House and Senate Democrats, fresh off an attempt to remove President Trump from office, rejected his triumphal State of the Union address as one of the worst speeches they have ever heard.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tore up her copy after Trump finished delivering it.
Some Democrats stood up and chanted in protest during the speech, while others said as they left the chamber afterward, they never should have shown up in the first place. A handful walked out while Trump was still speaking.
“A very destructive speech,” said Rep. Gerry Connolly, a Virginia Democrat, who did not leave early.
“He did nothing to reach out to heal wounds he helped create. He did nothing to bridge the divide in the country," Connolly told the Washington Examiner. "In fact, he doubled down.”
Sen. Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat, told the Washington Examiner he wished he had not attended the speech, which focused on the nation’s economic gains during his presidency, his plans to try to pass a bipartisan prescription drug bill, and add more security to the southern border, among other topics.
Rep. Lloyd Doggett, a Texas Democrat, said there was nothing in the 78-minute address that appealed to him. “I was hoping he would step aside," Doggett told the Washington Examiner.
Democrats sat mostly stone-faced, rarely rising to applaud a line in the speech. Pelosi, seated behind Trump, maintained a grim expression.
The address provided Trump with a kind of victory lap Democrats were not anticipating.
Trump’s speech was scheduled before the start of his impeachment trial, and it was uncertain whether it would conclude before the trial.
The Senate [was] scheduled to vote on impeachment articles Wednesday.
But by Tuesday night, however, Trump’s acquittal was certain, and new Gallup poll numbers showed his rising approval with voters, particularly on the economy.
House Democrats passed two articles of impeachment charging Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
But the failed impeachment effort didn’t even come up in Trump’s speech, which Republicans called “optimistic” and “a home run.”
Democrats, who are eager to defeat Trump in November, had little to smile about, even in instances when Trump mentioned successes — such as wage growth, job growth, and record low unemployment for minorities — that were not partisan in nature.
Republicans said Democrats are still wrapped up in impeachment, which has dominated their agenda for weeks.
“They thought they had wounded this president,” Rep. Steve Chabot, an Ohio Republican, told the Washington Examiner. “But if anything, I think he’s stronger than ever. And I think the country is stronger than ever, and that’s important.”
Pelosi and Trump have not spoken in months. She rarely smiled or clapped at his remarks and kept her eyes focused on the speech she eventually ripped in half.
She shook her head when Trump said he was working with Sen. Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican, on a bipartisan bill to lower prescription drug prices. The House passed its own bill, with no Republican support, in January.
Democrats said after the speech that Trump ignored all the House-passed bills that he could have signed into law, including the prescription drug measure.
“I don’t think Trump has any intention of doing any of it,” Rep. Val Demings, a Florida Democrat and one of seven impeachment managers who prosecuted Trump in the Senate. “There is legislation that is just sitting there.”
Rep. Jeff Van Drew, a New Jersey Republican who switched parties after voting against impeaching Trump in the House last year, praised Trump’s speech.
Van Drew said it was “unfortunate” Democrats had chanted objections to Trump’s speech in the chamber.
“There were many, many things in that speech that both parties should agree with,” Van Drew said.
But he acknowledged the major partisan divide.
“I hope we can bridge it after the impeachment is done this week,” Van Drew told the Washington Examiner. “But I don’t know if that will happen. I pray for it to happen. It may take the election for the American people to speak. This election is going to determine where and how this nation is going to continue its future.”