State of the Union address 2020: Illinois lawmakers react to Trump's speech

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Local Illinois lawmakers had no idea what to expect from President Donald Trump's State of the Union address Tuesday night.

With a strong economy and bipartisan legislative victories such as justice reform and a new North American trade agreement, the president is likely to begin as he and his predecessors have often done, declaring the union to be strong and promising to work with both political parties.

But this year an impeached Trump faces a Senate vote on his fitness for office the day after his annual address.

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"I have seen the speech but I have not seen the word impeachment," said Hogan Gidley, White House spokesperson. "But as the president likes to say, 'We'll see.'"

Ahead of the speech Illinois congressional delegation members with guests in tow highlighted their policy priorities.

"You have the president wanting to talk about how great things have gone for the country how great strides have been made, on the other hand being haunted by the ghost of the impeachment process," said Rep. Chuy Garcia (D-Illinois 4).

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Garcia's guest for the speech is former U.S. soldier Miguel Perez, Jr. who was deported to Mexico for a non-violent drug offense after serving in Afghanistan.

"I hope that my presence here can shine a light on the flaws of our system that we are deporting veterans," Perez said.

Downstate Republican John Shimkus expects the unexpected from the president.

"President Trump is a unique president in my lifetime in many times he will follow the script and then he'll go off the script," Shimkus said. "So my hope is that he follows the script and he tells his story of his campaign promises and where he accomplish them."

U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth's guest highlights their shared interest in environmental justice, which she thinks would be nice to have echoed by the president.

"If he will work on supporting our troops, if he will work on supporting environmental justice, I will be more than happy to work with my friends across the aisle," she said.
Of the guests, none may be more accomplished than Rep. Sean Casten's: Dr. Dieter Gruen, a 97-year-old Holocaust survivor who eventually worked on the Manhattan Project. Now he's researching enhanced solar energy efficiency, one of Casten's pet projects.

"That leadership is there. We have an amazingly innovative society, we have a bunch of fantastic, intelligent people like Dr. Gruen who have ideas that are ready to be unleashed," Casten said.

"There is no Planet B," said Gruen. "We must preserve our environment."

The president also has a long list of guests, including an Oklahoma mother who lost her Army husband to a roadside bomb in Iraq. Another is a California man whose brother was killed by someone the White House contends should have been deported rather than released from jail.

Much visual theater and reality television showmanship will be on display. Last year all the Democratic congressional women wore white to highlight the Me Too movement, and similar fashion-based displays are expected again.

Meanwhile, many Chicagoans watched the speech, saw clips or read about what President Trump said.

"I thought it was a good speech, just because he gave a good state of what we've done so far this year and where we're headed," said Rocio Ayala.

Others avoided the speech altogether.

"I just don't have any faith in Donald Trump's integrity so I didn't watch it." Said Mia Madison.

The president touted his successes and the economy saying jobs are booming and incomes are soaring.

"I believe that the economy is doing better with him as president but i can't get past some of the stuff that he says that is just outrageous," said Dan Garbis.

The president pivoted to attack his political rivals touching on healthcare saying he will never let socialism destroy it...and that he would protect people with pre-existing conditions. That sparked outrage from Democrats who say it's a lie.

"We know that he's trying to take healthcare away from people with pre-existing conditions," said Kelsey Dietrich. "He's trying to divide us."

Meanwhile the moment when Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi ripped up a paper copy of the President's address at the end of his speech has many talking.

"I do think it an undignified thing to do," said Tom Weiss. "That's what happened. Save it for some other time. Tear one up on the steps of Capitol Hill or whatever but not during the State of the Union speech."


Illinois lawmakers reacted after the speech.

Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL 9th District) said in part: "The President doesn't even deserve a credible mention for his performance over the last three years. He should instead retire and allow someone who thinks about America more than themselves lead us to a more prosperous and safe future."

Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL 16th District) said in part: "At a time when divisive rhetoric iRes commonplace and partisan politics run rampant, it's important to remember that we live in the greatest nation on Earth with the freedom to have these disagreements with one another. The United States serves as an example to all who seek freedom, and we should never take that for granted."

Rep. Bill Foster (D-IL 11th District) said in part: "Simply put, the record of this President is one of broken promises, cruel policies, and unprecedented corruption. If President Trump was serious about uniting the country, he would tell the Senate to pass House-passed legislation that has the support of an overwhelming majority of the American people, including commonsense gun violence measures and legislation to lower prescription drug prices."

Rep. Darin LaHood (R-IL 18th District) said in part: "President Trump tonight laid out a bold message focused on policies that constituents of the 18th Congressional District care about deeply... I applaud the President for putting forth a message of a stronger America built off his agenda."

Illinois Senator Tammy Duckworth said in part: "Rather than attempting to unite our divided nation and present solutions to the serious challenges we face, Donald Trump yet again chose to mislead the American people, claim credit for the work of others and embellish his Administration's disastrous record...For the sake of our national security and the safety of our troops, I sincerely hope that he tones down his rhetoric and replaces his 'maximum pressure' strategy for one that recognizes the efficacy-and necessity-of diplomacy."

Illinois Senator Dick Durbin said: "He brought us to the brink of war with Iran. He continues to sow deep divisions by inciting violence, hate, and mistrust in our democracy. He has put Dreamers on notice for deportation. He continues to threaten health care for millions of people with pre-existing conditions. He diverts money from our service members and their families in order to build his big, beautiful wall time and time again. And he put his own personal, political gain ahead of that of the country that he is sworn to 'preserve, protect, and defend.' America is better than the state of our union under President Trump."

Rep. Sean Casten (D-IL-6th District) said in a statement in part, "In a time of political partisanship, situational ethics, and assault on the objective truth, I hoped the President would use his office to rise above. I hoped to hear a speech that appealed to our better angels and inspired us to work on common challenges. What I saw instead was a man who stoked divisiveness, who spoke lies instead of truth, and took personal credit for our nation's collective successes."
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