes from his first year in office, especially the big GOP legislative victory on tax reform, arguing that Mr. Trump has spurred more economic growth and brought a renewed sense of confidence to the American business world, which will only bring more growth in the future.
“I think he will ask the American public, do they think they are better off than they were one year ago,” said Rep. John Rutherford (R-FL), echoing the famous debate line used by President Ronald Reagan to oust President Jimmy Carter in 1980.
“I think the answer will be a resounding yes,” Rutherford added.
“I think he’ll probably just be taking a victory lap,” said Rep. Bill Posey (R-FL), who rattled off good economic news that included new records in the stock market – and the tax cuts enacted in December.
“The President is certainly going to tout that,” said Rep. Drew Ferguson (R-GA), as he said back home in his district, the tax cut plan is already helping spur new investment and job creation.
“If you go back to the Third District of Georgia and talk to the people there – it’s making a difference in their business,” Ferguson said, as Republicans argue the Trump Presidency has changed the mindset of America.
“People see that the country is moving in the right direction,” said Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-OK). “And it’s not just the tax reform, but it’s about the country as a whole.”
“His whole Presidency has been about turning the economy around, and jobs,” said Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH).
That was the message from one of the guests in the box of First Lady Melania Trump, that despite all of the furor over the President in Washington, the business world across America has perked up.
“We’ve had customers who have launched new products, simply because of the confidence with the tax cuts moving forward,” said Steve Staub, who runs a family metal fabrication business in Dayton, Ohio.
As for Democrats, about a dozen lawmakers were boycotting the speech, like Rep. John Lewis (R-GA), who also refused to go to Mr. Trump Inauguration in 2017.
Other Democrats – mainly women lawmakers – were going to wear all black, to showcase their support for the MeToo movement.
“All women, whether they’re working on Capitol Hill or in restaurants or courtrooms or campuses or hospitals – deserve equality and respect,” said Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA).
Over three dozen Democrats meanwhile were bringing illegal immigrant “Dreamers” to the President’s State of the Union, trying to press for action on a DACA/immigration deal.
Mr. Trump is expected to touch on that DACA issue, which has detractors in both parties – a number of Republicans don’t like the thought of offering a pathway to citizenship for people in the U.S. illegally – while a number of Democrats don’t like the immigration enforcement plans that the White House wants in exchange.
One Republican lawmaker asked the U.S. Capitol Police to arrest any illegal immigrants who might be attending Mr. Trump’s speech.
“Any illegal aliens attempting to go through security, under any pretext of invitation or otherwise, should be arrested and deported,” said Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ).
“Of all the places where the Rule of Law needs to be enforced, it should be in the hallowed halls of Congress,” Gosar added.
Almost eight hours before the speech, some lawmakers were already staking out a seat on the House floor, trying to make sure they could be in position to shake President Trump’s hand as he arrives for his speech, his first official “State of the Union.”
Asked on Monday how the President would describe the current state of the union, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders used one word – “incredible.”