President Donald Trump will deliver the State of the Union address tonight for the first time in front of a divided Congress. With a captive audience of 535 members of Congress and millions of viewers at home, the speech is often an opportunity for an administration to assess the current condition of the country and lay out its priorities for the year ahead.
What is the state of our union? The Tampa Bay Times on Monday asked Florida’s two Senators and the 27 members of its Congressional delegation to provide one word that summarizes their own view of the nation’s outlook. “Divided.” “Dynamic.” “Strong.” “Angry.” Responses reflected the divisions in the state’s political parties but also the diversity of its representatives.
The Times also asked each legislator what topic they want Trump to highlight and what they hope he says about it. At the top of the list for Congress members on both sides of the aisle is preserving Florida’s environment. There’s also a wish from both sides of the aisle for bipartisanship. Several Democrats added that they wanted to hear Trump address gun safety. Republicans expect Trump to speak about a more secure border.
Here are their responses. The story will be updated as more responses come in.
Sen. Marco Rubio, Republican: “Encouraged.”
“I anticipate President Trump will reemphasize his Administration’s stance against tyrannical leaders in Latin America and in support of the people of Venezuela. I also look forward to the President reiterating the need to secure our border as well as his openness to negotiate and compromise on immigration. The inability to get an agreement on border security has held up the opportunity to solve many of the immigration issues that Congress has failed to address in the last two decades. Right now, Congress has the chance to embrace this opportunity and I am hopeful that we take advantage of it.”
Sen. Rick Scott, Republican: “Jobs”
“I look forward to hearing the President’s plan to continue to build on Florida’s economic success and create even more opportunities for families to succeed. While I was governor, Florida businesses created almost 1.7 million jobs. The most important thing we can do is to continue to build on that success. If I look forward to working with the President to make sure every child has a chance to live the American dream.”
Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach: Awaiting response
Rep. Neal Dunn, R-Panama City: “Angry"
“I hope President Trump will address the need for Republicans and Democrats to work together. The folks back home in North Florida want to see results – whether that be Hurricane Michael relief or more jobs, we need to put aside our differences for the better of the country. I look forward to working with President Trump and my colleagues in Congress to pass meaningful legislation this year.”
Rep. Ted Yoho, R-Gainesville: Awaiting response
Rep. John Rutherford, R-Jacksonville: “Great”
“Our country has a unique opportunity to build on two years of record economic growth by investing in both national security and infrastructure projects. I hope President Trump delivers his vision to secure the southern border and rebuild America by fixing our crumbling bridges, roads, and ports.”
Rep. Al Lawson, D-Tallahassee: “Divided”
“The President’s State of the Union Address should provide all Americans with a sense of stability, strength and the promise of a better tomorrow. Just in this past year, many citizens have lived under a cloud of uncertainty due to government shutdowns, encountered devastating losses caused by natural disasters, such as Hurricane Michael, and experienced the terror of mass shootings – two of which happened in my district just months apart. I hope that the President hears the voices of all of these Americans who may feel overlooked and need reassurance from their commander-in-chief that we are indeed one America. I would like for the President’s vision for our State of the Union to include our most vulnerable citizens — veterans, the elderly, students trying to pay for a college education, classroom teachers and federal workers who work every day but are still struggling to make ends meet.”
Rep. Michael Waltz, R-St. Augustine: “Resilient”
“Keeping America safe is my priority, and President Trump and I share this priority for America. Compromise can’t be a dirty word, and President Trump has offered our colleagues on the other side of the aisle ample opportunities to put partisanship aside and secure our border, keep the government open and ensure the American people are safe. Only then will we be able to move to the broader issues of legal immigration reform and many other pressing needs. I have full confidence that the President will take this message directly to the American people tomorrow night, and I hope more of my colleagues will choose collaboration instead of obstruction.”
Rep. Stephanie Murphy, D-Winter Park: “Progress.”
“I hope to hear from President Trump how he plans to reach across the aisle and forge consensus. Tonight he has an opportunity to set a productive and positive tone by highlighting how he plans to work in a bipartisan way to ensure we maintain a vibrant economy, keep our country safe, and stay true to our values. I’ll be listening for his ideas on how we can find common ground and come together as a country so that the state of our union is strong.”
Rep. Bill Posey, R-Rockledge: Awaiting response
Rep. Darren Soto, D-Orlando: “Crossroads”
“I will be listening for any common ground on a final border security or immigration deal. ... President Trump can either propose a grand bargain to lead this country beyond this debate, or he can divide us like he usually does, ensuring the country heads straight for an emergency declaration or yet another shutdown.”
“I also hope to hear about common ground on lowering drug costs and trillion dollar infrastructure package. Floridians are paying too much for healthcare and spend too much time in traffic. Together we can get these things done!”
Rep. Val Demings, D-Orlando: “Opportunity”
“The president says he’s going to talk about unity and the greatness of America tonight, and it’s my hope that he also takes this opportunity to address our nation’s ongoing challenges of racism and gun violence. When the President discusses border security, I hope that he will address real border security, which means filling the thousands of positions at ports of entry which have gone unfilled by this administration. While it is my wish that the president will address each of these topics and more, it will take more than a scripted speech to truly make progress towards smart security, unifying our country, and ending gun violence. Actions count more than words.”
Rep. Daniel Webster, R-Clermont: “Stronger"
“I look forward to hearing the President highlight the ways our economy has prospered under his leadership and Republicans policies that have allowed small businesses to thrive, jobs to grow and hard-working Americans pursue success. Tonight, is also an opportunity for President Trump to share his vision for the remainder of his first term and encourage Congress to work together tackling our major issues – border security, infrastructure enhancements and slow the spigot of spending.”
Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Palm Harbor: “Dynamic”
“I look forward to the President discussing bipartisan plans to strengthen national security, ensure access to affordable healthcare and prescription drugs, enhance our nation’s crumbling infrastructure, protect our heroes, provide quality educational opportunities-including apprenticeship and vocational training, and facilitate continued economic prosperity for all through pro-growth policies. These are the real issues that impact my constituents, and they want to see their leaders working together to build upon the progress that has already been made in these key areas.”
Rep. Charlie Crist, D-St. Petersburg: Didn’t provide one word
“I’d like to see a recognition of the threat we face from climate change, including a call to action. Florida is ground zero, it impacts our communities more than anywhere else in the U.S. So I’m an optimist, hope springs eternal, especially when so much is at stake.”
Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa: Didn’t provide one word
“The importance of the climate crisis. We must work with our neighbors and empower working class communities across America as we build a clean energy economy and a just transition from fossil fuels. A clean energy future with quality jobs can lift and protect the health of disproportionately affected communities. Taking on the climate crisis and attacking economic injustice go hand in hand. Low-income communities are more likely to be located next to a polluting facility. Children and their families from low-income communities, communities of color, and those experiencing discrimination are then more likely to have high rates of asthma and other chronic diseases that lead to, among other things, learning difficulties and certainly missed days of school. Missed days of school lead to missed days of work for parents who are sick themselves or caring for sick children. These families are caught in a cycle that decreases their chances and the chances of even future generations to thrive and realize the American Dream."
Rep. Ross Spano, R-Dover: “Engaged”
“I expect the President to discuss and address issues of relevance for families in my district and across the nation. I wish to hear how to best sustain our economic growth given our booming economy, how to best address the ongoing crisis on our southern border as it deals with our national security, and how to encourage more unity and bipartisanship in both our society and government.”
Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota: “Resolute”
“I would like to hear the President address the need for unity and bipartisan cooperation among our elected officials. Washington dysfunction needs to end. Both parties need to show greater willingness to address the major challenges facing our country.”
Rep. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota
Unavailable for comment due to a family emergency.
Rep. Brian Mast, R-Palm City: Awaiting response
Rep. Frank Rooney, R-Naples: Didn’t provide one word
“Florida’s economy is directly tied to our ecology. I recently sent a letter to President Trump, co-signed by every Member of the Florida Congressional delegation, encouraging the Administration’s continued support of Everglades restoration and water quality infrastructure projects. In the 115th Congress we secured nearly $1 billion in funding for the HH Dike and Everglades projects – but there is more work to be done to clean our water and stop toxic algae blooms. I also would like to see the President voice his support for making permanent the current moratorium on offshore oil drilling in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico that expires in 2022, and on combatting sea-level rise – two existential threats to Florida.”
Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Miramar: Didn’t provide one word
“It is my hope that the State of the Union takes a more balanced approach following the President’s disastrous shutdown last month. The President should move beyond the grandstanding that has characterized his first two years in office and address real concerns facing our nation, starting with gun violence. More than 40,000 Americans were killed in shootings in 2017, the highest rate in more than 20 years. Despite thousands of shootings across our country, the Republican Party continues to ignore the problem and prevent bipartisan action. If the President wants to show that he is serious about addressing the very real problems cities across America are confronted with, he should start by supporting commonsense gun control reforms."
Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach: Didn’t provide one word
“South Floridians know that something needs to be done about the skyrocketing costs of prescription drugs. Seniors are having to cut pills to make them last longer, unable to afford lifesaving medicine they need. During his State of the Union speech, I hope Mr. Trump discusses this crisis and joins Democrats in supporting legislation to lower costs for the people.”
Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton: Didn’t provide one word
“I hope the President will take note of how the American people voted to send a gun safety majority to Congress and live up to his previous promises to stand up to the NRA and support meaningful policies to make our communities safer."
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston: “Polarized.”
“I’d like the president to reverse his sabotage and focus on protecting and expanding access to affordable health care, especially for the 130 million Americans with preexisting conditions, and I would also like to hear him commit to working with House Democrats on bringing down the skyrocketing cost of prescription drugs.”
Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Miami Gardens: “Misrepresented (by the White House)”
“I hope that President Trump will support Transportation and Infrastructure Committee infrastructure legislation and stop wasting so much time talking about his wall. He should allow the experts to determine where technology, data, personnel are needed, as well as actual barriers that will not require the use of eminent domain to take away private property from hardworking Americans,” said Congresswoman Frederica Wilson. “His focus should be on a sensible infrastructure plan that will put the nation back to work and refurbish crumbling airports, seaports, roads and bridges, rail systems, and schools in dilapidated communities. It also should benefit everyone, not just wealthy contractors. My mantra since my first day in Congress has been jobs, jobs, jobs. With jobs comes dignity and that’s what every American deserves.”
Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Miami: “Strong”
“During tomorrow night’s State of the Union, I look forward to President Trump talking about the strength of our economy, as well as the administration’s efforts to promote democracy in our hemisphere, including in Venezuela.”
Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, D-Miami: “Eager for truth.”
"Too many people are still uninsured or paying too much for their health care. I urge the President to put partisan politics aside and address the health care crisis facing our country. Millions of Americans are one hospital bill away from financial ruin. Michelle Garcia, who will be joining me at the State of the Union, is one of more than 300,000 Floridians in my district who would lose much-needed health care coverage if the President continues attacking protections for pre-existing conditions. I hope he can put people over politics and work with the 116th Congress so everyone can have access to affordable, quality health care."
Rep. Donna Shalala, D-Coral Gables: “Exhausted”
“I would like to hear President Trump talk about how his administration plans to work with Congress to address rising sea levels and combat climate change. The impact of climate change on South Florida is obvious and undeniable, and I would love the President to acknowledge this reality and work to combat it. I would also like for him address his plans to protect our immigrant youth whose lives have been flipped upside down ever since he ended Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Both climate and immigration issues are important to the future of our local economy in South Florida, and I hope the President has the heart and moral courage to move forward in addressing these critical policy items without demanding money for an inhumane, inefficient border wall.”