President Donald Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi Tuesday night renewed their hostility during the former’s delivery of State of the Union address on the floor of the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives, where he was impeached in December.
It all started before Trump began speaking at the podium on the floor of the House, when he appeared to snub the outstretched hand of Mrs. Pelosi, America’s most powerful elected Democrat.
The House speaker, critics noticed, then skipped the traditional introduction welcoming the president as a “distinct honour” and at one point, ripped up a copy of Trump speech behind him.
But, the President, in his address, hailed the “great American comeback” in the speech that exposed sharp divisions at the top of U.S. politics.
Trump set out his case for another four years in office in the nationally televised speech.
He did not mention impeachment at all in his speech although he did jab at Democrats.
Republican lawmakers chanted “four more years” as Trump prepared to speak, urging him on for November’s White House election.
The State of the Union address is a speech delivered by the president to Congress towards the beginning of each calendar year in office.
It is usually used as a chance to report on the condition of the nation, but also allows the president to outline a legislative agenda and national priorities.
Mrs. Pelosi has been one of the president’s fiercest critics – she was the one who first launched formal impeachment efforts last year. Trump has frequently taunted her as “Crazy Nancy”.
It was the first time the two had come face-to-face since she stormed out of a White House meeting four months ago.
When the president accused Democrats of planning to force American taxpayers to provide unlimited free healthcare to undocumented immigrants, Mrs. Pelosi was observed twice mouthing: “Not true.”
She stunned onlookers by shredding a copy of the president’s remarks as he concluded.
Mrs. Pelosi told reporters afterwards her gesture was “the courteous thing to do, considering the alternatives”.
She did rise to applaud the president more than once, including when he promoted his pet project of infrastructure investment, a possible area of bipartisan co-operation.
Trump struck an upbeat note in a speech lasting one hour and 18 minutes that contrasted sharply with his lament of “American carnage” in his 2017 inaugural presidential address.
In an implicit rebuke to his predecessor Barack Obama, the president told his audience: “In just three short years, we have shattered the mentality of American decline and we have rejected the downsizing of America’s destiny.
Trump repeatedly swiped at Democrats, including left-wing candidates such as Bernie Sanders, who are vying to challenge him for the presidency.
As is tradition, the president invited several special guests, including Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó, military veterans and the brother of a man killed by an undocumented immigrant.
In a move certain to infuriate liberal critics, Trump announced he would award the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian honour, to firebrand conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh, who revealed this week he has lung cancer.
First Lady Melania Trump bestowed the honour on an emotional Limbaugh as the president spoke.
A protester was escorted from the chamber while Trump defended gun rights. It was Fred Guttenberg, the father of Jaime Guttenberg, a student killed in a mass school shooting at Parkland, Florida, in February 2018.
Guttenberg was a guest of Mrs. Pelosi.
Each year after the State of the Union speech, a member of the main opposition party is tasked with responding and this year it fell to Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer.
She accused the president of failing to fix America’s problems. “Bullying people on Twitter doesn’t fix bridges – it burns them,” she said.
As they did last year, many female Democrats – including Mrs. Pelosi – wore white as tribute to the suffragettes who won the vote for U.S. women a century ago.
Several liberal Democratic lawmakers, including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Maxine Waters of California, boycotted Trump’s address.