U.S. Rep. Jeff Van Drew grabbed a handshake from President Donald Trump as he entered the House of Representatives for Tuesday night’s State of the Union address, going out of his way to do so through the crowd.
“I got him coming and going,” Van Drew, D-2nd, said of his interactions with the Republican Trump, which also included a brief conversation with him as he left the House chamber.
“We talked very quickly, reminiscing about his days in Atlantic City,” said Van Drew. “And I expressed the hope we can all come together — and that I can help with that.”
Van Drew said there was an air of optimism on the floor Tuesday night, in part because Trump was generally conciliatory, saying everyone can compromise and work together.
“There was some of the Donald Trump we know,” he said of the more combative parts of the speech.
Many pundits cited Trump’s “If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation” as a threatening statement.
But Trump also said, “We can do this together,” said Van Drew.
The guests Trump invited also encouraged optimism, including former astronaut Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the moon.
“The two World War II vets — one saved the other — and they were both alive and amazing heroes. How did they bring that together?” said Van Drew.
And it was an emotional moment when the woman who became a minister while incarcerated for life on a drug charge, then was pardoned by Trump, stood up with tears in her eyes, he said.
“That reminded everyone, regardless of whether you like the president or dislike the president, that this is a great place, we do extraordinary things,” said Van Drew.
He was happy to see Democrats get up on their feet to applaud.
“I always do,” said Van Drew of applauding leaders from the other party. Some fellow Democrats would get aggravated with him, he said, in the state Senate when former Republican Gov. Chris Christie would say something in the State of the State address, and Van Drew would stand up and applaud.
Congress and the president now have a second chance to work together and avoid another government shutdown, said Van Drew.
“I have always said that bipartisanship is the only way to move our country forward and get past the political gridlock,” said Van Drew. “You could feel the energy from both sides of the aisle. I hope our government can carry that energy forward to work together on the issues that face our country.”
He said the recent 35-day shutdown was a low point for the country.
“I really don’t want to see us do that again,” he said.
Van Drew has sponsored a bipartisan bill with Ohio Republican Troy Balderson to prevent future shutdowns.
Last month they introduced H.R. 791 — the End Government Shutdowns Act — which would create an automatic continuing resolution for any appropriations bill not completed by the Oct. 1 deadline, and enact across-the-board cuts of 1 percent after four months if leaders have not come to an agreement by then, his office said.
The companion Senate bill of the same name would ensure essential government services aren’t disrupted and protect taxpayers who bear the resulting cost, Van Drew said.
He has called for a panel of experts to decide how to spend border security money, to avoid the possibility of another government shutdown over the issue.
And he has called for Democrats to allow some type of border wall or fencing, in addition to other security measures; and for Republicans to offer a way for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program to allow young people brought here as children by their parents to stay in the U.S.