Shaheen: Democrats Will Work With Trump On Bipartisan SOTU Proposals

Feb 6, 2019

Credit Allegra Boverman for NHPR

President Donald Trump delivered his second State of the Union address on Tuesday. 

New Hampshire Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen spoke with Morning Edition Host Rick Ganley about her thought on the speech.

(Editor's note: this transcript has been edited lightly for clarity.)

Senator, what was your biggest takeaway after hearing the speech last night?

Well I have to say the best part of the speech I thought were the stories of Americans who have contributed so much to this country. And it showed how resilient Americans are. I appreciated the president's opening with conciliation and the talk of cooperation, and he mentioned several areas on policy where I hope there will be room to cooperate around lowering prescription drug prices and investing in infrastructure.

But then he went into some very divisive rhetoric again around the wall and immigration, around women's access to reproductive health. He also didn't really give any specifics about the proposals that he was making. So I think that one of the best points in the speech was when he looked out at all of the women who had been elected to Congress wearing white and talked about the most women now ever in history serving in Congress.

And of course they are they erupted and Congress erupted into applause at that line.

That's right.

Let's talk a little bit about the bipartisan tone in the beginning of the speech. What did you hear that did make you think there were some areas to work with the president on?

Well again, it was some of the policy areas that he mentioned that there has been a lot of bipartisan interest in Congress on infrastructure, on lowering prescription drug costs. He mentioned fighting childhood cancer, which I think there's a lot of interest in doing. Now I don't think you can find anything that would be more universal in terms of getting support to do that.

One of the things that I was disappointed in was the fact that he never committed to keeping the government open, to not going into a shutdown again. He did not recognize the sacrifices of so many of our federal employees who kept working through the shutdown, despite the fact that they were not getting paid. I was disappointed in that. That seemed to me to not recognize the situation that we're in right now.

Certainly, he probably didn't want to bring that up given the fact that many people perceived that he was on the losing end of the shutdown. But you were there with Portsmouth activist Andrea Amico who has advocated for families who have been exposed to contaminated water at Pease. And as you said, the president mentioned funding for childhood cancer research. Did that resonate at all with you?

Well it did, because as I think anybody in the Seacoast who's been paying attention knows, that there are concerns about a pediatric cancer cluster in the Seacoast. We don't know what that's related to, whether it's related to drinking water, or whether it's related to emissions, whether it's not the result of the environmental impacts. But we need to find that out and that's why looking at funding for cancer in children would be very important.

Near the end of the speech, the president urged Congress to "look at the opportunities before us." Now realistically, what opportunities are possible for this Congress and this president over the next two years? I mean, are Democrats willing to give the president any kind of a win on legislation that might be bipartisan in nature?

Well, I think the example from the last Congress of prison reform is a great example where Democrats rallied around that. It was a very bipartisan effort. The president came onboard and helped spearhead that. So that's a good example of working together, and I think people are interested in working together to address the issues facing this country. If there are areas of agreement, and as I said I think last night he talked about two broad areas of agreement lowering prescription drug costs, which is a huge issue for so many Americans at all ages.

People with chronic illnesses who have seen prescription drug costs rise in the way that they can no longer afford the copays, seniors who are having trouble paying for prescription drugs. It's a huge issue. And investment in infrastructure -- you know so many of us have been saying since this president got elected that we want to see an infrastructure package where we all agree that this is something we need to do. So, I think Democrats want to work on areas that are important to the country, but we don't want to compromise on principles where what the president is proposing is not the best way to address them.