Capital Region

State of Union reactions divided among local representatives

Tonko cites no mention of climate change as criticism; Stefanik sees grounds for agreement
U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko held a Town Hall, April 20, 2017, at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs.
U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko held a Town Hall, April 20, 2017, at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs.

CAPITAL REGION — President Donald Trump’s calls for national unity during Tuesday’s State of the Union speech failed to persuade the region’s Democratic members of Congress, who said he has been anything but a unifying figure.

“After two years of name-calling, angry tweets and temper tantrums, I would be delighted for President Trump to live up to his own call for civility tonight,” said U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam, who represents the 20th Congressional District, shortly after the speech.

“Unfortunately, his omissions tonight were even more significant – no credible plan to protect Americans with pre-existing health conditions, deliver an actual infrastructure bill, reunite migrant children separated from their parents or get big money out of politics,” Tonko said. “Most importantly, President Trump failed to even mention the massive and growing climate crisis that his own intelligence chiefs have assessed as a threat to America’s national security, infrastructure, public health and our national economy.”

Also online: What Trump got wrong about late-term abortions

Tonko, as chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on the Environment and Climate Change, on Wednesday, chaired one of the first Congressional hearings on climate change in six years.

21st Congressional District Republican U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Schuylerville, meanwhile, called Trump’s address to Congress “inspirational,” and said some of the goals he outlined should serve as grounds for bipartisan agreement.

“Protecting our national security, strengthening our infrastructure, lowering the cost of health care, fighting against pediatric cancer, eliminating HIV/AIDS, securing our border and fighting for the interests of hardworking American families are priorities that both sides of the aisle can and should come together to achieve,” Stefanik said in a prepared statement. “President Trump called on Congress to join together in a bipartisan fashion to work on behalf of the American public, and I am looking forward to negotiating in good faith with my colleagues to secure our border and fix our broken immigration system.”

Freshman 19th District U.S. Rep. Antonio Delgado, D-Rhinebeck, also said he hopes the parties can agree on some of the president’s goals: “While I wish the President’s speech had focused more on what brings us together, I was glad to hear him discuss some key issues that I think we can all agree to prioritize, like reducing the price of prescription drugs and strengthening our infrastructure.”

Noting that his State of the Union guest was Michael Hickey, whose research revealed the PFOA drinking water contamination in Hoosick Falls, Delgado said: “I will continue to prioritize protecting our water infrastructure and other critical matters that I hear from the people of my district, from expanding rural broadband to supporting our farmers to improving access to quality health care.”

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, a candidate for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, said Trump continues to be divisive, and she referred to the recent 35-day government shutdown in her reaction statement.

“If President Trump wants to convince the country that he actually cares about bringing us together, then he can start by no longer using government workers as political pawns, reuniting the families that his administration ripped apart at the border, and stopping with political wedge issues like telling women they can’t make their own health decisions in consultation with their doctor,” Gillibrand said.

Reach Daily Gazette reporter Stephen Williams at 518-395-3086, [email protected] or @gazettesteve on Twitter.

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