by Matt Laslo and staff reports
For the first time, Native women–both Democrats–had a seat on the chamber floor during the president’s State of the Union address. Their reaction to Donald Trump’s speech was not all negative, but by and large the comments from Native members of Congress aligned along party lines. Native American members of Congress are reacting to President Trump’s State of the Union address mainly along party lines.
New Mexico Rep. Debra Halaand (D-NM) from Laguna Pueblo said she was amused by the irony of Trump drawing attention to the historic number of women who now fill the Democratically controlled House.
“Well, of course we’re happy,” Haaland said. “It’s his policies, his actions, his rhetoric that got so many women elected. So if we’re happy about how many women got elected this time around, sure, they can thank the president for that.”
But with the threat of another federal government shutdown looming over Washington, Indian Country and the nation, Halaand said parts of the address came across as tone deaf.
“He didn’t say anything about thousands and thousands of federal workers and contractors and their families being out of a paycheck for an entire month during the shutdown,” she said. “Instead he was harping on the wall that got us into the mess in the first place.”
Congress and the president have until the middle of February to fund the government and avert another shutdown.
Meanwhile, Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), a member of the Chickasaw Nation, said the address did show a more muted, bipartisan tone than he’s seen from Trump in the past, and he thinks many of the policies Trump highlighted will help Indian Country.
“I’m always anxious to have any president talk more about Native American issues, anything from keeping treaty responsibilities to addressing the problems we have on our reservations, but I think the general themes are things that people should take hope in,” Cole said.
In a written statement, Sharice Davids (D-KS), who is Ho-Chunk, said she welcomed the president’s comments on issues like rebuilding the country’s infrastructure, lowering the cost of prescription drugs, and supporting more women in the workforce. But she said she was disappointed to hear him “continue to speak half truths and divide on issues of immigration and national security”. She also said she’s concerned about President Trump’s position on the Affordable Care Act, at a time when more people need access to affordable care.
Markwayne Mullin (R-OK), a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, praised the president’s address in a written statement. He said there isn’t a single thing in the president’s plan that people should think is divisive. He mentioned the need to fix what he says is a broken immigration system, rebuild the crumbling infrastructure, lower health care costs, and protect national security.