President Trump promised to lower taxes, combat terrorism and replace the Affordable Care Act in a speech to a joint session of Congress, Feb. 28. Here are key moments from that speech. (Video: Sarah Parnass/Photo: Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)
By Philip Rucker and Robert Costa February 28 at 11:29 PM
President Trump sought to repackage his hard-line campaign promises with a moderate sheen Tuesday night, declaring what he termed “a new chapter of American greatness” of economic renewal and military might in his first joint address to Congress.
Seeking to steady his presidency after a tumultuous first 40 days, Trump had an air of seriousness and revealed flashes of compassion as he broadly outlined a sweeping agenda to rebuild a country he described as ravaged by crime and drugs, deteriorating infrastructure and failing bureaucracies.
Trump’s 60-minute speech touched on his plans to overhaul the nation’s health-care system and tax code, but it was short on specifics and heavy on lofty prose. Struggling to steer a bitterly divided nation with his job-approval ratings at historic lows, Trump effectively pleaded with the American people to give him a chance and to imagine what could be achieved during his presidency.
“We are one people, with one destiny,” Trump said quietly near the end. “The time for small thinking is over. The time for trivial fights is behind us. We just need the courage to share the dreams that fill our hearts.”
Trump extended olive branches to his opponents. He called on Congress to pass paid family leave, a reference to a long-held Democratic Party priority that brought liberal lawmakers to their feet to applaud. And he pledged to work with Muslim allies to extinguish Islamic State terrorists, going so far as to acknowledge the killings of Muslims as well as Christians in the Middle East.
Still, Trump did not back away from his most controversial policies. He used typically bellicose language to describe the fight against the Islamic State, calling it “a network of lawless savages that have slaughtered Muslims and Christians, and men, women and children of all faiths and all beliefs.” He made a point to utter the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism,” which Republicans cheered heartily.
[President Trump’s joint address to Congress, annotated]
The president forcefully defended his travel ban of refugees and citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries — an executive order that was halted in federal court — as necessary to prevent the entry of foreigners who do not share America’s values.
“We cannot allow a beachhead of terrorism to form inside America,” Trump said. “We cannot allow our nation to become a sanctuary for extremists.”
The president trumpeted his plans to budget a major increase in military spending. One of Trump’s fiercest Republican critics, Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), stood enthusiastically when the president said he would end the “defense sequester” caps on Pentagon spending.
On foreign affairs, Trump said he would honor historic alliances — and explicitly stated his support for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, on which he had wavered during his campaign — but said he would seek new ones as well, even with former adversaries. The latter seemed an indirect reference to potentially working to combat terrorism with Russia, which U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded meddled in the November election in hopes of helping Trump.
“America is willing to find new friends, and to forge new partnerships, where share interests align,” Trump said. “We want harmony and stability, not war and conflict.”