A year into a presidency they view as divisive and volatile, the opposition party made it clear Tuesday night they do not expect Trump to change his stripes, no matter the lofty words he read off Teleprompters in his lengthy remarks.
“While I am always willing to work with my colleagues across the aisle, the president’s call for bipartisanship and unity rings hollow,” Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., a potential 2020 presidential contender, said in a statement. “You cannot reject bipartisan plans to improve health care and protect Dreamers or sow hate and division — and then turn around the next day and say you want to work together.”
Many Democrats showed how little stock they put in Trump’s calls for cooperation by staying seated during rhetoric that would have prompted bipartisan applause if it came from almost any other president.
And on Twitter, Democrats splashed cold water in real-time on Trump’s proposals, even on traditionally noncontroversial items like infrastructure spending and combating the opioid epidemic.
“Investing in infrastructure is one thing Democrats and Republicans seem to be able to agree on,” tweeted Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass., who is seen as a moderate member of his caucus. “There’s no reason for it to take @POTUS so long to start work on a plan, and like with so many other things, does anyone actually think he’ll follow through?”
Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., who was Hillary Clinton’s vice presidential nominee in 2016, offered some advice on what would have convinced Democrats that Trump was serious about cooperation.
If President Trump is serious about finally getting things done, I have an idea of where he could start:
Step 1. Stop using offensive rhetoric to tout a plan that would divide families.
Step 2. Start supporting the bipartisan work we’re doing in the Senate to protect Dreamers.
— Tim Kaine (@timkaine) January 31, 2018
Inside the House of Representatives’ chamber, Republicans were often on their feet and applauding, while Democrats — some of whom boycotted the speech — quietly glowered, except for when they expressed open hostility to Trump.
Even the president’s praise for law enforcement came under scrutiny amid reports that the White House has pressure the Department of Justice and the FBI over the probe into potential Russian collusion in the 2016 presidential campaign.
“Tonight, the president showered law enforcement with praise, even as he and his congressional allies launch an all out attack on the FBI, the pre-eminent federal law enforcement agency,” Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, said in a statement.
The president’s comments on immigration proved the most controversial, prompting boos and groans from Democrats, many of whom had invited “Dreamers,” the children of undocumented immigrants, to attend the speech as their guests.
As Trump slammed “open borders” and “chain migration,” Rep. Joe Crowley of New York, one of the chamber’s highest-ranking Democrats, was heard saying, “Oh, come on!” while others gestured in disgust.
Rep. Luis Gutiérrez, D-Ill., a pro-immigrant firebrand, was even harsher in his assessment. “I was hoping to get through my life without having to witness an outwardly, explicitly racist American president, but my luck ran out,” Gutiérrez said in a statement.
Overall, however, things in the room remained relatively subdued considering the volatile politics of immigration.
Dreamer advocates have a record of interrupting presidents and congressional leaders, while this president has a history of responding aggressively to interruptions. Both were on their best behavior.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., had urged members of her caucus earlier in the day to listen politely and not interrupt, hoping to avoid a moment like Rep. Joe Wilson’s, R-S.C., “you lie!” outburst during an address by President Barack Obama to Congress.
At times, when her members grew restless, Pelosi could be seen quieting them.
At least a dozen Democratic members of Congress made a point of skipping the speech, while many of those who did attend wore pins and scarves in quiet protest of various issues. Women wore black to show solidarity with victims of sexual assault.
Some of the only consistent support for Trump on the Democratic side of the aisle came from newly elected Sen. Doug Jones of Alabama and Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who is up for re-election this year in one of Trump’s strongest states.