Territorial delegates respond to State of the Union
President Trump’s first State of the Union address received much criticism before it had even aired. Most notably, Maxine Waters, Representative of California and Supreme Court Justice, Ruth Ginsburg had announced that they would not attend the speech along with other Democratic Representatives. As another political move by the Democratic Party, Representative Kirsten Gillibrand brought Mayor of San Juan, Carmen Yulin Cruz to the 80-minute speech on Tuesday. Also, in attendance was Territorial Delegate of the US Virgin Islands Stacey Plaskett along with two survivors of Hurricane Maria.
For his part President Trump referenced the two hurricane ravaged territories in his speech stating, “To everyone still recovering in Texas, Florida, Louisiana, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, California and everywhere else – we are with you, we love you and we will pull through together.” For some of those mentioned this was a sign of his support, Resident Commissioner Jennifer Gonzalez-Colon tweeted President Trump’s statement on January 31 on her account. Others were highly vocal regarding Mr. Trump’s failure to address the hurricane relief efforts that have fallen short since September of last year. Mayor Juan Carmen Yulin Cruz declared, “The President has not been with the people of Puerto Rico,” and she continued to criticize his speech as an, “utter statement of hypocrisy,” due to the release of an erroneous statement by FEMA to discontinue aid to Puerto Rico that previous Monday. FEMA reported that it would not stop its hurricane disaster aid to the archipelago on the Wednesday after the State of the Union address. Stacey Plaskett did not directly address the speech, but did post a series of State of the Union fact check tweets on her account.
In addition to the territorial delegates from Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, Madeleine Bordallo, Guam Representative and the American Samoa Delegate Aumua Amata were in the audience for President Trump’s speech. Guam Delegate Madeleine Bordallo (D) acknowledged Trump’s effort to bolster national security by revitalizing the military and increase party cooperation; however, she stated concerns about the GOP tax law and its impact on the Guam tax system. Amata (R), representative of American Samoa echoed Bordallo’s support of Trump’s determination to ease bipartisan tensions in the coming year, and admired his comments on VA reform. It remains to be seen whether President Trump can keep his promises to the US territorial delegates, and corral his tweet-provoking posts to preserve national security.