President Donald Trump started and ended his second State of the Union Address with a call for unity, but reactions from Colorado lawmakers and advocates highlighted the difficulty of that task when it comes to divisive issues like abortion and immigration.
The president used a significant portion of his 80-minute speech to lay out his reasoning for a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico.
“Simply put walls work, and walls save lives,” Trump said, earning a standing ovation from members of his party.
Funding for a wall has been a sticking point in negotiations between Republicans and Democrats and recently led to the longest partial shutdown of the federal government in history. Members of Congress are trying to negotiate a compromise both parties can accept before Feb. 15. If they can’t, federal workers could find themselves furloughed again by another government shutdown.
And as the speech ended, U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-Arvada, reminded his followers on Twitter that he’s focused on ensuring that doesn’t happen.
But other Colorado Democrats sounded skeptical that the president would negotiate in good faith.
“What we heard tonight was classic state-of-the-union Trump, who tells everybody what they want to hear,” U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Denver, said in a statement.
The Denver Democrat went on to say she’d work with the president on issues like lowering prescription drug cots and infrastructure, but “If the president is going to stand in front of Congress and say one thing, then turn around and continue to pursue his agenda that involves denying climate change, rolling back our environmental standards and eliminating the Affordable Care Act, then he’s going to have quite a fight on his hands with this new Congress.”
One of the most divisive part of the president’s speech was when he proposed a federal ban on late-term abortions. Colorado is one of a handful of states that doesn’t restrict abortions based on gestational age. U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colorado Springs, quickly signaled his support for the proposal on Twitter while NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado came out strongly in opposition.
The U.S. Senate rejected a bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy in January 2018. Republicans hold more seats in 2019, but they likely don’t have the 60 votes they need to break a filibuster.
The state’s major political parties also took different messages away from Tuesday’s speech. State Democrats thought the speech was more of a campaign launch for 2020 than a call to unity while Colorado Republican GOP Chairman Jeff Hays released a statement praising the president’s clear vision.
“Overreaching Democrats in the state legislature have already done a tremendous job of energizing Colorado Republicans in 2019,” Hays said in a statement. “After watching President Trump tonight, we’re more determined than ever to take back our freedoms and our state.”
U.S. Senators Cory Gardner, R-Colorado, and Michael Bennet, D-Colorado, offered their thoughts on Twitter after Trump’s speech as well.
Content originally published by the Denver Post on February 5, 2019.