Countering Trump on Health Care, Democrat Will Call Impeachment ‘Tragic’

WASHINGTON — Democrats planned to criticize President Trump on Tuesday for seeking to repeal a landmark health care law and presiding over an economy they argue has left working people struggling, in a pair of official responses to his State of the Union address that were also to issue a searing indictment of his conduct and rhetoric.

“It doesn’t matter what the president says about the stock market,” Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan was expected to say, according to excerpts from her prepared remarks distributed in advance. “What matters is that millions of people struggle to get by or don’t have enough money at the end of the month after paying for transportation, student loans or prescription drugs.

The comment by Ms. Whitmer, a Democrat who won the support of voters in a swing state that Mr. Trump won in 2016 and that will be critical in the 2020 election, was a direct rebuttal to the president’s central theme in his address to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday night.

After a speech in which the president highlighted the booming economy as a central accomplishment of his tenure — an issue around which he is expected to build his re-election campaign — Democrats were to work to tarnish his record, reminding voters of the contrast between their agenda and his.

“It’s pretty simple,” Ms. Whitmer was to say, describing her work on health care as a Michigan state senator. “Democrats are trying to make your health care better. Republicans in Washington are trying to take it away.”

In the Spanish-language rebuttal, Representative Veronica Escobar, a freshman Democrat from Texas, planned to echo the health care themes, outlining the legislation that the party has pushed through the House over the past year.

But Ms. Escobar, who serves on the House Judiciary Committee, which drafted the articles of impeachment against Mr. Trump, was to also allude to the charges he faces in an impeachment trial that is scheduled to end on Wednesday with his likely acquittal.

“This is a tragic moment, and Congress must defend our republic,” Ms. Escobar planned to say, according to her prepared remarks. “We Democrats will continue to fight for truth and for what is right. No one is above the law.”

Speaking from a community clinic in El Paso, which has been at the epicenter of the administration’s immigration crackdown, Ms. Escobar was to also rebuke the president’s policies and rhetoric toward immigrants.

Pointing to attacks on undocumented immigrants known as “Dreamers,” the deaths of migrant children at the southwestern border and in federal custody, and the treatment of migrants seeking asylum, she was to denounce Mr. Trump’s agenda as “policies none of us ever imagined would happen in America in our lifetime.”

And she was to speak about a mass shooting last year in El Paso by a gunman warning of a “Hispanic invasion.”

“Just before he began his killing spree, he posted his views online and used hateful language like the very words used by President Trump to describe immigrants and Latinos,” she planned to say.

Thrust into the national spotlight as a direct rebuttal to the president’s speech, the two women represent the core of who Democrats are hoping to appeal to in the 2020 election: voters in the industrial Midwest, as well as voters of color who have been the most affected by the administration’s policies and the president’s language toward immigrants.

In addition to mentioning her bipartisan work in Michigan, Ms. Whitmer was to also directly address young voters, describing how they inspire her for demanding stronger gun safety measures and action to counter climate change, and mentioning her own daughter, who is set to graduate in 2020.

“The two things are connected,” Ms. Whitmer was to say. “Because walking across the graduation stage is as important as walking into the voting booth for the first time.”

Several House Democrats declined to attend the State of the Union, citing Mr. Trump’s impeachment and several of his administration’s policies, including Representative Maxine Waters of California, the chairwoman of the House Financial Services Committee; Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York; and Representative Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts.

Besides the official Democratic responses from Ms. Whitmer and Ms. Escobar, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez said she will respond to questions about the State of the Union on her Instagram, while Ms. Pressley is expected to deliver remarks on behalf of the Working Families Party.

Patricia Mazzei contributed reporting.

Source link