February 28, 2017

President Trump's First Address to Congress

  • President Trump’s first address to a joint session of Congress will be very different from similar speeches by President Obama.
  • The president has already begun to deliver on promises, from executive actions to working with Congress on legislation.  
  • Tonight he will talk about a “renewed spirt of optimism” on the economy, improving education opportunities, and making our communities safe.

President Trump comes to the Capitol tonight to speak to the American people. It will be a very different speech than the ones President Obama gave. President Trump will talk about placing the interests of the American people over the agenda of Washington bureaucrats. This will build on the themes the president expressed in his inaugural address and in the actions he has taken in his first five weeks in office.

Joint Session Quote Graphic


President Trump has made clear that he will focus on jobs and the economy, particularly for the middle class. In addition to a government-wide moratorium on new regulations, President Trump issued an executive order that will reduce the number and cost of future regulations. Since Election Day, U.S. companies have been hiring in anticipation that President Trump’s policies will create a better environment for economic growth. The four-week moving average of initial jobless claims is now at its lowest level since 1973. A February 21 Gallup poll reported: “For 14 straight weeks, more Americans have been optimistic than pessimistic about the economy – no mean achievement, given that for much of the last nine years, economic pessimism has been the more common perspective.”


The Trump administration has expressed great enthusiasm for Republican efforts to pass tax reform in 2017. This would be the first significant tax reform in more than 30 years. Broad-based reform will help hard-working Americans, help businesses, and help the economy. The IRS’ national taxpayer advocate reported in January that Americans spend 6 billion hours annually complying with the tax code. A simpler, fairer tax code could allow these hours to be spent much more productively. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin stressed at his confirmation hearing the need to make sure that tax reform does not increase the deficit on a dynamic basis.


President Trump is expected to submit his budget blueprint in two weeks. It will include requests for the remainder of this fiscal year and fiscal year 2018. It may include proposals on the debt limit, which comes back into effect on March 16. The Obama budgets were usually unimaginative documents that put off hard choices, kept the sluggish economy on autopilot, and raised taxes. President Trump’s budget will shake things up, make tough choices, rebuild the American military, and reenergize the economy. The national debt skyrocketed under President Obama, almost doubling from $10.6 trillion on January 20, 2009, to $20 trillion on January 20, 2017.

Health Care

The president demonstrated his commitment to repealing Obamacare on his first day in office by signing an executive order that instructs agencies to use their authority to help mitigate the burdens the law imposed. The Department of Health and Human Services has already proposed new rules and guidance documents to help stabilize the insurance market and better enable a smooth transition. The president also has signaled that his replacement plan will focus on giving states more flexibility, allowing insurers to sell plans across state lines, and expanding health savings accounts.


Expect President Trump to discuss infrastructure and transportation in his speech. Key topics include surface transportation funding and FAA reform. The president has suggested increasing spending to fix aging infrastructure, and his advisers have discussed supplementing government spending with financing tools like public-private partnerships. The president also has shown an interest in simplifying the permitting process to improve infrastructure development. 


The president has pledged an “America First Energy Plan” that embraces the safe use of domestic energy resources. The plan provides a path toward American energy security, job growth, and increased access to affordable, reliable energy. The Trump administration has already advanced commonsense energy infrastructure projects such as the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines, which were held up by President Obama for political reasons. The administration is working with Congress to rescind unlawful, overly burdensome Obama regulations on energy producers and manufacturers. President Trump has called for additional regulations to be repealed or rewritten by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of the Interior.

Financial Reform

Earlier this month, President Trump began the process of reviewing the harmful effects Obama-era financial and banking laws and regulations are having on Americans. The president signed an executive order saying that his policy will be to empower Americans to make “independent financial decisions and informed choices in the marketplace.” He will prevent taxpayer-funded bailouts and “foster economic growth and vibrant financial markets through more rigorous regulatory impact analysis.” President Trump also issued a memorandum directing the secretary of labor to reexamine the department’s “fiduciary rule.” If the analysis finds that the rule limits retirement information and financial advice – and reduces access to investment options – the secretary will rescind or revise it.

School choice

President Trump shares the view of Senate Republicans that every child in America deserves access to a quality education. Too many of our children are stuck in schools that do not provide this opportunity. The Trump administration has committed to expanding school choice, knowing that competition can make every school perform better, including traditional public schools, public charter schools, and private schools. More choices for our students will make our schools better for everybody.


President Trump has nominated Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. The choice of Judge Gorsuch – a highly qualified, mainstream judge who was confirmed to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in 2006 by voice vote – has been applauded by scholars and practitioners from across the political spectrum. Observers have noted Judge Gorsuch’s keen jurisprudence on the importance of the bill of rights and the dangers of unchecked executive power. In addition to the Supreme Court seat, there are 117 other openings throughout the federal judiciary.

Public safety

Criminal justice and public safety have been priorities for the administration. Earlier this month, the president issued executive orders directing the attorney general to establish a task force on crime reduction and public safety and to develop ways to prevent violence against law enforcement officers. Another executive order instructs the administration to work on new ways to combat transnational criminal organizations. The administration has announced plans to expand enforcement of immigration violations, including by hiring 10,000 new Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers, reducing prosecutorial forbearance toward certain categories of deportable aliens, and increasing the use of expedited removal programs.

Rebuilding our military

Last month, President Trump issued a National Security Presidential Memorandum directing the secretary of defense to assess the readiness of our military and to identify ways to improve it as needed. At an Armed Services Committee subcommittee hearing on February 8, the vice chair of naval operations said our military’s long-term readiness “continues its insidious decline.” To address this, the president also directed the secretary of defense to work with the Office of Management and Budget to develop a budget amendment for the rest of fiscal year 2017 and fiscal year 2018 addressing military readiness. The secretary of defense has issued guidance to the department implementing this directive. Yesterday, the OMB director said President Trump would propose a $54 billion increase in defense spending for fiscal year 2018, with a corresponding decrease in non-defense spending.


President Trump issued a National Security Presidential Memorandum directing his administration to develop a new plan to defeat ISIS. The preliminary plan was completed yesterday. Although the Department of Defense is the lead agency responsible for developing this plan, it will require broad involvement from other departments. As David Petraeus recently testified to the House Armed Services Committee, “the defeat of Islamic extremist groups does, of course, require a vital military component. But ... long-term success in this conflict requires that the ideology of Islamic extremism is itself discredited.” Congress should authorize the use of force against ISIS in a way that is directed at victory rather than constraining the commander in chief. It should also provide the resources necessary to execute the president’s plan.


Defense Secretary James Mattis recently had extended discussions with the Afghan president and the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, General John Nicholson, about “identifying the way ahead.” General Nicholson recently testified to the Armed Services Committee about the importance of the mission in Afghanistan, saying, “of the 98 U.S.-designated terrorist organizations globally, 20 are located in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region.” He added that we are “in a stalemate” in Afghanistan.

Issue Tag: Senate