WASHINGTON (WTVD) --Heralding a "new chapter of American greatness," President Donald Trump stood before Congress for the first time Tuesday night and issued a broad call for overhauling the nation's health care system, significantly boosting military spending and plunging $1 trillion into upgrading crumbling infrastructure.
Striking an optimistic tone, Trump declared: "The time for small thinking is over."
WATCH PRESIDENT TRUMP'S FULL SPEECH HERE
Trump's address came at a pivotal moment for a new president elected on pledges to swiftly shake up Washington and follow through on the failed promises of career politicians. His opening weeks in office have been consumed by distractions and self-inflicted wounds, including the bungled rollout of a sweeping immigration and refugee executive order that was blocked by the courts.
Ahead of the signing of a revamped order, Trump said, "It is not compassionate but reckless, to allow uncontrolled entry from places where proper vetting cannot occur."
Trump sent unexpectedly mixed messages on immigration, one of his signature campaign issues. He pledged to vigorously target people living in the U.S. illegally who "threaten our communities and prey on our citizens." But he told news anchors before his speech that he was open to legislation that could provide a pathway to legal status, and he told Congress he believed "real and positive immigration reform is possible."
The president was greeted by enthusiastic applause as he entered the House chamber, though it was filled with Democrats who vigorously oppose his policies and many Republicans who never expected him to be elected. Most Republican lawmakers have rallied around him since the election, hopeful that he will act on the domestic priorities they saw blocked during President Barack Obama's eight years in office.
Topping that list is undoing Obama's signature health care law and replacing the sweeping measure. Trump offered a basic blueprint of his priorities, including ensuring that those with pre-existing conditions have access to coverage, allowing people to buy insurance across state lines and offering tax credits and expanded health savings accounts to help Americans purchase coverage.
He suggested he would get rid of the current law's requirement that all Americans carry insurance coverage, saying that "mandating every American to buy government-approved health insurance was never the right solution for America."
Stay on top of breaking news stories with the ABC11 News App
Democrats, now firmly ensconced in the minority, sat silently while Republicans cheered and stood for many of Trump's promises. Some wore blue, pro-health care buttons that read "Protect our care," and dozens of Democratic women wore white in honor of the suffrage movement.
First lady Melania Trump sat with special guests who were on hand to amplify the president's agenda, including the widows of two California police officers killed by a man living in the country illegally. The widow of former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia also sat alongside Mrs. Trump, a reminder of the president's well-received nomination of federal appeals court Judge Neil Gorsuch to fill Scalia's seat.
Trump was vague in his call for tax reform, another Republican priority. He promised "massive tax relief for the middle class" and a reduction in corporate tax rates, but glossed over how he would offset the cuts.
The president also urged Congress to pass a $1 trillion infrastructure package financed through both public and private capital.
NC SENATORS RESPOND
U.S. Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) made the following statement on President Trump's first Joint Session of Congress:
"In his first few days in office, President Trump was quick to begin honoring his promises to the American people. Going forward, the President tonight outlined a blue print to improve our economy and keep our country safe. Americans were clear about their priorities in this past election and it's time to work together on issues that are critical to the American people.
"For far too long, many have felt forgotten by our government. I am encouraged that Congress can work together with the President to pass legislation that will get our country back on track with a stronger economy for all Americans. It is clear that our citizens want to reel in government spending, create jobs, fix our healthcare system, and strengthen our borders. The President, in keeping his promises, has made significant gains in reinforcing these critical policy areas.
"I look forward to working with the President to solve the real, everyday problems that face the American people, and I ask my Senate colleagues to work with him to achieve these goals."
North Carolina's other U.S. Senator, Thom Tillis, also issued a response, saying in part:
"Tonight, the President addressed the nation and outlined an ambitious policy agenda.
It includes overhauling our antiquated tax and regulatory codes, reforming our health care system to make health care more affordable, and fulfilling our commitments to our brave veterans.
Regardless of where you stand on President Trump and his policy proposals, I hope you agree that continued gridlock and bitter partisanship in Washington will keep our great nation from reaching its full potential.
Whether you're a Republican, Democrat or Independent, far more unites us than divides us. We all want our children to inherit an America that is stronger, safer and more prosperous. We all want to see our fellow Americans have access to affordable health care and a quality education. We all want to see America continue to serve as the beacon for freedom and opportunity for the rest of the world."
See Tillis' full remarks in the video tweet below:
ABC News and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Report a Typo