(House of Representatives - March 01, 2017)

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[Pages H1456-H1461]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []

                              TO CONGRESS

  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under the Speaker's announced policy of 
January 3, 2017, the gentlewoman from Washington (Ms. Jayapal) is 
recognized for 60 minutes as the designee of the minority leader.

                             General Leave

  Ms. JAYAPAL. Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent that all Members 
have 5 legislative days to revise and extend their remarks and include 
extraneous material on the subject of my Special Order.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is there objection to the request of the 
gentlewoman from Washington?
  There was no objection.
  Ms. JAYAPAL. Mr. Speaker, today I stand here for this Special Order 
on behalf of our Congressional Progressive Caucus, and we have decided 
that we would like to use this Special Order hour to address our 
reactions to the President's address to the Union last night.
  Before I offer my part of those remarks, Mr. Speaker, I yield to the 
gentleman from Maryland (Mr. Raskin), my friend and colleague.
  Mr. RASKIN. Mr. Speaker, I thank Congresswoman Jayapal. She has been 
a sensational leader within the Democratic Caucus and within the 
Congressional Progressive Caucus, especially on the issues of 
immigration and the rights of refugees. It is such an honor to be able 
to serve with her. I appreciate being able to spend some moments just 
reflecting on what took place in our Chamber last night with the 
President's speech.
  We should start by giving credit where credit is due. This speech was 
not ``American Carnage II.'' It was a vast improvement, I would say, 
over all of the violent and apocalyptic imagery and rhetoric that we 
saw in the inaugural address. So hats off to the President's new speech 
writer, whoever that may be.
  However, having said that, I think it is simply old wine in a new 
bottle. The same basic extremist Steve Bannon infrastructure governed 
that address despite the fact that the manners had improved 

                              {time}  1945

  When I thought about President Trump's speech in this Chamber last 
night, I thought about George Orwell. Not because of 1984, although I 
admit that my well-thumbed copy of this great dystopian novel is 
sitting on my desk right now and the words ``war is peace'' and 
``ignorance is strength'' have been running through my mind over the 
last several weeks. No, I thought of Orwell not because of 1984, but 
because of a great essay he once wrote called ``Notes on Nationalism.''
  In this essay, George Orwell contrasted patriotism and nationalism--
two concepts that often get conflated. But at least, in his view, they 
represented two very different things. Patriotism, he argued, was a 
positive emotion, a passionate belief in one's own community--its 
people, its institutions, its values, its history, its culture.
  An American patriot today, I would argue, believes in our magnificent 
constitutional democracy--our Constitution; our Bill of Rights; our 
judiciary and our judges; our States and our communities; our poets 
like Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman and Langston Hughes and Merrill 
Leffler; our philosophers like John Dewey and Ralph Waldo Emerson; our 
extraordinary dynamic culture which invites and absorbs new waves of 
people from all over the world, our artists, our musicians like Bruce 
Springsteen, the Neville Brothers, and Dar Williams. All of these 
people and things are what we love about America, and they evoke the 
positive emotion of patriotism.
  Patriotism is all about uplifting people; drawing on what is best in 
our history; finding what is best in our culture; invoking our 
Founders, Madison,

[[Page H1457]]

Jefferson, Franklin, and Tom Paine; invoking the people who founded the 
country once again through the Civil War and the reconstruction 
amendments, Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass; the people who 
transformed America in the women's suffrage movement, like Susan B. 
Anthony; the people who remade America once again in the civil rights 
movement, like Martin Luther King, Bob Moses, and the Student 
Nonviolent Coordinating Committee; the people who blew the doors off of 
discrimination and oppression against other groups, like the LGBT 
community, like Harvey Milk.
  All of these people stand for a progressive dynamic and inclusive 
concept of America, and patriots want to draw on this culture in 
history in order to continue to make great progress for our people 
today. A patriot wants to improve the health of our people, the 
education of our people, the critical thinking skills of our people, 
the well-being of America.
  Now, nationalism is different. If you look at it historically as 
Orwell did, nationalism has been not about building people up and 
improving their lives, it has been about militarizing society and 
getting everyone to sync their individuality, their creative 
personality into a large corporatist and authoritarian state, one that 
is destined to exploit people's goodwill by mobilizing them for 
groupthink and endless hostility in war, the kind that Orwell 
dramatized so frightfully in 1984 and in ``Animal Farm.''
  Well, I am sorry to say that I didn't see a lot of patriotism in 
Orwell's terms in the speech last night. Ninety percent of our kids go 
to public schools, but 90 percent of this President's energy and 
administration's energy seems to go into maligning and defunding public 
education and diverting public money away from public schools into 
private education. That is the Betsy DeVos agenda.
  Or take health care. The Affordable Care Act represents a magnificent 
national investment in health care of our own people. More than 22 
million of our fellow citizens, previously uninsured, got health care 
because of the ACA. Thirty million if you include the expansion of 
Medicaid that took place under the ACA.
  If you decide to go to a town hall, yours or someone else's, you will 
meet people who will tell you that their lives were saved because of 
the Affordable Care Act--victims of breast cancer and colon cancer and 
heart attacks and strokes and on and on. These things are just in the 
nature of life. We are all subject to medical misfortune. If you learn 
you have cancer or if you have a heart attack, that is a misfortune. It 
happens to people every day. But if you have cancer or leukemia or you 
have a heart attack and you can't get health coverage because you lost 
your job or because you are too poor, that is not just a misfortune, 
that is an injustice because we can do something about that. Because 
that has to do with how we have organized our own affairs as a society.
  But what did we hear from the President last night about the health 
care and well-being of our people? Repeal and replace the Affordable 
Care Act. They voted more than 50 times to repeal the Affordable Care 
Act and never once to replace it. They have got no plan. The President 
did not offer a plan.
  The President restated the values of the Affordable Care Act itself. 
And understand, the Affordable Care Act was the compromise because the 
logical thing to have done, as President Obama said, if we were 
starting from scratch, would be to adopt a single payor plan. But 
because we were along a certain path, he felt we couldn't do that.
  So he took the plan that was adopted at The Heritage Foundation, the 
conservative think tank, the one that was put in in Massachusetts by 
Governor Romney--RomneyCare. That is the Affordable Care Act. But they 
couldn't tolerate that because they cared more about scoring political 
points against the President than they did about actually making health 
care available to as many Americans as possible.
  So the President showed up empty-handed again. No plan whatsoever. If 
there were a plan, we would be debating it. If they had something to 
offer, we would be talking about it. But they don't have it. They just 
want to repeal and consign everybody back to medical oblivion. Millions 
of people going back to not having it. Making everybody else's 
insurance premiums skyrocket and just turning our backs on the families 
that now depend on the Affordable Care Act.
  Now, I will say the President mentioned in passing something that he 
made a big deal of during the campaign, and I was happy he did. He went 
back to saying that we needed to give the government the authority to 
negotiate with the large drug companies, the prescription drug 
companies, for lower prices.
  And I was happy to hear my colleagues from the other side of the 
aisle in talking about the pharmacist just now, also talking about the 
extraordinary power of the pharmaceutical companies and their predatory 
  Well, what the President has said makes perfect sense on this point, 
which is there was some special interest legislation that came out 
several years ago saying that the government could not negotiate for 
lower prices with the drug companies when it comes to Medicare. We do 
it with Medicaid, we do it with VA drug benefits, but we can't do it 
for Medicare drug benefits because some lobbyist was able to get 
somebody to stick that into the bill, and the GOP majority stands by it 
  And so I appeal to the President, if you are serious about it, I will 
work day and night to get every Democratic vote I can to side with you 
in giving the government the authority to negotiate for lower drug 
prices. That is a common ground agenda. Let's do that.
  But as to the general picture of health care in the country, the 
President gave us nothing last night. We also got no jobs plan. We got 
no plan to confront the shameful inequality in our society.
  When the President and his Cabinet entered the Chamber last night, 
the net worth of this room went up by $9.6 billion. This is the richest 
Cabinet in American history. These 17 people in the Cabinet have more 
wealth than 43 million American households combined. That is one-third 
of American households. When you look at the Trump Cabinet, you can see 
the net worth of one-third of American families together.
  And the President, who campaigned like a crusading populist, like 
William Jennings Bryan, for working people, creates a Cabinet of 
billionaires and CEOs, people who profited like mad from NAFTA and all 
the trade deals that the President now denounces. He closed his 
campaign by railing against Goldman Sachs. But Goldman Sachs may as 
well be the nickname of this Cabinet. From Secretary Tillerson to Steve 
Bannon and many others, Goldman Sachs is all over this administration.
  And last night, we also got more immigrant bashing. And I know my 
friend and colleague, Congresswoman Jayapal, will discuss this.
  How patriotic is immigrant bashing? I would say not very. Tom Paine 
said America would be a haven of refuge for people fleeing political 
and religious repression all over the world. Madison said it would be a 
sanctuary for religious and political refugees. America would come to 
be symbolized by the Statue of Liberty. ``Give us your poor, your 
tired, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,'' that is the 
spirit of America.
  We are a nation of immigrants. Other than Native Americans, we were 
here before everybody else got here. And the slaves were brought here 
against their will. But everybody else, we are immigrants or we are the 
descendants of immigrants. So if you attack immigrants, you are really 
attacking the dynamic and inclusive culture of America, a community of 
  And then there is the big proposal we got to slash $56 billion in 
domestic spending and put it into a great big, new military buildup. 
And here we see the fingerprints, of course, of Steve Bannon. We could 
destroy the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for 
the Humanities, the Environmental Protection Agency, the National 
Institutes of Health, the State Department, the Peace Corps, the 
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Securities and 
Exchange Commission, the Federal Election Commission, the CFPB, and on

[[Page H1458]]

and on, and still not come close to the $56 billion that they want to 
rip out of the domestic priorities of the American people and simply 
give to the Pentagon. And for what? Why? No one has told us why. What 
is all of that money going to buy? Who is going to get rich off of all 
of that money?
  Ladies and gentlemen, when you add it all up, this program seems like 
it partakes of the ultra-nationalist politics that Orwell perceived in 
authoritarian regimes, not the kind of patriotism that reflects the 
best in our own Democratic political culture.
  The great thing is that Americans are deep patriots. We love our 
communities. We love our institutions. We love our values. We love our 
Constitution. We love our Bill of Rights. And we are not going to fall 
for a right-wing, ultra-nationalist agenda that takes us away from 
everything that we love.

                              {time}  2000

  Ms. JAYAPAL. Mr. Speaker, I thank my distinguished colleague from 
Maryland for your tremendous work already in these 7 weeks and 
schooling us all on the Constitution and making sure that we continue 
to recognize the tremendous responsibility that we have here in this 
body to protect that Constitution and everything that it stands for.
  Last night's State of the Union Address deserves a response for lots 
of reasons and, unfortunately, none of them are good.
  Last night, we heard from this President a toned-down version of his 
campaign speeches. The speech was well delivered. He stuck to his 
script. It may be the first major address that he has conducted where 
he did stick to the script. He had a lot of diligence in that. And he 
even started with some very necessary recognition of the anti-Semitic 
acts that have been taking place across the country, and he denounced 
those acts.
  He denounced the killing of an Indian American in Kansas. I, too, am 
Indian American, and I know that that killing hit home hard for many of 
us across the country who wonder if we, too, are going to be the 
targets of hate. The President did say that he denounces hate, that 
there is no place in this Nation for hate, and that, in fact, we need 
to do a lot of work to make sure that we preserve this place, this 
country as a country that is safe for everybody.
  Unfortunately, it took a while to get there, and his words belie the 
rhetoric that he has put out there in the past. In fact, I think that 
this President has not spoken out against the kind of hate and, in 
fact, has sometimes said things that encourage his followers to act in 
ways that simply do not meet the rhetoric that he had yesterday.
  The first place that that was so obvious to me was in the space of 
immigration. Now, I have been an advocate on immigration for many, many 
years. I have worked across the aisle with friends and colleagues in 
the U.S. Senate, in the U.S. House of Representatives. At that time, I 
was an advocate. But together, we understood the tremendous 
contributions of immigrants to this country, and we understood that 
unless you were Native American, that, willing or unwilling, everybody 
in this country has been an immigrant or a descendant of immigrants.
  And so to come into the Chamber and yet again hear the fear-mongering 
and the characterization of immigrants, undocumented immigrants, as 
this enormous swath of people who simply all they do is commit crimes 
is simply a travesty and a disservice to the millions of people across 
this country who work every day to pick our vegetables, clean our 
homes, serve us in so many different capacities, as well as to all of 
those who have come through the legal immigration system, but with many 
  You know, it took me 18 years to get my citizenship. I went through 
visa after visa after visa. I understand the barriers. But for this 
President to continue to focus on a stereotype of undocumented 
immigrants as criminals is simply disingenuous, unfair, and, frankly, 
  DREAMers and refugees and immigrants and others who have helped build 
this country were the guests of many of us Democrats in the Chamber. We 
each brought incredible men and women to join us for the State of the 
Union; people who we feel demonstrate the resilience and the strength 
and the courage of immigrants across this country.
  I was proud to be joined by an amazing woman, a good friend named 
Aneelah Afzali, who is the executive director of the American Muslim 
Empowerment Network, an initiative of the Muslim Association of Puget 
Sound. Aneelah is a Harvard-trained lawyer. She is an incredible 
snowboarder. She is a 12th Man Fan. She loves the Seahawks, and she is 
a strong advocate for a community that has been, frankly, terrorized 
since the passing of the President's Muslim ban. Now, of course, courts 
have said that that ban is unconstitutional.
  The President seems to be accepting that it is unconstitutional, but 
we also know that he has reshaped that ban to continue to target people 
simply for the country from which they come, simply for the region that 
they come from.
  The reason we invited all of those guests to be here in the Chamber 
with us is because we wanted to send a message to this President and to 
our country that we are strong as a country because of our diversity, 
that we are better for the perspectives and the values that people 
bring, and regardless of what religion you are, we all, as the 
President said yesterday, do bleed the same blood, and we all believe 
in the promise of the United States of America.
  We wanted the President to understand and our colleagues in this body 
to understand, when we pass laws, when we approve of executive orders, 
to target people simply based on religion or place of origin, that we 
are doing a tremendous disservice to this country and we might be 
violating constitutional laws in some of these cases, but that America 
deserves better in terms of how we position what immigrants have done 
for this country.
  Now, the President last night kept talking about these heinous crimes 
that immigrants commit. In fact, he had some people here in the 
Chamber, his guests, who were tragically affected by the murder of 
individuals in their families who were killed because of a single, 
undocumented immigrant. A heinous crime committed by an undocumented 
immigrant is simply not representative of the millions of law-abiding 
immigrants across our country.
  This is a continuation of what the President did during the campaign: 
fear-mongering and otherizing people. The reality is that, just like 
Dylann Roof's horrific murders in South Carolina cannot be 
representative of all Caucasian Americans, there is no way that one 
undocumented immigrant or even a couple of undocumented immigrants can 
be representative of 11 million who have served this country, helped 
build our economy, helped drive our industries, and who contribute so 
much to our country every single day.

  The President also seemed to paint this picture of immigrants as 
driving up crime, that when you have undocumented immigrants, then you 
have higher crime. In fact, the statistics show that immigrants commit 
crimes at far lower rates than native-born Americans and that our 
sanctuary cities, the cities around the country that have policies that 
are friendly to immigrant communities, including undocumented 
immigrants, that those actually are safer as cities than comparable 
cities that are not sanctuary cities.
  That was a report that came out, and it is an important one for 
people to understand. Why? Because, when you have trust and when you 
understand that the fix that we need is for a system that is broken, an 
immigration system that has been broken for a very long time, the way 
to address these issues is not to criminalize and otherize and 
fearmonger about people who are trying to help our country, but to 
actually get to work on a real fix for our immigration system.
  I was initially pleased that the President talked about fixing a 
broken immigration system, but then he said we are going to look at a 
merit-based system. Now, I would not have been able to come to this 
country under a merit-based system because I came here by myself when I 
was 16 years old. My parents sent me over here. They had very little 
money in their bank account. They used their $5,000 to send me by 
myself because they felt like this was the place I was going to get the 
best education.

[[Page H1459]]

  And if you look at a merit-based system, what you do is you exclude 
the millions of people who have actually come to the United States 
seeking refuge from famine, from devastation, from drought, from 
persecution. You exclude all of those people. You also exclude all of 
the families who are trying to reunite with their loved ones when they 
come here and they bring their spouse or they bring their parent or 
their child. That whole system of family-based immigration that the 
United States has built so much of our country around, that, too, would 
be excluded.
  Unfortunately, this President is still not at a place where he has 
said and embraced the idea of comprehensive immigration reform, an 
immigration reform that has been, until this point, traditionally 
bipartisan--68 bipartisan votes in the U.S. Senate in 2013 for a 
comprehensive immigration bill that would have brought $1.5 trillion 
into our economy over the next 10 years by legalizing and providing a 
pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants but, perhaps equally 
importantly, would have provided the dignity and respect to 
undocumented immigrants in a very different way than what the President 
spoke about last night.
  My colleague Mr. Raskin talked a little bit about health care and the 
Affordable Care Act, and during his speech, the President, 
unfortunately, again renewed the theme that the Affordable Care Act has 
been a disaster. He talked about his ideas for health care, and he said 
some things that maybe all of us could agree with.
  He said that we deserve health care that lowers costs for people. 
Yes, I would like that. He said that we deserve health care that 
increases quality of care--absolutely.
  But unfortunately, neither the President nor Republicans in this 
Chamber have offered us a replacement plan. So to repeal the Affordable 
Care Act which has provided so much benefit to people--more than 20 
million Americans gained health care through the Affordable Care Act. 
But if Republicans succeed in repealing it, 30 million people will lose 
  The 150 million Americans with preexisting conditions will see their 
protections stripped away, leaving them vulnerable to a lack of 
coverage. You cannot protect the most expensive and the most valuable 
provisions of the Affordable Care Act if you do not continue to keep 
the pool large enough, full of healthy people, so that those provisions 
actually become affordable. And you need to ensure that the pool is 
large enough through the individual mandate.
  So we have not seen a plan that improves health care, and it is 
important that we recognize we have improvements to make. There are too 
many Americans across the country that still, today, don't have access 
to health care in the way that we would like them to. But the solution 
for that is a Medicare-for-all plan, a public plan that allows us to 
take profits out of the business of health care. It should not be a 
business. It should be about making people better. It should be about 
making people well and not about making corporations rich. That, I 
think, is a very important piece.
  The President said that he would support a plan that would actually 
provide us with the ability to negotiate for prescription drugs for 
Medicare. That would bring down the cost for those prescription drugs. 
I am all in for that plan, and that is why I hope the President 
supports the bill that was introduced.
  Senator Cantwell introduced a bill yesterday that would allow the 
United States to import more affordable drugs from Canada while also 
allowing Medicaid to negotiate drug prices directly, and that would 
lower the costs for our seniors and for others who rely on those 
lifelong medications.
  I am so proud to have sponsored that same bill in the House. That is 
the solution that we need to move to is lowering the costs of 
prescription drugs, lowering the cost of health care, increasing the 
quality of the care that we provide.
  Let's talk about the environment for a minute because the President 
mentioned yesterday that he cares about clean water and clean air, but 
at the same time, the President has proposed in reports that have been 
published in the news that he intends to cut the Environmental 
Protection Agency by 25 percent, the budget of the Environmental 
Protection Agency.
  Scott Pruitt, our new Secretary of the EPA, has talked about putting 
in place plans to repeal progress on climate change. The President also 
signed a rule to essentially roll back progress on the Clean Water Act, 
and we are talking about cutting agencies and staff of the EPA across 
the country.
  The reality is that we need to be thinking about how we preserve our 
planet for the next generation. I have got a 20-year-old son and he 
says to me: Mom, this is one of the most important things you can do is 
preserve the planet for me and for my kids. That is what we need to do 
is look at the science of climate change, look at the ways in which we 
can strengthen our ability to protect the environment, instead of what 
this President has said he will do, which is to repeal so many of the 
rules that the Obama administration put in place to make sure that we 
check the notion that corporations should be able to mine our land, 
literally and figuratively, for profit while destroying it for the 
  Budget and taxes, this was a really interesting one. One of the most 
common refrains of President Trump's campaign was that he was going to 
drain the swamp, and last night he talked about that. He said he 
promised he would do it, and he is now draining the swamp. He has put a 
ban on lobbyists.
  Unfortunately, what he didn't talk about is that, even with the ban 
on lobbyists, it is as if he is draining that swamp and then pumping it 
into another spot, which happens to be his Cabinet, that is filled with 
people who represent Goldman Sachs ties, the CEO of ExxonMobil, plenty 
of other elites who--we don't begrudge people to make some money, but 
these are people who have made profit off of a vast majority of 
Americans losing their income.

                              {time}  2015

  These are people, frankly, who lobbied the United States Government 
so that those corporations could do better and so that they, as CEOs, 
could do better while caring not at all for the broad interests of 
people across this country.
  Based on these picks, it is clear that the President's priority is 
for the wealthiest in our country and not, as he promised over and over 
again, for the working people in our country.
  Now, I would love to be proven wrong on this. But unfortunately, all 
of the tax plans, all of the proposals that we have seen so far, or, at 
least, the blueprints that we have seen so far would not do as he said 
last night. Last night, he said he wants to provide a huge tax cut or 
tax relief for middle class families. We would love to see that. 
Unfortunately, the plan looks, in fact, like it is going to provide 
relief to the top tier of income earners in this country and not to the 
middle class.
  He has talked about a $54 billion cut in domestic spending, and I 
wanted to have people understand exactly what $54 billion amounts to 
because most of us don't really know. We can't really imagine that 
because we don't have $54 billion lying around.
  If we added up the entire budget for the Environmental Protection 
Agency, the entire budget of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric 
Administration, the entire budget for the National Park Service--and I 
should give you these numbers because they are interesting: $8 billion 
for the EPA, $5.85 billion for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric 
Administration, $3.1 billion for the National Park Service, $2.9 
billion for the Department of Energy efficiency and renewable energy 
program, $1.6 billion for the Fish and Wildlife Service, and $1.2 
billion for the U.S. Geological Service--you still don't get to that 
$54 billion. There are a whole bunch of others that are in that list. 
You still don't get to $54 billion, even if you remove all of those 
  So the work that we have to do is really to have people understand 
that if we are going to cut nondefense discretionary spending by the 
amount that he is talking about increasing our defense budget by, our 
military spending by, then you are going to have to cut into the very 
programs that help middle class families to continue their lives and 
have dignity, respect, pull themselves up and know that they are

[[Page H1460]]

going to have food on the table and a roof over their head and be able 
to send their kids to college and be able to retire in security. All of 
these programs help people to do that, to have opportunity in this 
country, which is why America is such a great country because we 
provide that kind of opportunity. But if we decimate our nondefense 
discretionary spending by cutting it by $54 billion, then we are taking 
away that opportunity from millions and millions of families. This is 
not how we build up our communities.
  Our budget is a demonstration of our values as a country. We have to 
understand that this is a time of tremendous insecurity for Americans 
across our country. Wealth inequality is at the highest level that it 
has been in a very long time, and people do not see the opportunity for 
  They elected this President, in part, because of the promises that he 
made; and so if he is going to follow through, that would mean 
protecting those social safety net programs. It would mean investing in 
the environment for the future. It would mean expanding Social Security 
and Medicare. It would mean saying that the answer to health care is 
actually a Medicare-for-all program, a way to make sure that every 
American does not have to be one healthcare crisis away from 
  The President also talked about education last night, and he said it 
is the civil rights issue of our time. I couldn't agree with him more, 
but I do not understand how you go from that place to then saying that 
the answer to that is school choice.
  Ninety percent of the kids in this country go through the public 
education system. That is what my son went through. We need to make 
sure that we preserve the ability for people in this country to send 
their kids to good public schools.
  We should be investing in our public schools, investing in our 
teachers, making sure that we provide the tools and the resources to 
teachers so that in our public schools--the place where our kids are 
going to spend the most amount of their days--that they are getting the 
kind of education that allows them to earn a future, contribute back to 
the country, be trained for all the jobs that we need to fill right 
here in the United States of America.
  We should be investing in preapprenticeship programs. We should be 
investing in debt-free college for all of our young people because it 
is ridiculous that a young person has to choose between being $45,000 
in debt or not going to college, not seeking a higher education.
  Higher education is what gave me everything that I have today. It was 
my parents' belief in me and my future and the $5,000 that they had in 
the bank that they used to send me here so that I could get a college 
degree. I was 16 years old, and now I have the tremendous honor of 
standing in this Chamber, the U.S. House of Representatives, in the 
greatest country in the world, going from being an immigrant to being a 
United States Representative.
  I want every American--no matter what color you are, no matter 
whether you are rural or urban, no matter whether you have money or 
don't have money--I want you to have a great public education that you 
can go to. That is choice. That is real choice.
  Choice is not privatizing our public education system, and then 
saying, hey, 10 percent of the people get to go to that, and then 
everybody else is going to go to schools that don't give them that 
  Real choice is about having an investment in our public education 
system as the doorway, the gateway to a future of opportunity.
  Mr. Speaker, the most important thing I think is that last night's 
address was a softer tone. It was a disciplined speech, and there were 
some good statements.

  Unfortunately, the rhetoric of last night doesn't match the actions. 
It doesn't match the executive actions of the last 7 weeks that have 
thrown this country into chaos on immigration. It doesn't match the 
fact that we still don't have a replacement plan that will make things 
better for health care, not increase payments, not give giveaways to 
insurance companies, not decrease subsidies so that health care can be 
  His speech last night did not reflect specifics around how he is 
going to accomplish some of the good things that he said he was going 
to do. And it continued to put fear into people's hearts and minds 
about who our neighbors are, about the immigrants across this country 
who have done so much to build and contribute.
  He is the President of the United States. He has a remarkable 
microphone. He talked about unity last night. But unity means being a 
President for everybody, and it means not creating stories that somehow 
draw pictures of an immigrant community that is full of crime, inner 
cities that are full of crime. That is not the inner cities that I 
know. If he is talking about inner cities in Chicago and other places, 
we should be talking about how to fix crime, but not calling everybody 
who lives there criminals.
  We have got to understand that our country deserves a body in this 
Chamber, in this United States Congress that really preserves the 
opportunity, the dreams, and the ability for everybody in our country 
to know that they have got a fair shot. That is what America has been 
for so long for so many people across the world.
  When he talks about improving the vetting of refugees to this 
country, let me tell you, I know a lot about this issue. There are 20 
steps you have to go through if you want to be vetted into this country 
as a refugee. All of our multiple intelligence agencies, multiple 
agencies in other countries, the United Nations and others are involved 
in that vetting process. Our own intelligence agencies vet people.
  Out of the seven countries that he put on the list for the Muslim 
ban, the 9/11 hijackers didn't come from any of those countries. They 
came from another country that is not on that list: Saudi Arabia.
  So if we are really going to think about how we improve our security 
in this country, we should be thinking about economic security that 
gives people the opportunity that they need in this country, the 
ability to fill our jobs with well-trained folks from this country, and 
then we continue to allow immigrants to come in as we need them. But 
don't allow them to come in because we are not training enough people 
and we are not investing in people right here in this country and then 
criticize those immigrants for taking these jobs.
  Let's raise our wages. Let's invest in apprenticeships. That is good 
in rural areas, and that is good in urban areas. Let's invest in our 
community and technical colleges. Let's provide opportunity for people 
who are ready to take that opportunity.
  Let's be compassionate. It is Ash Wednesday today. I am not an 
observing Catholic, but I think today--because I went to a Jesuit 
university--and I think today of what we were taught in that university 
about compassion.
  I think it is time for us to recognize that true greatness for our 
country doesn't come from fear mongering. It doesn't come from 
otherizing. You can tap into that. You can mobilize people around that. 
You can enrage people around that.
  Ultimately, true greatness and the greatness of this country has 
always come from our ability to have a vision of opportunity for 
everybody and to actually work to perfect this Union, to actually work 
to make democracy real, to actually work to engage people in a vision 
that says we are all better off when we are all better off. That means 
that my boat rising lifts your boat rising. It is not about fighting 
over the spoils that are too small for us anyway. It is not about whose 
pie we are eating.
  It is about having more pie for everybody and ultimately opportunity, 
education, jobs, higher wages, health care, paid family leave, the 
ability for people to live with dignity and respect, racial justice, 
all of the fights that this country has been having for a very long 
time. Some we have won, and some we have won a little bit on, and some 
we have won a lot on. We still have a ways to go.
  What I hope we do, as we think about the state of the Union of this 
country, is understand that our state of the Union is strong when our 
communities are strong. Our state of the Union is strong when we invest 
in our future.
  Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.

[[Page H1461]]

  The SPEAKER pro tempore (Mr. Smucker). Members are reminded to 
refrain from engaging in personalities toward the President.