We salute President Donald J. Trump for his steadfast support of Israel during his State of the Union address. His December announcement, which he reiterated in his address tonight, to move the U.S. embassy to its rightful place in Jerusalem, the capital of Israel, was a significant declaration. The refusal of the global community to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s rightful capital has long been objectionable. Israel is the only country in the world whose choice of a capital is not internationally recognized. We commend this administration for its unequivocal support of Jerusalem and for reviving the U.S.-Israel relationship.
We are disappointed that the president’s priorities, as outlined in his speech, don’t strengthen programs on which older Americans rely. The new tax law’s elimination of the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) individual mandate sets up older Americans for higher health care premiums. The mandate as implemented in the original ACA had done a commendable job of keeping health care premiums for older people somewhat in check.
We urge the president to work with Congress to ensure that any shortfall in federal revenue from tax cuts will not give cover to lawmakers to cut vital programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and nutrition assistance, that so many Americans rely on to meet their basic day-to-day needs.
In his address, Trump also stressed infrastructure rebuilding. We had hoped his plan would call attention to the dearth of affordable housing for seniors. B’nai B’rith, the largest national Jewish sponsor of low-income housing for older Americans, has a nearly half-century commitment to safe, affordable housing for older persons. Any infrastructure plans should include helping seniors of low-income live independently, safely and securely.
The president also talked about an immigration plan that includes a path to citizenship for 1.8 million immigrants brought to this country as children. B’nai B’rith continues to call for both parties to agree on a plan for comprehensive immigration reform. Enforcement must be coupled with a path to normalization that is more efficient than our current procedures. In supporting the passage of a Dream Act, we co-signed a letter to Congress that stressed: “While Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) provided temporary relief, we believe that these young people deserve the chance to live, study and work in the United States without constant fear of deportation. With DACA slated to end in March 2018, they now face possible detention and deportation to countries they may not know or remember.” Our position is that comprehensive immigration reform should be bipartisan and expeditious.
We agree with the president’s assessment that the Iran nuclear agreement is not a good deal. Since its inception, we have expressed concern about the feasibility of a nuclear deal with Tehran. The global threat posed by Iran’s access to nuclear weapons cannot be overstated. A nuclear-armed Iran is a chilling prospect, given Tehran’s hegemonic reach, through its proxies, into the far corners of the Middle East and well beyond.
Given that the State of the Union is meant to sum up the last year and to look ahead as the president frames his top priorities, in the coming days we will use the president’s speech as a blueprint to work with the White House on issues important to our organization and our constituencies.