DEMOCRATS

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - DONNA CAS­SATA In­for­ma­tion for this ar­ti­cle was con­trib­uted by Kevin Freking of The As­so­ci­ated Press.

pick Ken­tuck­ian for Trump ad­dress re­sponse.

WASH­ING­TON — Democrats have tapped for­mer Gov. Steve Bes­hear to de­liver the party’s re­sponse to Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s ad­dress to a joint ses­sion of Congress on Tues­day night, high­light­ing the Ken­tucky Demo­crat’s ef­forts to ex­pand health care cov­er­age un­der the law Repub­li­cans are de­ter­mined to re­peal and re­place.

Se­nate Mi­nor­ity Leader Charles Schumer, D- N.Y., and House Mi­nor­ity Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., made the an­nounce­ment Fri­day. They also turned to im­mi­gra­tion ac­tivist Astrid Silva to give the Span­ish lan­guage re­sponse to Trump’s speech. Silva is a so-called Dreamer who came to the coun­try at the age of 5 as an illegal alien.

Silva spoke at the Demo­cratic con­ven­tion and her se­lec­tion is a re­minder of Trump’s ini­tial poli­cies on im­mi­gra­tion. While the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion has cracked down on illegal aliens liv­ing in the coun­try, Trump has said he wants to spare the chil­dren.

Democrats’ choice of Bes­hear as Tues­day’s coun­ter­point to Trump un­der­scored their de­sire to stress their sup­port for for­mer Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s health care over­haul. It also comes as Repub­li­can lead­ers la­bor to craft a plan for re­plac­ing that law they can push through Congress — a prob­lem that may have only in­ten­si­fied af­ter GOP law­mak­ers held town hall meet­ings this week at­tended by bois­ter­ous back­ers of Obama’s statute.

Bes­hear, 72, served as Ken­tucky gov­er­nor from 2007 to 2015. He em­braced Obama’s 2010 health care law and ex­panded the Med­i­caid pro­gram to cover about 400,000 Ken­tuck­ians, drop­ping the per­cent­age of the state’s unin­sured peo­ple from over 20 per­cent to 7.5 per­cent, one of the na­tion’s steep­est re­duc­tions.

At a time when Democrats are try­ing to fig­ure out how to re­con­nect with mid­dle Amer­i­can vot­ers who were cru­cial to Trump’s elec­tion vic­tory in Novem­ber, Bes­hear gives the party a face from that part of the coun­try. He’s also from the same state as Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell, who eas­ily de­feated Bes­hear when the Demo­crat chal­lenged him for the Se­nate seat in 1996 and is at the fore­front of ef­forts to re­peal the health care law.

“Amer­i­can fam­i­lies des­per­ately need our pres­i­dent to put his full at­ten­tion on cre­at­ing op­por­tu­nity and good-pay­ing jobs and pre­serv­ing their right to af­ford­able health care and a qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion,” Bes­hear said in a state­ment. “Real lead­ers don’t spread de­ri­sion and di­vi­sion — they build part­ner­ships and of­fer so­lu­tions in­stead of ide­ol­ogy and blame.”

Silva moved to Ne­vada as a child and con­tact with for­mer Sen. Harry Reid helped to trans­form her into an im­mi­gra­tion ac­tivist.

“Pres­i­dent Trump would have peo­ple be­lieve that all immigrants are crim­i­nals and that refugees are ter­ror­ists,” Silva said in a state­ment. “But like my fam­ily, the vast ma­jor­ity of immigrants and refugees came to this coun­try es­cap­ing poverty and con­flict, look­ing for a bet­ter life and the op­por­tu­nity to reach the Amer­i­can Dream.”

Sep­a­rately, Democrats have in­vited immigrants and for­eign­ers to Trump’s ad­dress in an ef­fort to put a face on those who could be hurt by the Repub­li­can’s poli­cies.

Law­mak­ers typ­i­cally get one guest ticket apiece for pres­i­den­tial ad­dresses, as they will for Tues­day’s prime­time speech, and the in­vites of­ten go to fam­ily, friends or some­one from back home. To send a mes­sage to Trump, Democrats have in­vited the Iraqi-Amer­i­can doc­tor who dis­cov­ered el­e­vated lev­els of lead in the blood of many chil­dren liv­ing in Flint, Mich.; a Pak­istani-born doc­tor who de­liv­ers crit­i­cal care to pa­tients in Rhode Is­land; and an Amer­i­can-born daugh­ter of Palestinian refugees who aids peo­ple like her fam­ily in their quest to come to the United States.

“I want Trump to see the face of a wo­man, the face of a Mus­lim, and the face of some­one whose fam­ily has en­riched and con­trib­uted to this coun­try de­spite start­ing out as refugees,” said Rep. Luis Gu­tier­rez, D-Ill., whose guest Tues­day will be Fi­daa Rashid, a Chicago im­mi­gra­tion at­tor­ney.

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