WASHINGTON – It was the third-longest State of the Union address in history, leaving Minnesota lawmakers with a lot to unpack.
Republican Rep. Erik Paulsen liked much of what he heard.
“I thought he focused on something that everyone can get behind, and that’s more economic opportunity for low- and middle-income families, people lifting themselves up … He talked about some important themes of setting aside differences,” Paulsen said after the speech.
Like everything else around the polarizing president, the speech sounded very different on the other side of the aisle.
“He offers all these big promises of a big, beautiful, perfect infrastructure [bill],” said Rep. Rick Nolan, a Democratic member of the House infrastructure committee who says the president’s proposals would fund a fraction of the estimated $3 trillion in infrastructure repairs the country might need.
To Republican Rep. Tom Emmer, the speech seemed directed not at Congress, but at voters in places like Minnesota’s Iron Range, “the forgotten men and women,” said Emmer. “I got a lot of exercise,” he joked, after repeatedly jumping to his feet to applaud during the speech. “The tone, I thought, was fantastic … Letting everybody know, look, we can only accomplish these things together and guess what, remember who it is we work for. It’s the people who own this building. It’s the people we need to achieve these things for.”
Seated directly behind the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the speech was newly appointed Democratic Sen. Tina Smith, attending her first State of the Union.
“President Trump talked a lot tonight about the need for bipartisanship. I couldn’t agree more,” she said in a statement after the speech. “But he needs to put those words into action — something he and Republicans in Congress repeatedly failed to do in the first year of this administration..”
U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum spent the speech exchanging incredulous looks with her Democratic colleagues. She said he didn’t offer any concrete policies or suggestions on how to pay for the crumbling infrastructure or the opioid epidemic he highlighted.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar wanted the president to talk about topics that could bring both parties together — issues like jobs, infrastructure, affordable prescription medication and a national strategy to deal with the opioid epidemic.
The president did touch on each of those issues. When he pledged to make “fixing the injustice of high drug prices one of our top priorities,” Klobuchar was one of the Democrats who rose to her feet to applaud.