Many Wyoming Republicans are gushing over the vision President Donald Trump laid out in his first address to a joint session of Congress, but critics say it lacked specifics. Matt Laslo reports from Washington.
It had been eight years since a Republican had addressed the nation and the GOP loved what they heard from President Trump who says the American people are behind him.
“The chorus became an earthquake – and the people turned out by the tens of millions, and they were all united by one very simple, but crucial demand, that America Must Put Its Own Citizens First...because only then, can we truly, MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN.”
Wyoming Senator John Barrasso said he was inspired.
“I thought it was very aspirational, very forward looking, and I really like the way that he tied things to the 250th birthday of our country that’s coming in nine years and talking about let’s look to that future, let’s build that future.”
Democrats didn’t like the president’s address and accuse him of maintaining a partisan, campaign-style tone, instead of trying to reach across the aisle to forge compromises on Capitol Hill. Barrasso brushes aside their criticisms that the speech was light on substance and heavy on soaring rhetoric.
“I’m not surprised that Democrats who are still reeling over the fact that Hillary Clinton lost the election would not be feeling the same way about this speech that I do. I thought it was very specific, certainly in terms of focusing on things we need to do to rebuild the country, the infrastructure.”
It’s not just Democrats. Pennsylvania Congressman Charlie Dent has been one of Trump’s harshest critics from within the Republican Party. While he thought Trump did offer a new tone, he still wasn’t totally won over by the president’s agenda.
“It was more focused and disciple and somewhat subdued. It was remarkably uneventful – in a good way. But we still didn’t get as many specifics as we need, but I suspect we’ll be seeing some more in the next few weeks.”
As for Barrasso’s signature issue of health care, the president seems to have endorsed Speaker Paul Ryan’s plan which would replace Obamacare’s insurance subsidies with tax credits. Barrasso is content to let the House take the lead on the party’s effort to repeal and replace Obamacare.
“Well, we want to see what passes the House. The President has shown, I believe leadership…in talking about the fact that the status quo is not working. Obamacare is collapsing, insurance around the country is collapsing, people can’t afford it and aren’t buying it even with the mandate because they realize for themselves, it’s a bad deal.”
Democrats are mounting an effort to derail the GOP health plan, which they fear would kick millions of people off Medicaid. Pennsylvania Democratic Senator Bob Casey says he thinks the president has been co-opted by far right conservatives.
“The other thing I was hoping he would say is that he would fulfill his campaign pledge not to block grant Medicaid, which would be devastating for rural hospitals, rural children and of course individuals with disabilities, but apparently he’s embraced this extreme and destructive right-wing block granting of Medicaid.”
The president’s budget proposal of increasing military spending by $54 billion is certainly getting attention. The White House says that money would come from drastically slashing the budget of federal agencies that work on everything from the environment to school lunch programs. Wyoming senior senator Mike Enzi is the Senate Budget Chairman. He says it’s too soon to tell if he can support the president’s budget because there are a lot of unanswered questions.
“Until I get to see his budget, and it’s way too premature for that, I mean the guy’s only been, his director’s only been in for a week, so too early to tell.”
Environmentalists are worried about the proposed 3,000 staff cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency. Enzi says the EPA has hampered energy development in the west, so cuts of that magnitude wouldn’t bother him.
“I know that most Wyoming people think that if you reduce the EPA it’ll have a big effect on Wyoming.”
The president’s official budget will be released in the coming weeks, and expect to hear a lot more from senator Enzi on the details of that plan.