1 of 13 | House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tears up her copy of President Donald Trump's State of the Union address at the U.S. Capitol Tuesday night. Vice President Mike Pence applauds at left. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo
Feb. 4 (UPI) -- President Donald Trump touted the strength of the U.S. economy in his State of the Union address on Tuesday.
Trump praised the economy as the best it's ever been, declaring he has ushered in a "great American comeback" through trade deals, his tax package and repeals of regulations put in place by the previous administration.
"From the instant I took office, I moved rapidly to revive the U.S. economy -- slashing a record number of job-killing regulations, enacting historic and record-setting tax cuts and fighting for fair and reciprocal trade agreements," Trump said.
He cited as an example last week's signing of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement -- a revision of the North American Free Trade Agreement of 1994 -- which Trump has predicted will improve U.S. economic growth by 1.2 percent, generate $68 billion in new economic activity and create 176,000 new jobs.
Trump also mentioned that the United States signed a deal with China "that will defend our workers, protect our intellectual property, bring billions of dollars into our treasury and open vast new markets for products made and grown right here in the United States of America."
During the speech, Trump announced that Venezuelan National Assembly President Juan Guaido was in the chamber and reasserted the United States' backing of Guaido's claim that President Nicolas Maduro's presidency is illegitimate and Guaido is the country's rightful leader.
"All Americans are united with the Venezuelan people in the righteous struggle for freedom," Trump said. "Socialism destroys nations. But always remember, freedom unifies the soul."
Trump said he is pursuing peace negotiations to end America's wars in the Middle East, citing the "determination and valor" of fighters in Afghanistan.
"I am not looking to kill hundreds of thousands of people in Afghanistan, many of them innocent," Trump said. "It is also not our function to serve other nations as a law enforcement agency. These are warfighters, the best in the world, and they either want to fight to win or not fight at all. We are working to finally end America's longest war and bring our troops back home."
Trump also remarked on the January airstrike that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani at his direction.
"Our message to the terrorists is clear: You will never escape American justice. If you attack our citizens, you forfeit your life." Trump said.
Trump praised the United States' $2.2 trillion investment in the military and his recent $738 billion defense bill that established the Space Force, a new sixth branch of the military that will be responsible for training, equipping and organizing a cadre of space professionals to "protect U.S. and allied interests in space while also providing space capabilities to the joint force."
He acknowledged Arizona eighth-grader Iain Lanphier, 13, who has expressed aspirations to join the newly formed military branch.
"He aspires to go to the Air Force Academy and then, he has his eye on the Space Force," Trump said. "As Iain says, 'Most people look up at space, I want to look down on the world.'"
The president also called on Congress to pass multiple pieces of legislation, including the Education Freedom Scholarships and Opportunity Act, which would provide scholarships to encourage freedom of school choice.
Trump awarded an Opportunity Scholarship to Philadelphia fourth-grader Janiyah Davis, who attended the speech.
"Now, I call on Congress to give 1 million American children the same opportunity Janiyah has just received," he said. "Pass the Education Freedom Scholarships and Opportunity Act -- because no parent should be forced to send their child to a failing government school," he said.
He called attention to a bill by Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., that would allow Americans to sue so-called sanctuary cities and states that choose not to cooperate with federal immigration authorities if a loved one is injured or killed by an undocumented immigrant.
"I ask the Congress to pass the Justice for Victims of Sanctuary Cities Act immediately," Trump said. "The United States of America should be a sanctuary for law-abiding Americans -- not criminal aliens."
He also called for legislation to cut the cost of prescription drugs and to ban late-term abortion.
Trump's speech made no mention of the impeachment proceeding against him, which is expected to end in a vote for acquittal on Wednesday after senators voted against allowing witnesses and evidence in the trial.
As he spoke, several Democrats walked out.
Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio left, stating on Twitter that he "had enough."
"It's like watching professional wrestling," he said. "It's all fake."
Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. of New York said he also left, as did Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan.
"The lies, the bigotry and the shameless bragging about taking away food stamps that people depend on to live -- it was all beneath the dignity of the office he occupies," Tlaib said on Twitter. "Shame on this forever impeached president."
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi's guest, Fred Guttenberg, father of a Parkland, Fla., school shooting victim, was escorted from the building for heckling Trump after the president vowed to "always protect your Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms" during his address.
Guttenberg later issued an apology for his outburst.
"I have tried to conduct myself with dignity throughout this process, and I will do better as I pursue gun safety," he said.
As Trump concluded his speech, Pelosi dramatically tore in half a printed copy that the president had handed her earlier.
Asked why she tore the speech, Pelosi told reporters, it was "the courteous thing to do given the alternative."
Early Wednesday, Pelosi issued a statement deriding Trump's address as a "manifesto of mistruths."
Ten House Democrats boycotted Trump's speech, including Reps. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon, Steve Cohen of Tennessee, Al Green of Texas, Hank Johnson of Georgia, Frederica Wilson of Florida, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, Maxine Waters of California, Bennie Thompson of Mississippi and Bobby Rush of Illinois.
Rep. Gretchen Whitmer, D-Mich., delivered the Democratic response to Trump's speech in English, and Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-Texas, gave the Spanish response.