Long Island’s congressional delegation agreed that President Donald Trump struck a softer tone Tuesday night in his address to a joint session of Congress, but the lawmakers split on party lines on much of the substance of his speech.
Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) praised the speech as a possible turning point in the nascent presidency. “Tonight I thought he became president in that he was able to deliver the message in a positive way, tie it together in a comprehensive manner and appealed to the American spirit,” King said in an interview. He particularly praised Trump for promising to boost military spending and reaffirming foreign alliances.
Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a statement: “President Trump’s speech had an air of unreality because what he said tonight was so different than how he has governed in the first 40 days.”
Rep. Thomas Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) shrugged off Trump’s speech. “It really didn’t have much of an impact on me,” he said in an interview.
He acknowledged that the tone “was not as harsh” as in prior speeches. “But there’s still so many things to be concerned about. But at the same time, I want to try to work across party lines to accomplish things,” Suozzi said.
Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-Garden City) said in a statement that the speech was insincere and without substance. “President Trump might’ve struck a more presidential tone tonight, but I care about substance — and this speech had none,” she wrote.
In a shot at Trump’s call Tuesday night to move past “trivial fights,” Rice retweeted a series of Trump’s Twitter attacks against CNN and figures including Mark Cuban and Arnold Schwarzenegger, with the hashtag #TrivialFights.
Rep. Gregory Meeks, a Democrat who represents parts of Queens and Nassau, tweeted at Trump: “Isolationism is not a virtue in a globalized world looking for American leadership and engagement.”
Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) said in a statement: “President Trump delivered important words tonight and I am looking forward to working with him to secure our country, grow our economy, and continue fighting for the greatest nation in the world.”
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) urged Trump to support a bill she has introduced for paid family leave, an issue he mentioned in his speech. But she said in a statement that the speech showed he was “severely out of touch with our values in New York.”