- The Washington Times - Monday, February 4, 2019

President Trump will call on Democrats in his State of the Union address Tuesday night to end their “resistance” and work together, but it is precisely Mr. Trump’s backing on virtually any issue that has served as a poison pill for Democrats.

Senior aides say the president will urge lawmakers in his prime-time speech to approve a major infrastructure initiative, a subject that historically receives bipartisan support.

But when Mr. Trump broached a plan late last year to rebuild the nation’s roads, bridges and other public works, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, warned that any proposal would need to address climate change — a certain nonstarter for the president.

The president also will renew his call for funding a border barrier, another issue that many Democrats have supported in the past. But when Mr. Trump insisted on money for a border wall as part of an end-of-year budget deal in December, Democrats refused, leading to the longest government shutdown in history.

That impasse even delayed the State of the Union speech. Mr. Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, fought over the precedent of a president delivering the annual address while part of the government was closed.

The president has said there is a “good chance” he will declare a state of emergency over the southern border Tuesday night because Democrats refuse to allocate money for a wall in negotiations to fund nine federal agencies by Feb. 15.

It will be Mr. Trump’s first address with Mrs. Pelosi looking over his shoulder on the speaker’s rostrum in the House. At least two Democrats, Reps. John Lewis and Hank Johnson of Georgia, plan to boycott Mr. Trump’s speech.

Still, White House advisers say the president is determined to reach out to Democrats. The theme of his address is “Choosing Greatness.”

“This president is going to call for an end to the politics of resistance, retribution and call for more comity,” said White House counselor Kellyanne Conway.

A senior administration official said the president will urge lawmakers to come together on immigration, trade, health care costs, infrastructure and wrapping up America’s “endless foreign wars.” The president also is expected to issue a call to end HIV transmission in the U.S. by 2030.

“Together we can break decades of political stalemate, we can bridge old divisions, heal old wounds, build new coalitions, forge new solutions and unlock the extraordinary promise of America’s future. The decision is ours to make,” Mr. Trump will say, according to the official.

Democrats plan to taunt the president with some of their invited guests in the House gallery. Lawmakers have invited two illegal immigrants who worked as housekeepers at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, and freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York has invited the woman who cornered Sen. Jeff Flake in an elevator to protest his support to confirm Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh.

Sen. Chris Van Hollen, Maryland Democrat, has invited a federal contract worker who is raising two great-grandchildren by herself and who won’t get paid for the 35-day partial government shutdown.

The House Democrats’ schedule for the rest of the week suggests they will be unmoved by Mr. Trump’s overture. Democrats plan to open oversight hearings on Mr. Trump’s family separation policy along the border, to highlight his refusal to release his tax returns, and to question acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, who oversees special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.

Nevertheless, Jason Grumet, president of the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington, said there is “real momentum” in four areas where Democrats and the White House can compromise this year: immigration, infrastructure, paid family leave and higher education.

“As hard as it is, there is a security solution that would significantly increase resources for border security, provide a permanent solution for ‘Dreamers’ and address the temporary protected status that clearly need to be engaged,” he said.

He called infrastructure “the best idea that never happens.”

“We expect the president is going to announce plans to move forward,” Mr. Grumet said. “The issue is now, as it has always been, how we pay for it.”

In February 2018, Mr. Trump proposed an infrastructure plan that called for the federal government to spend $200 billion over 10 years to attract at least another $1.5 trillion from state and local governments and private investors. That plan went nowhere.

White House aides point to criminal justice legislation approved late last year to show there is a precedent, and hope, for Democrats to work with the president on other initiatives.

The president will enter the House chamber buoyed by strong economic news — two consecutive months in which employers have added more than 300,000 jobs, capping two years of surging growth brought on by corporate tax cuts and reduced regulations.

“It’s also an address that celebrates so many accomplishments for the United States of America that he would like to highlight as the leader of the nation,” Mrs. Conway said. “The American people see the results. They either have more money in their pockets or they were one of the 8 million Americans who got a bonus or a raise because of the tax cuts or they know people who have.”

But polls show continued anxiety about the economy, and many voters said the tax cuts of 2017 didn’t make much difference in their lives. A Morning Consult/Politico poll Monday showed that 76 percent of voters favor a higher tax rate for the wealthy.

According to the survey, 33 percent said the 2017 tax cuts helped the economy, 41 percent said it hurt or made no difference, and 25 percent said they didn’t know. Also in the poll, 65 percent said the country is on the wrong track and 56 percent disapproved of Mr. Trump’s job as president.

On foreign policy, aides say, the president will address the crisis in Venezuela, where the U.S. has recognized opposition leader Juan Guaido as the interim president instead of socialist leader Nicolas Maduro, who recently began his second term as president.

Mr. Trump also is likely to address his second denuclearization summit this month with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, with Vietnam as the probable location. He is preparing for another round of high-stakes trade talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping, a discussion that could be held in Asia about the time of the North Korean summit.

The State of the Union address starts at 9 p.m. Eastern time and will be shown on major television networks and streamed on WhiteHouse.gov.

• Dave Boyer can be reached at dboyer@washingtontimes.com.

• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

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