Oregon leaders respond to Trump’s ‘best speech’

Sen. Jeff Merkley said address "sounded a lot like a campaign speech without details"

Sen. Jeff Merkley responds to President Donald Trump's first address to Congress, February 28, 2017. (KOIN)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Political analyst Jim Moore called President Donald Trump’s address to Congress Tuesday his “best speech” yet. While Republicans agreed, many Democrats said the president still hasn’t laid out enough details on how he hopes to achieve his goals.

“What we really heard was another speech that sounded a lot like a campaign speech without details,” Sen. Jeff Merkley told KOIN 6 News.

President Donald Trump, flanked by Vice President Mike Pence and House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis., gestures on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2017. (Jim Lo Scalzo/Pool Image via AP)
President Donald Trump, flanked by Vice President Mike Pence and House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis., gestures on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2017. (Jim Lo Scalzo/Pool Image via AP)

Merkley said Trump needs to switch out of “campaign mode” and into “policy development mode” if he hopes to get things done.

“We heard, ‘Well public education is very important,’ but… the president appointed someone who doesn’t know anything about public education to be secretary of education,” he said. “We heard the words clean water and clean air, and that’s it, but he appointed someone to tear down the Environmental Protection Agency.”

While Merkley said he was pleased to hear the president talk about paid parental leave, he said he wished he would have provided more details.

“To have paid parental leave as a standard in our nation would be a very good thing, but it seemed to almost be thrown in there as a phrase with no details,” he said.

“He said he’s going to build a ‘great, great wall’ to stop illegal immigration, but didn’t say how he’s going to pay for it. He said he wants massive tax relief for the middle class but gave no details on the tax reform his team is working on. He said he wants to invest in our nation’s infrastructure, but offered no plan.

There’s no clearer example of Trump’s empty promises than his continuing calls to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and rip health care coverage away from 20 million low-income and working Americans without providing any real replacement plan. The truth is, rather than the ‘disaster’ that Trump claims it is, the Affordable Care Act is literally saving lives. That’s a fact. I know it, because I was honored to bring as my guest tonight a woman who owes her life, and the life of her son, to the Affordable Care Act.

Marlene Barbera and her son Max were both deathly ill and in need of liver transplants to survive. Because of the ACA, they were both able to get insurance coverage, both able to get the transplants they needed, and they are both alive today to share their stories. Without the ACA, the continuing post-transplant care they need will be put in jeopardy, and both of their lives will be put at risk.

The American people deserve answers. They deserve to know the details of Donald Trump’s plans and how he intends to pay for his programs. Above all, they deserve to know their access to quality, affordable health care is secure and that they have a fair and equal shot at prosperity.” – Sen. Jeff Merkley

One thing Trump did provide specifics on: his ideas for healthcare. But Merkley said he and 500,000 Oregonians still don’t believe repealing Obamacare is the way to go.

“I no longer have people coming to my town halls saying ‘I’m just trying to stay alive until I’m 65 and I can get Medicare,’ that’s a huge improvement,” Merkley said. “I think think we run great risk with the president tearing down a structure that has greatly improved healthcare for working America and struggling families.”

Oregon’s lone Republican, Rep. Greg Walden, released a video following Trump’s speech in which he said he’s looking forward to working with the new administration.

“I think the president’s speech was refreshingly optimistic and a message about unity and a message about taking care of America’s needs first, getting people back to work with really good paying jobs,” Walden said in his video statement.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer’s response the address was just one word: “Resist.”

Sen. Ron Wyden released the following statement Tuesday night:

“At town halls all across Oregon last week, I heard from thousands of people who are hungry for real solutions. They believe in the Oregon Way, where it doesn’t matter what your party is, it matters that you have good ideas, and the willingness to fight for them. Unfortunately, the president has not kept the promises he made to millions of middle-class Americans. Instead of leveling the playing field for families, he’s rigging the rules of our economy to bloat the wallets of big business executives.  Instead of draining the swamp, he’s filled the administration with Wall Street insiders who have made a fortune on the backs of the vulnerable. And while Trump is making decisions that help only the wealthy, there are communities across the country that are still waiting for the recovery from the Great Recession to show up. Rest assured I will continue to fight for these communities, and for hard working Americans everywhere, so that everyone in this country has the opportunity to get ahead in life.

Tonight the president continued to use ‘health care happy-talk’ despite the fact that congressional Republicans are dangerously close to taking America back to the days when health care was only for the healthy and wealthy. Having ‘access’ to health insurance won’t mean much if families can’t afford it. Health care ‘freedom’ doesn’t mean losing coverage or barring women from seeing a doctor they trust. After years of talk, all that’s on offer is a plan where health care will cost more and Americans will get less.

The president then hid behind hyperbole and rhetoric to distract from the fact that his tax plan will raise taxes on working families and cut benefits that the middle class depends on all so the wealthy can pay a lower rate. Once again he committed to handing out special breaks for special interests when he should be cleaning out the rot at the heart of our tax system.  If you wanted a guide to putting the well-to-do before the needs of the middle class, the Trump tax plan is what you’d come up with.

If Trump is ready to take up comprehensive immigration reform, there is a bipartisan immigration proposal that’s a good place to start. He needs to walk back the damaging statements and halt indiscriminate deportations of families. Mass deportations of people who have committed no crimes do not make us safer. Spending billions enriching defense contractors, when half the federal budget already goes to the military does not make us safer. Americans want our president to focus on real threats, and need real proposals to help working families get ahead. Instead, these knee-jerk schemes will leave our country poorer, and Americans worse off.” – Sen. Ron Wyden