NPR reporters covering the White House, Congress, immigration, national security and more are annotating his remarks live, adding context and analysis.
Updated at 8:40 p.m. ET
The stakes are high for President Trump ahead of his second State of the Union speech, as he remains at a logjam with Congress over immigration in the shadow of the longest government shutdown in U.S. history.
It’s the first time Trump will address Congress with Democrats controlling the House, and the White House has said in the days leading up to the important annual address that the president will make a bipartisan pitch, outlining a “policy agenda both parties can rally behind.”
“The agenda I will lay out this evening is not a Republican agenda or a Democrat agenda. It is the agenda of the American people,” Trump will say, according to prepared remarks.
“Together, we can break decades of political stalemate. We can bridge old divisions, heal old wounds, build new coalitions, forge new solutions, and unlock the extraordinary promise of America’s future,” he will continue. “The decision is ours to make.”
However, Trump’s rhetoric throughout his presidency — and in the hours ahead of his speech — is likely to undercut that message and make it hard for his highly anticipated remarks to break through. For example, Tuesday morning the president tweeted that his administration has “sent additional military” to the Southern border. “We will build a Human Wall if necessary,” Trump also said. “If we had a real Wall, this would be a non-event!” That tweet was soon followed by another that targeted the Senate’s top Democrat, Chuck Schumer of New York.
Democrats have chosen former Georgia House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams, who fell short in her bid last year to become the country’s first black female governor, to give their response to the president’s address. According to excerpts from her prepared remarks, Abrams will hit Trump hard over the prolonged shutdown and its effect on workers.
“Just a few weeks ago, I joined volunteers to distribute meals to furloughed federal workers. They waited in line for a box of food and a sliver of hope since they hadn’t received a paycheck in weeks. Making their livelihoods a pawn for political games is a disgrace,” Abrams will say. “The shutdown was a stunt engineered by the president of the United States, one that defied every tenet of fairness and abandoned not just our people — but our values.”
Trump’s address comes less than two weeks before another funding deadline that could result in another partial government shutdown. The president has been pessimistic about the chances that a bipartisan group of lawmakers engaged in negotiations will find a palatable solution on border security he would sign, and he is expected to make immigration — and his continued argument that a Southern border wall of some type is necessary — a central part of his speech.
“We have a moral duty to create an immigration system that protects the lives and jobs of our citizens,” Trump will say in his remarks, adding later on that, “No issue better illustrates the divide between America’s working class and America’s political class than illegal immigration. Wealthy politicians and donors push for open borders while living their lives behind walls and gates and guards.”
Trump has floated declaring a national emergency as a way to build the wall, which was a key campaign promise — albeit with the caveat that Mexico would pay for it — that drew wild praise from his supporters. Even some Republicans, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., have cautioned that such a declaration would be a risky strategy, drawing likely legal challenges and setting a potentially dangerous precedent for future presidents.
Other parts of Trump’s remarks will touch on foreign policy, the economy, changing the country’s criminal justice system and improving America’s infrastructure.
“After 24 months of rapid progress, our economy is the envy of the world, our military is the most powerful on earth, and America is winning each and every day,” Trump will argue.
And as he has pushed for withdrawing U.S. troops from Syria and drawing down the American military presence in Afghanistan — an idea even Republicans in the Senate have rebuffed — Trump will remind the country that, “As a candidate for president, I pledged a new approach. Great nations do not fight endless wars.”
Infrastructure, especially, is an issue where there could be some bipartisan agreement, and Trump will tell Congress that, “both parties should be able to unite for a great rebuilding of America’s crumbling infrastructure.” However, past efforts by the administration to highlight such efforts have often been overshadowed by controversy or other news.