Manuel Balce Ceneta, Associated Press
President Donald Trump speaks to a gathering of mayors in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2018.

President Donald Trump has the opportunity in his State of the Union address to create certainty and set an agenda for the nation. Instead of one more politically divisive speech, the president should start a conversation with the American people about expecting leaders in Washington to focus on policy over politics. Here, then, is an issue-by-issue look at what we’d like to see:

The issue for President Trump: No more continuing resolutions

From the well of the House of Representatives, with all members of Congress present, the president should call on them to end governing by cliff and crisis through the use of continuing resolutions. He should call on Sen. Mitch McConnell to immediately bring to the floor of the Senate each of the spending resolutions required to fund the government, which have already been passed by the House.

The message: Congress, no more games, it is time to responsibly govern.

The issue for President Trump: Immigration and DACA

Disconnecting immigration from the continuing resolution process is vital to solving the problem once and for all. The president should acknowledge the vast areas of agreement from both sides of the political aisle and challenge every member to live up to the principles they profess to believe. The so-called “Dreamers” need certainty and a process — Congress is the only place for that to happen. DACA and most of the immigration issues can be solved in an afternoon in the House and Senate. The president should make a special point to criticize outside groups that raise millions of dollars off of immigration as a wedge issue and run divisive political campaigns on the topic.

The message: Dreamers, there is a place for you in America; and Congress, it is your duty, under the Constitution, to create it.

The issue for President Trump: Infrastructure

There is no question about the need to upgrade and restore many of America’s highways, roads and bridges. This is an area where the president could push for more state and local control. Rather than taking the politically easy road of announcing a trillion dollars of spending, with no plan to pay for it, the president should propose lowering the national gas tax and devolving much of it to the states. States can do more with less money, eliminate unnecessary regulations and create more focused projects. This would enable President Trump to keep his promise of infrastructure investment while also driving federalism and fiscal responsibility.

The message: We can put more steel and concrete in the ground, create jobs and build our cities without shackling future generations with more debt.

The issue for President Trump: Fairness for all

The president can take a bow for a number of judicial nominees, including Supreme Court Justice Neal Gorsuch, who value the rule of law, compassion and fairness for all. The president should continue to push for such fairness with religious liberty, LGBTQ rights and free speech at home and abroad. He should call on America’s colleges and universities to be the model of free speech and tolerance — rather than spaces where tolerance is only granted to those who agree with one another.

The message: Preserving First Amendment rights, tolerance and elevated dialogue matters.

The issue for President Trump: Opioid crisis

44 comments on this story

Opioids are destroying individuals, families and communities. The president has declared the opioid crisis a national public health emergency. Real solutions for such a problem cannot be mandated from Washington — they must come from the local community. The president should call on pharmaceutical companies, doctors, law enforcement, social services, communities and families to join him in doing something to end the cycle of opioid abuse.

The message: We must get comfortable having uncomfortable conversations, and our best hope for solutions will come in our homes and neighborhoods.

State of Union speeches are rarely remembered because they are centered in political rhetoric instead of principles and policies. With the right focus, President Trump’s first State of the Union address could leave behind his usual campaign speak and chart a course that holds himself and Congress accountable to the American people.