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SOTU review: The 6 big domestic policies Trump proposed

Conservative Review

President Trump's second State of the Union address was intended to lay out a legislative agenda for divided government. Knowing that the House of Representatives is under Speaker Nancy Pelosi's control, Trump attempted to strike a unifying and bipartisan tone and invited Democrats to work with him to benefit the country.

"The agenda I will lay out this evening is not a Republican agenda or Democrat agenda, it is the agenda of the American people," Trump said. He referenced broad campaign promises he claimed both Republicans and Democrats have made — implying that under divided government these are the deals Congress can make to move the country forward.

"Many of us have campaigned on the same core promises, to defend American jobs and demand fair trade for American workers, to rebuild and revitalize our nation's infrastructure, to reduce the price of health care and prescription drugs, to create an immigration system that is safe, lawful, modern, and secure, and to pursue a foreign policy that puts America's interests first," Trump said. "There is a new opportunity in American politics, if only we have the courage together to seize it."

Here are the big policies Trump proposed.

1) Immigration

After touting the successes of his administration over the last two years in growing the economy and the bipartisan work of Congress to pass prison reform and make the Department of Veterans' Affairs more accountable, Trump addressed the imminent problem facing Congress: how to strike a deal to fund border security and avert another government shutdown on February 15.

"Now, Republicans and Democrats must join forces again to confront an urgent national crisis," Trump said. "Congress has 10 days left to pass a bill that will fund our government, protect our homeland, and secure are very dangerous southern border."

Trump made the case against illegal immigrants in moral terms. He called on Congress to put "ruthless coyotes, cartels, drug dealers, and human traffickers out of business," a line that Democrats refused to clap for and 2020 presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., actually shook her head at.

"This is a moral issue," Trump said. "The lawless state of our southern border is a threat to the safety, security, and financial well-being of all Americans. We have a moral duty to create an immigration system that protects the lives and jobs of our citizens. This includes our obligation to the millions of immigrants living here today who follow the rules and respected our laws."

Trump called on Congress to pass his proposal for $5.7 billion to build a "steel barrier system" and additional funding for technology, personnel, and humanitarian aid to address the border crisis. His compromise also includes extending DACA amnesty and the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program for three years — a compromise Democrats have already rejected.

Bipartisan committees in the House and Senate are working to craft a deal that Trump will sign. What conservatives need to demand in any border security deal is the removal of legal incentives inviting illegal immigration. Amnesty or DACA must not be the focus of a bipartisan immigration deal. Physical barriers, whether a wall or a fence, will not work if illegal immigrants continue to abuse U.S. asylum laws and catch-and-release policies.

2) Trade

Trump returned to one of his favorite topics, touting the $250 billion in tariffs he has levied on Chinese goods and declaring that the U.S. and China must come to a trade deal that includes "real, structural change to end unfair trade practices, reduce our chronic trade deficit, and protect American jobs." The president plans to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping soon, but the details of this meeting have not been announced.

For policies at home, Trump called on Congress to pass the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), the North American trade deal negotiated by the president's administration that will replace NAFTA. A Heritage Foundation analysis of the deal gave it a mixed review, finding that several provisions brought down trade barriers and modernized digital trade, while in other areas, regulatory barriers on automobile trade were increased — including a minimum wage requirement and labor provisions that tilt left with controversial sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) provisions. It is not likely that the Democratic House will pass this trade deal.

Trump also called for Congress to take up the Reciprocal Trade Act, "so that if another country places an unfair tariff on an American product, we can charge them the exact same tariff on the same product that they sell to us." The bill, introduced by Rep. Sean Duffy, R-Wisc., would expand the president's authority to impose new tariffs and import restrictions unilaterally. Conservatives may have reasonable disagreement on the effectiveness of tariffs, but Congress should not be delegating its lawmaking authority to the president. This is a separation of powers issue. Tariffs, which are tax increases, should be debated and passed by Congress, not imposed unilaterally by the executive branch.

3) Infrastructure

President Trump repeated his call for Congress to pass an infrastructure bill.

"I know that Congress is eager to pass an infrastructure bill — and I am eager to work with you on legislation to deliver new and important infrastructure investment, including investments in the cutting-edge industries of the future," Trump said.

When Republicans controlled Congress, Trump proposed a $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan, claiming it would only cost the federal government $200 billion and arguing that the rest of the money would come from state spending and public-private partnerships. It was a bad idea then and remains so. It would drive up the debt and empower Washington D.C. to make infrastructure decisions for local communities. While Trump's plan called for removing regulations and red tape that have stalled infrastructure projects in the past, he ought to go further by devolving authority to the states and letting each state decide for itself how to fund and build infrastructure.

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