Oregon’s Democratic U.S. Sens. Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden attended President Trump’s State of the Union address in Washington, D.C., Tuesday night.
Merkley expressed dismay to OPB Wednesday that Trump did not address the state of America in a broader sphere.
He summarized the president's speech as “a failure on leadership on big issues affecting America and a failure on turning the corner from divisive, bitter partisanship to unity.”
“The president didn’t respond or address some of the really big issues affecting America,” Merkley said. “For example, our We The People Republic is being destroyed by gerrymandering and voter suppression and dark money and he didn’t have a word to say about how we’re going to restore the vision of our Constitution.”
Something that stood out to both Merkley and Wyden was Trump's comments on what he described as the “ridiculous partisan investigations” of his administration and campaign.
“It was stunning to hear a president plead with Congress to set aside its constitutional duty to conduct vigorous oversight,” Wyden said in a statement to OPB.
He continued: "I walked out [Tuesday] reflecting on the sacred American principle that no one is above the law. The state of the union is clear: Donald Trump is steering America in the wrong direction."
In his address, the president said: "If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation. It just doesn't work that way."
Merkley echoed Wyden’s sentiment on the comments. “Well, Mr. President, it does work that way,” Merkley said. “It’s called democracy. We legislate, but we also have a responsibility for accountability — for accountability of the executive branch.”
On another partisan subject, Merkley also brought up immigration — the president spoke on his ongoing plans for a border wall Tuesday.
Merkley brought a Guatemalan mother and daughter, Albertina and Yaquelin Contreras, who were separated at the U.S. border as his guests to the State of the Union address.
“They were early victims of the president’s child separation policy,” Merkley said. “They spent two months apart.”
Merkley said they had a translator who attempted to whisper the president’s speech, but Albertina and Yaquelin missed most of the address.
He said that Yaquelin, 12, did have some choice words for Trump.
“Yaquelin said if she could speak to the president, her message would be, ‘Mr. President, stop taking the kids away from their parents because for the kids, it’s just too hard.’”
Other topics Merkley wished Trump would have touched on included climate change and investing in the families of America, “not making the rich richer,” he said.