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What Congress wants from Trump’s State of the Union

President Trump speaks to Congress and the nation on Tuesday in his first State of the Union address. White House officials say he will tout economic progress and call for bipartisan agreement on immigration. Yamiche Alcindor and Lisa Desjardins join Judy Woodruff for a preview from both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    President Trump speaks to Congress and the nation tonight on his view of the state of the union.

    White House officials say that he will tout economic progress and call for bipartisan agreement on immigration.

    House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy says Republicans hope for a strong message.

  • Rep. Kevin McCarthy:

    The number one question I want the president to ask tonight to the American people- Are you better off today than you were two years ago? Because I think that answer could be very strong and probably put partisanship aside and have other people start working with us, so we can solve the other problems that are before us.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Democrats, in turn, say the country is more divided than ever.

    And Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer says credit for economic progress should go to the last president.

  • Sen. Chuck Schumer:

    The president thinks our economic recovery is all thanks to him, when reality is that he owes a lot of it to Barack Obama. Two words I don't think we will hear tonight on the economy- Thanks, Obama.

    Second, we expect the president to talk about bipartisanship, but throughout his time in office, he's failed to walk the walk.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Massachusetts Congressman Joe Kennedy, grandson of the late Senator Robert F. Kennedy, will deliver the official Democratic response.

    And I'm joined now by White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor and our Capitol Hill correspondent, Lisa Desjardins, for a look ahead to tonight's speech from both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.

    Hello to both of you.

    Yamiche, you are outdoors. I'm going to go to you first.

    What are you hearing about what the president is going to say?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Well, a White House official tells me that the speech is going to be about 50 minutes and that several people worked on the speech, including H.R. McMaster, the national security adviser, Gary Cohn, the chief economic adviser, Stephen Miller, as well as Vice President Mike Pence.

    The theme is supposed to be building a safe, strong, and proud America. He's supposed to be talking about several topics, including immigration, national security, jobs, infrastructure and trade.

    Some of the guests that the White House is bringing is really going to bring home that point. They're talking — they're bringing people that have benefited from the Republican tax plan. They're also going to be bringing somebody who adopted a child that was affected by the opioid crisis.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, Yamiche, you were telling us that it's notable what the president is not expected to talk about.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    The president is not expected to talk about some of the main issues that Americans are speaking about, and this is the MeToo movement and sexual harassment all across this country.

    He's also not going to be talking about the Russia investigation and Robert Mueller. Of course, there have been so many reports out there that he might be trying to fire the special investigator. Then he's also not supposed to be talking about the spike in hate crimes. There is a lot of division in the country with race relations and people talking about that all the time.

    But the president said in a luncheon that me and you attended this afternoon that he wants to unify the country. So, it is going to be interesting to see whether or not he can do that. He said that usually major events, catastrophic events, essentially, are what bring Americans together. But he wants to do that without having Americans suffer.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    That's right.

    And he also commented at that lunch on what he'd learned as president about having — it's important to have heart, as well as being concerned about money, which was an interesting comment.

    Lisa, to you now.

    This State of the Union address comes at a time of, I guess you would have to say some high-stakes decisions that are about to be made in Congress. Are Republicans looking to the president to help get some legislation they want passed done?

  • Lisa Desjardins:


    And I think that touches on the sort of strange dynamic I feel tonight. I have covered many State of the Union addresses, but this one, the drama is not the speech. The drama are the deadlines that Congress faces, to pass an immigration bill in the Senate by next week, also to have a budget deal, much less a president who seems to be at war to some degree with the FBI over a Russia investigation.

    Those things are day-to-day here at the Capitol. This is something that Republicans think will not be affected by the speech. What they want from this president is for him to presidential, to be moderate, the things the White House indicates it's doing, so to some degree, Judy, expectations for Republicans are low to middle range.

    They're setting those expectations that way so that the president can overcome them. But the speech also presents a problem for Republicans, Judy. They have a real divide on immigration.

    Today, Representative Paul Gosar of Arizona asked the Capitol Police to ask for identification of every guest tonight, and if they find someone who was an undocumented immigrant here, as there will be many guests tonight, he has asked Capitol Police to remove them and arrest them.

    That's different from other Republicans, including Republican Carlos Curbelo, who has invited an undocumented dreamer, someone who has status, but it shows the divide here for Republicans in this speech and time right now.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, it will be interesting to see what happens.

    And, Lisa, what about the Democrats? We know many of them are not happy with this president. Some of them, I guess, are not planning to attend. Some of them are going to wear various colors to show their displeasure.

    What are they looking for?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Well, take what Yamiche told you about the things the president is not talking about, the MeToo movement, for example, those are things — and the Russia investigation, the Russia sanctions — those are the things that the Democrats are talking about today.

    They are the things they are challenging him on. You will see a lot of Democrats, especially women, Nancy Pelosi, wearing black tonight to support the MeToo movement. You will see red buttons. Those are for Recy Taylor, the woman that Oprah mentioned at the Golden Globes who was gang-raped, African-American woman in the 1940s.

    Sort of this idea of bringing up minority and women's issues is something Democrats you're going to see from Democrats tonight.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, both of you are going to be with us for the rest of the night. And we look forward to it.

    Thank you, Yamiche and Lisa.

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