Tuesday, February 28

Donald Trump delivers first speech to Congress


US president says he will shortly take new steps to 'keep those out' who would do harm to his country. ON TRUMP'S AGENDA Replace the Affordable Care Act, the healthcare law known as Obamacare. It provides coverage to millions of uninsured Americans. Increase military spending by $54bn, funded by other budget cuts, including of foreign aid. Target the Environmental Protection Agency, including by reviewing an Obama-era rule that limits pollution in major rivers, streams and wetlands. US President Donald Trump is addressing a joint session of Congress for the first time, in a televised speech laying out his agenda for the next year. Opening his speech by condemning recent threats against Jewish community centres, vandalism of Jewish cemeteries and the deadly shooting of an Indian man in Kansas last week, Trump said he took the podium to deliver a message of "unity and strength". The Republican had received criticism for not reacting strongly enough to the acts and he had not yet commented on the apparently racially motivated murder of Srinivas Kuchibhotla. Trump then went on to the core issue of his election campaign and his presidency so far: immigration reform. He pledged again to build a "great, great wall" on the Mexican border and said that "by finally enforcing our immigration laws, we will raise wages, help the unemployed," and save billions of dollars. He also announced that he will shortly take new steps to "keep those out" who he said would do harm to the US - after judges earlier this month struck down his ban on refugees and citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries. In the audience, Democratic women wore white in honour of women's suffrage. Some Democrats also wore blue ribbons for the American Civil Liberties Union, which was instrumental in challenging Trump's immigration ban. US Vice President Mike Pence, left, and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan applaud Trump at Capitol Hill [Jim Lo Scalzo/Reuters] Democrats also invited immigrants and others representing those they say could be hurt by Trump's policies to attend the speech. Lawmakers typically get one guest ticket each. Among those invited were an Iraqi-born doctor who discovered elevated levels of lead in the blood of many children living in Flint, a Muslim community leader, refugees and an LGBT activist. Al Jazeera's James Bays, reporting from Capitol Hill, said the address was very different from previous Trump speeches. "It was a conventional speech, a presidential speech... with no references to 'fake news' or 'dishonest media'". "He said in his speech that 'the time for trivial fights is behind us'...This feels a bit like a reset speech from the president. A new tone, but not much new in terms of policy." Later on in the speech, Trump praised the US armed forces vowed to give the military "the tools they need" to prevent war and, if necessary, "to fight and to win". In his budget proposal, the president is suggesting boosting military spending by $54bn - by cutting the budget of the state department and foreign aid. The proposal has been criticised by Republicans who say that cuts in diplomatic efforts are going to create enemies for the US rather than make it safer. Executive action Since taking office on January 20, Trump has signed at least 23 executive actions which do not need to pass Congress and signed five bills into law. Going forward, he will need support from Congress, dominated by his Republican Party, to push through his agenda.

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