Omaha World Herald: Iowa, Nebraska Lawmakers Like What They Heard in Trump's First Speech Before Congress

Mar 1, 2017
In The News

WASHINGTON — Iowa and Nebraska lawmakers were full of praise for their fellow Republican’s first joint address to Congress as they emerged Tuesday night from the House chamber.

“It was a fabulous speech,” Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb said. “I thought it was very optimistic. I thought it was very inspiring.”

She and other Midlanders lauded President Donald Trump’s statements on repealing and replacing the health care law, strengthening the country's infrastructure and bolstering the military.

“He hit the right tone on this thing,” said Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa. “I don’t think anybody on our side of the aisle that heard that speech wasn’t exhilarated.”

In his speech, Trump offered a series of bullet-point principles of health care legislation that largely track with GOP health care proposals floated on Capitol Hill.

Some aspects of that approach have drawn skepticism from the most right-leaning members of Congress, but King — an outspoken conservative voice himself — was pleased that Trump is not insisting that a replacement bill include federal mandates.

“It gives us some room to work with,” King said.

Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb., declared it a “very powerful speech” and one of Trump’s best.

“It was an attempt at a unifying message and I think we need that right now,” he said.

Bacon, a retired brigadier general, wiped away tears during the speech when the chamber delivered a lengthy standing ovation to the widow of a Navy Seal.

“I’ve been there before with the widows and moms and dads who’ve lost kids,” Bacon said. “It just brings back thoughts of me being in their homes.”

As for immigration, the Omaha congressman spoke approvingly of Trump’s call for stronger borders and immigration enforcement. But he also said he’d like to hear more discussion about how to handle those brought into the country as kids.

“I think we could get a consensus if we talk about security, but also talk about how we can have some compassion with those who came here as a 2-year-old,” Bacon said.

Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb., said the speech was admirably clear and concise, with themes of making America safe again, tackling the costs of illegal immigration and working on a new health care plan.

A member of the House Appropriations Committee, Fortenberry said one challenge will be finding the money for new spending while lowering tax rates.

“You have to make sure the dynamics of that are actually going to raise enough revenue through economic growth -- that’s a delicate question,” Fortenberry said.

Amid the praise were some disagreements. For example, Trump’s speech included a call for Congress to pass legislation funding school choice for disadvantaged youth.

While some Republicans applauded that line, Fischer kept her hands folded in front of her. She has said that’s one area where she splits with her party.

In fact, Fischer supported Trump’s pick for education secretary, Betsy DeVos, only after receiving assurances that school choice issues would be left to the states and local jurisdictions.

“That’s a bill that I won’t be supporting,” Fischer said of Trump’s proposal. “I support public schools.”

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