WASHINGTON – Rep. Chris Collins, one of President Trump’s chief defenders, just couldn’t wait to spread the word of Trump’s speech to Congress on Tuesday night.
And so Collins tweeted. Again and again. Sixteen times through the more than hourlong speech.
“.@POTUS understands the plight of places like WNY. For too long we have exported jobs to foreign countries. We must put #AmericaFirst,” Collins, R-Clarence, tweeted soon after Trump started speaking.
“WNY knows all too well that free trade is not fair trade,” Collins tweeted a few minutes later. “@POTUS is committed to leveling the playing field to create jobs. #JointAddress.”
Collins – who has appeared on network and cable television dozens of times to defend Trump in the last year – then tweeted: “Glad @POTUS is calling on us to repeal and replace the failure that #Obamacare is. We must improve access and reduce costs. #JointAddress.”
And so on.
Most local members of Congress tweeted only occasionally, if at all, during Trump’s speech. But they had plenty to say afterward, as did the newly elected Democratic national chairman, Snyder native and Obama administration Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez, who tweeted five times during the speech.
“Behind Trump’s horrible policies are people, & people are being harmed. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” Perez tweeted as Trump described his immigration plans.
When Trump noted the number of American adults who are not working, Perez replied: “President Obama created the longest streak of total job growth on record. You’ve been in office for one month.”
And after the speech ended, Perez tweeted a picture of a clothing label that said “Donald Trump Signature Collection” – and another label that said “Made in China.”
“Buy American, right?” Perez asked.
Not surprisingly, Rep. Tom Reed, R-Corning, didn’t strike such a sharp tone in his four tweets. Instead he lauded Trump’s moves on the economy, vowed to work to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, and said America needs a fairer tax system.
Afterward, Reed said he shook the president’s hand and congratulated him on a great speech.
“With all honesty, he gave the right tone,” Reed said. “He delivered a message of optimism.”
Asked whether anything about the speech surprised him, Reed said: “The tone was something that I thought was very presidential. It was deeper than a tweet. And I really appreciate that kind of leadership he displayed today.”
Reed said he was also happy that Trump offered a few guideposts for what the U.S. health insurance system should look like after Congress repeals and replaces Obamacare.
Overall, Reed said, the speech was so optimistic that it was even received reasonably well with the moderate Democrats he was sitting with.
“There were moments when they were hesitant to stand up, but they stood up,” Reed said.
But Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, wasn’t standing up and cheering. He characterized Trump’s speech as the president’s attempt to scare America into adopting his agenda.
“The America I know doesn’t scare that easily,” Higgins said, adding that the president’s job “is not to stoke up fears, but to allay fears.”
Higgins said Trump exaggerated the state of crime in America’s major cities.
In addition, Higgins criticized Trump for his plans to reissue an immigration travel ban to replace the one that the federal courts overturned. The original Trump travel ban affected seven majority-Muslim nations, and the replacement is expected to do the same.
“The travel ban was phony,” and meant “to create a fake threat, to give people a false sense of security,” Higgins added.
What the Buffalo congressman wanted were details – especially on Trump’s $1 trillion plan to rebuild America’s infrastructure.
Higgins has been pushing for years for a big-dollar boost to America’s roads and bridges, and said he was disappointed that Trump didn’t offer details of such a plan during his speech.
“Where is the trillion-dollar plan to nation-build?” Higgins asked. “It’s nonexistent.”
Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand, D-N.Y., was equally disappointed.
“I wanted to hear him outline a real plan to keep good-paying jobs in New York, but instead we heard more of the same talk about lowering taxes for rich corporations, building an expensive border wall, and gutting the Affordable Care Act that millions of Americans now rely on,” she said.
And after the speech, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., tweeted: “What the President says to the working people & what the President does for the wealthy & special interests are at odds.”
Higgins and Gillibrand refrained from tweeting during the speech, but Collins was busy throughout.
And he ended with an unsurprising flourish: