US Politics

Trump's Congress address 'more optimistic', but can he realise this vision?

S President Donald J. Trump (C) delivers his first address to a joint session of Congress. Source: AAP

US President Trump set high benchmarks for his presidency during his maiden speech to Congress by promising 'a new chapter of American greatness'. But what barriers does he face?

US President Donald Trump outlined an ambitious legislative agenda during his first speech to Congress on Tuesday night Washington time, just 40 days after his presidential inauguration.

President Trump outlined his hours-old "comprehensive" immigration reform, promising thorough vetting procedures. It's a backtrack from his initial temporary ban on immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries.

He said he planned to inject $1 trillion to US infrastructure, and boost defence spending.


A CNN/ORC poll revealed almost seven-in-10 believed the policy proposals President Trump announced would be good for the country. And nearly two-thirds believed his priorities were in the right place.

However Dougal Robinson, a research fellow at the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, told SBS News that the president would likely face challenges in realising his "more optimistic" vision.

"These big ticket items will need the support of Congress. But Trump will likely be frustrated by the slow moving legislative progress in Congress, especially in the Senate," he said.

Mr Robinson said the private sector would also likely hold President Trump back, such as in his ambition to create millions of jobs.

Mr Robinson said while there were some legislative plans to induce American firms to conduct business in the country, "ultimately the President has limited ability to create millions of private sector jobs that were previously being off-shored in industries such as manufacturing and coal mining".

"The millions of jobs that Trump wants to create in the middle class are private sector jobs, and any US president has limited control over the actions of the private sector."

President Trump said in his address: "To launch our national rebuilding, I will be asking Congress to approve legislation that produces a $1 trillion investment in infrastructure of the United States, financed through both public and private capital, creating millions of new jobs."


Mr Robinson said President Trump might also encounter resistance to his infrastructure package from Congress.

"Trump's $1 trillion infrastructure package will require the support of Congress, and it's difficult to see it pass in Congress easily."

Mr Robinson said Republicans in Congress were concerned about how the package might impact upon the US' budget deficit.

And Democrats were given little incentive to work with President Trump, including during his address where Mr Robinson believed he "made limited effort to appeal to Democrats".

Usually a president reaches out to the other side of politics during such addresses.

“If [President Trump] can enact this major infrastructure reform it would be a big achievement for him, but it’s a difficult process for him to navigate Congressional politics,” Mr Robinson said.

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