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Local congressional reps split on State of the Union's message of unity

Andrew Harnik / AP
National Public Radio

Rep. Chris Collins (R-Clarence) liked President Trump's State of the Union speech and said Democrats should have, but Rep. Brian Higgins (D-Buffalo) had no problem explaining why he didn't.

Collins said it was a good speech dealing with real issues. He said the speech dealt with issues in his Western New York congressional district, like the dairy industry. Overall, he termed Trump's message a uniting speech.

"Democrats were not responding at all to his calls for unity and bipartisanship, and we will have to see where that goes," he said. "I thought it was an exceptionally uniting speech, a plea, if you will, for members on both sides of the aisle to lay down their differences and as he said, this should be for America."

Collins said he was recently at the White House with some other members of Congress talking with the president about reciprocal tariffs.

"To discuss the reciprocal tariff agreement and that is actually one of the few issues that did get some bipartisan applause," Collins said, "when he's saying if a country places a tariff on us for a particular product, it would give him the right to place the same tariff on thatcountry for the same product, and people say, 'You mean he can't do that now?' And the answer is no."

Collins said that is because of a quirk with the World Trade Organization.

Buffalo Democrat Brian Higgin, on the other hand, said the State of the Union was long and wandering, although there were many good issues mentioned. Higgins said working on childhood cancer is a good idea.

"It's one that we've had before, but it was a very, very good statement," Higgins said. "More of that would have potentially changed the dynamic of what's going on here in Washington. But too little time was spent with things like that and too much time, way too much time, on a border wall."

Higgins said he continues to support a major infrastructure bill, on which the president made brief mentions, but he should have made more. He said the president listens to the wrong people and doesn't work with Republicans and Democrats.

"This was billed as the unity speech and to spend nine seconds on the nation's infrastructure, which is woefully inadequate and a great opportunity to grow the economy, to create good-paying American jobs, nine seconds and then drone on 40 minutes about a border wall," Higgins said.

Higgins said the president spends too much time worrying about talk radio hosts, something he describes as not presidential leadership.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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