WASHINGTON— President Donald Trump entered the House chamber Tuesday shaking hands left and right, looking like a man who was confident he could sell what he called his plan for “American Greatness.”
An hour later, Trump left his first Congressional speech signing autographs, having delivered a speech in which he carefully followed the script but offering few specifics on his broad policy goals.
“Above all else, we will keep our promises to the American people,” he said.
Trump called on Republicans, Democrats and the American people to support tax and regulatory reforms, repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act, tough immigration and border control, a national security effort focused on eradicating radical Islamic terrorism and to cut violent crime and reduce drug use.
“Solving these, and so many other pressing problems, will require us to work past the differences of party,” he said.
Despite a call to come together, many Democrats remained seated while Republicans cheered and applauded during the president’s hour-long address.
Trump’s pledge to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act proved particularly popular among audience members.
Trump promised Americans health care coverage they can purchase across state lines, and which will be subsidized through tax credits and expanded health savings accounts. He also said he would work to bring down pharmaceutical down drug costs, and reduce the time it takes the the Food and Drug Administration to review and test drugs before allowing them on the market.
As an example of unneeded delays surrounding some treatments still being tested, Trump called out Megan Crowley, who was diagnosed when she was 15 months old with Pompe Disease, a rare condition that causes patients’ muscles to weaken.
Crowley was expected to live to age 5, the president said. But, in a desperate attempt to treat his daughter and avoid delays by the FDA, Trump said Crowley’s father developed a new treatment for the rare disorder. Crowley is now a 20-year-old sophomore at Notre Dame University.
“If we slash the restraints, not just at the FDA, but across our government, then we will be blessed with far more miracles like Megan,” Trump said.
Trump promised to slash regulatory restraints on other businesses as a way to grow the American economy. He called for tax cuts on American business and said he planned to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement among the U.S., Canada and Mexico.
“At the same time, we will provide massive tax relief for the middle class,” he said.
Trump also said he had been working with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to support women entrepreneurs.
“We have formed a council with our neighbors in Canada to help ensure that women entrepreneurs have access to the network, markets and capital they need to start and business and live out their financial dreams,” he said.
From there, Trump pivoted to discussing violent crime in inner cities such as Chicago, Baltimore and Detroit, and cited increased funding and school choice as an antidote to these cities’ disease of violent crime.
“I am calling upon members of both parties to pass an education bill that funds school choice for disadvantaged youth, including millions of African-American and Latino children,” he said. “These families should be free to choose the public, private, charter, magnet and religious or home school.”
He also said he recently ordered the Department of Homeland Security to create VOICE, or Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement, to investigate crime committed by immigrants without documentation.
While some audience members booed this new task force, Jamiel Shaw, Susan and Jenna Oliver and Jessica Davis stood tall at Trump’s announcement. All had family members who were victims of crimes committed by immigrants without documentation, Trump said.
“We will soon begin the construction of a great wall along our Southern border,” he said. “As we speak, we are removing gang members, drug dealers and criminals that threaten our communities and prey on our citizens.”
Trump didn’t mention on how the wall would be funded. But, he said he his new budget, which will be released March 13, offers one of the largest national defense spending increases in American history.
The increase will benefit active-duty members and veterans of the armed services, Trump said. He pointed to Carryn Owens, the widow of Navy Special Operations senior chief William “Ryan” Owens, who was killed during a recent raid in Yemen.
Owens, crying at mention of her late husband, sat next to Ivanka Trump, who patted Owens’s back. A standing ovation in honor of Owens, and other fallen members of the armed forces, was the longest of the night.
Trump’s sons Eric and Donald were absent from the president’s speech; they were conducting business for the Trump hotel chain in Vancouver.