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Congressman Tom Cole

Representing the 4th District of Oklahoma

President Trump's Defining Moment

March 6, 2017
Weekly Columns

President Trump was elected in no small degree based on the economic and national security anxieties facing millions of working class Americans. He correctly identified with, and gave voice to, their anger and their frustration. Consequently, the tone of his campaign and the early days of his presidency were not exactly upbeat in tone. However, his Joint Address to Congress last week was a sharp and welcome change.

President Trump’s Joint Address to Congress was uplifting, visionary and yes, presidential. To many, it was the best speech he has given since becoming a candidate for president. There were many issues I had hoped President Trump would address, and while he did not hit all of them, I thought the speech was a resounding success.

President Trump’s speech was powerful, and I think both Democrats and Republicans were encouraged by the plans he outlined for America. I believe everyday Americans who tuned in to listen to his speech felt similarly.

“I am here tonight to deliver a message of unity and strength, and it is a message deeply delivered from my heart," said President Trump. "The torch of truth, liberty and justice is now in our hands. And we will use it to light up the world."

This was a speech one could imagine Ronald Reagan giving. It called to mind American exceptionalism, faith in American ingenuity and faith in the American worker.  It moved away from “Making America Great Again,” and declared what most Americans intrinsically know - America is already great. We have our problems and challenges, but since the founding of our Republic, Americans have demonstrated repeatedly that we are up to the challenge.

President Trump laid out a number of issues that Republicans are committed to addressing. One of the overarching themes of the speech was restoring our military and strengthening or national defense. In ISIS we face an enemy unlike any before. Defeating them and eliminating them will require more resources, more manpower and more machinery and equipment. The White House recently revealed their plan for funding the Department of Defense, in which they are asking for an additional $54 billion in defense spending. Defending our nation is perhaps the most fundamental responsibility of the federal government. It is crucial that Congress give the President the tools and resourced he needs to fulfill that responsibility.

In order to give President Trump all of the tools necessary to eradicate our enemies, I believe he needs to ask for, and be given an authorization of the use of military force (AUMF).  In so doing, America can present a united front and Congress will have fulfilled our constitutional responsibilities with respect to waging war.

I was encouraged that he called for stronger border security and immigration vetting systems. We need to make our communities safer and our borders stronger. Although it is a complex economic and humanitarian issue, we have to be certain that anyone entering our country is doing so with the best of intentions. Because of his leadership on this issue, President Trump is in a unique position to get us to a place where our borders are secure, our workforce has the capacity to fuel economic growth, and law-abiding foreign nationals feel safe and welcome in our country.

I was also pleased that a large part of his speech was dedicated to the fate of Obamacare. We agree, the system needs to be replaced. President Trump named a number of provisions that should be considered in the replacement, most of which are already in consideration. It should definitely allow for a competitive marketplace, and provide for those on the current exchanges to transition to the new plan. People with pre-existing conditions should have the opportunity to participate. Further, states should have the power to manage Medicaid expansion.

Much of what President Trump asked for will require bipartisan action in both the House and Senate. If he can garner support from both sides of the aisle, he will truly be a consequential president who accomplishes big things. I, for one, look forward to helping that come about.