Representative Eliot L. Engel, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and a senior member of the Committee on Energy and Commerce, today delivered the following remarks in the House of Representatives:
“Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I have long prided myself on working across the aisle to get things done for my constituents and all the American people. That’s what most people want: a government that grapples with tough issues in a constructive way. Unfortunately, since , the new Administration has shown no interest in working with the Congress on both sides to tackle problems, including Russia’s unlawful interference in last year’s election. That’s why I’ve decided not to stand on the aisle of the House chamber to shake the President’s hand during this joint session of Congress, as I have done in the past through Democratic and Republican administrations alike. This will be the first time during my 29 years in the House that I’ve made this decision.
“I have deep respect for the Presidency, and I will attend the joint session. But that respect between branches must be mutual. The President has attacked the free press by calling it the ‘enemy of the people.’ He’s rejected America’s traditional role welcoming refugees, which have helped to make our country great. He’s cozied up to Vladimir Putin, the strongman who attacks our democracy. He’s moved to gut the Affordable Care Act and looked the other way when threats against the Jewish community have increased in recent year.
“This isn’t part of our normal political discourse. This goes beyond ideological and political differences. The President needs to work with all people. And therefore, I will listen to what he has to say today, but I will not greet him and shake his hand. Thank you.”
Engel Statement In Response To The President’s Address
Congressman Eliot L. Engel, Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and a leading member on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, issued the following statement in response to the President’s address before a joint session of Congress:
“There were few surprises in President Trump’s speech . I do appreciate that he started his speech by acknowledging the recent spike in anti-Semitic violence in this country, and we all must work together to put a stop to this troubling trend.
“As for the rest of the speech, it was heavy on rhetoric and light on details. It described a country that is both crumbling and prospering, limping along in despair while sprinting to new heights since his election. Sadly, the truth about our country’s true standing was left out, and as a result the American people are no closer to understanding how the President plans to deal with the real issues facing our nation.
“President Trump’s rhetoric on immigration continues to be deeply troubling. I have spoken out for weeks against his dangerous and unconstitutional policy against Muslims, and he added a troubling new dimension: a plan to publicly highlight crimes committed by immigrants for political purposes. His stories left out any mention of people like Jeanette Vizguerra, a working mother of four from Denver who was called before an ICE hearing this month to await deportation. She’s currently taken sanctuary at a church in Denver and her story, though disheartening, is not unique.
“On health care, President Trump promised a system that will ‘expand choice, increase access, lower costs, and at the same time, provide better health care.’ Yet seconds later, he touted policies that do nothing to achieve those goals.
“We cannot hope to ‘expand treatment for those who have become so badly addicted’ while simultaneously gutting the law that ensures coverage for substance abuse treatment. Defunding an organization that provides comprehensive reproductive health care is antithetical to the goal to ‘invest in women’s health.’ And “access to coverage” for Americans with pre-existing health conditions means nothing without the Affordable Care Act’s protections that keep insurers from charging those consumers more for care. Democrats have long pointed to the problems with such policies. Yet the President and Congressional Republicans remain more concerned with scoring political points than building on the ACA’s progress to address the challenges facing American families.
“President Trump was right to call education a civil rights issue, but the solution he offered only serves to set us backward. His call to take funding away from our public schools and divert it to private, charter, magnet, and religious schools will not lead to greater achievement. As a former public school teacher, I know that vouchers threaten our public schools by diverting valuable resources away from our education system and offer no real ‘choice’ for the overwhelming majority of students. We must continue to invest in public education and ensure that all Americans have access to free, quality schools.
“I’ve always prided myself on working across the aisle, and if there is one thing on which we can all agree it’s that our country faces some real challenges. But speech did little to address those challenges in a meaningful way.”