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.