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Politics / Issues

FACT CHECK: Where Trump's 2019 State Of The Union Promises Stand

President Trump, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Pence applaud during the State of the Union address on Feb. 5, 2019.

The State of the Union this year may make for a seriously awkward moment.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will be seated over President Trump's left shoulder Tuesday, less than two months after the Democratic-controlled House impeached him — and just as the Republican-controlled Senate will be deciding whether to keep or remove him from office. (Trump is widely expected to be acquitted because a two-thirds majority is needed to remove a president, and there is no indication that 20 Republicans would side with the Democrats and independents who caucus with them.)

But what of the substance? What about the policies Trump promised in last year's State of the Union address?

Trump said in last year's address that he campaigned on "core promises" on trade, infrastructure, health care, prescription drug pricing, immigration and an "America First" foreign policy. Related to those core promises, he pledged to do or asked Congress to do more than a dozen specific things in 2019. There has been movement on more than half of his goals in the past year, and roughly a third of the specific promises listed below were accomplished.

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With the help of several policy reporters and editors at NPR, here's a progress report on the president's 2019 State of the Union promises.

1. Pass the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement, or USMCA

What Trump said:

"I hope you can pass the USMCA into law so that we can bring back our manufacturing jobs in even greater numbers, expand American agriculture, protect intellectual property, and ensure that more cars are proudly stamped with our four beautiful words: 'Made in the USA.' "

Where it stands — accomplished

The House and Senate approved the agreement with large, bipartisan majorities and Trump signed the authorizing legislation at the end of January. While Mexico has approved the deal, it still needs final approval from Canada. The USMCA requires automakers to include more North American content in their cars and trucks to qualify for duty-free status, and a minimum wage provision that could result in some auto production shifting from Mexico to the U.S. It also gives U.S. dairy farmers slightly more access to the Canadian market. House Democrats and the AFL-CIO say they pushed the administration to include stronger labor and environmental protections.

On the whole, the USMCA is not expected to have a large effect on the economy, compared to the North American Free Trade Agreement that it replaces. It does avoid the fallout that would have come from scrapping NAFTA without a replacement, as the president had threatened. Scott Horsley , chief economics correspondent

2. Launch program for women in developing countries

What Trump said:

"[T]his Thursday we are launching the first-ever government-wide initiative focused on economic empowerment for women in developing countries."

Where it stands — accomplished

The administration launched the Women's Global Development and Prosperity Initiative three days after the State of the Union speech, led by Trump's daughter and adviser Ivanka Trump. It aims to get all U.S. foreign agencies to give top priority to economic development for women and provides grants for projects that help women in developing countries find jobs and start their own businesses. Roberta Rampton , White House editor

3. Boost funding to help eliminate HIV within 10 years

What Trump said:

"My budget will ask Democrats and Republicans to make the needed commitment to eliminate the HIV epidemic in the United States within 10 years."

Where it stands — accomplished

The spending bill that passed right before the holidays fully funded the first year of the president's plan to end the HIV epidemic by 2030 – about $291 million. Not a whole lot has happened related to that plan yet, since the funding only came through weeks ago, but the administration did notch a few wins related to its goal.

First, it worked out an agreement with Gilead Sciences — the drugmaker that has a monopoly on medication that can prevent HIV infection — to donate drugs for uninsured people at high risk for HIV infection (while also suing Gilead over patent infringement related to that very drug).

Second, the Department of Health and Human Services gave grants to the "hot spots" around the country where most new infections happen so that those places could begin to create locally customized plans for ending the epidemic. Now that the first year of funding has come through, the hope is that those places can hit the ground running. Selena Simmons-Duffin , health policy reporter

4. Meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un

What Trump said:

"Chairman Kim and I will meet again on Feb. 27th and 28th in Vietnam."

Where it stands — accomplished

Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un did have a second nuclear summit at the end of February in Vietnam, but talks ended a day early without a denuclearization deal. Trump cited continued sanctions against North Korea as a sticking point.

"Sometimes, you have to walk," he said, "and this was just one of those times."

Four months later, Trump became the first sitting U.S. president to step foot in North Korea before announcing the two countries would revive nuclear talks. Those talks haven't really gotten off the ground. Ayesha Rascoe , White House reporter

5. Boost funding for childhood cancer research

What Trump said:

"Many childhood cancers have not seen new therapies in decades. My budget will ask Congress for $500 million over the next 10 years to fund this critical lifesaving research."

Where it stands — accomplished

The budget for the National Institutes for Health, or NIH, did include an additional $50 million for pediatric cancer, one-tenth of the proposed $500 million over a decade. That's an increase in funding for pediatric cancer of about 9%. The NIH budget is $39 billion, however, so $50 million represents about one-tenth of 1% of the overall budget. Richard Harris , Science Desk correspondent

6. Get nominees confirmed by Senate

What Trump said:

"This new era of cooperation can start with finally confirming the more than 300 highly qualified nominees who are still stuck in the Senate."

Where it stands — in progress

The record number of judicial nominees confirmed during the Trump administration will be a lasting part of his legacy, with judges confirmed at a prolific pace. In 2019, the Senate changed its debate rules, effectively speeding up the confirmation process for some lower-level judicial and agency nominees.

However, Trump has also had a record number of people in high-ranking positions at various government agencies who are there in an acting capacity. There's been high turnover and delays in nominations. Currently, 515 of the 741 key positions have been confirmed, with 170 positions lacking an actual nominee, according to the Partnership for Public Service. Tamara Keith , White House correspondent

7. Boost funding for border wall, other border security

What Trump said:

"Congress has 10 days left to pass a bill that will fund our government, protect our homeland, and secure our very dangerous southern border" and "My administration has sent to Congress a commonsense proposal to end the crisis on the southern border. It includes humanitarian assistance, more law enforcement, drug detection at our ports, closing loopholes that enable child smuggling, and plans for a new physical barrier, or wall, to secure the vast areas between our ports of entry."

Where it stands — in progress

Nine days after the State of the Union speech, Congress approved a bipartisan spending bill that gave Trump around $1.3 billion in border security funding, short of the $5.7 billion he had asked for. Trump signed the bill to avoid a partial government shutdown but moved to declare a national emergency in order to free up military construction funding for the wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

The Supreme Court allowed the administration to use military funds to build sections of the border wall. Trump's 2020 budget proposal called for $8.6 billion in new border wall funding. Congress rejected that proposal. Roberta Rampton

8. Require disclosure of health care prices

What Trump said:

"We should also require drug companies, insurance companies, and hospitals to disclose real prices to foster competition and bring costs way down."

Where it stands — in progress

The Trump administration is very much in favor of showing prices to lower prices. In June, the president signed an executive order on price transparency. In July, the Department of Health and Human Services issued a proposed rule for hospitals that would require them to reveal their negotiated prices to consumers in an accessible way. And in November, the department issued a similar proposed rule for insurers.

Hospitals have already sued to block the first rule, and the rule for insurers has not been finalized, so no secret prices have yet been revealed to help patients shop around. Another rule to require drug makers to display list prices in TV ads was also blocked by a federal judge and is currently on appeal. Selena Simmons-Duffin

9. Pass school choice bill

What Trump said:

"[T]he time has come to pass School Choice for Americans' children."

Where it stands — in progress

Nearly three weeks after the State of the Union speech, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and Republican lawmakers, including Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, announced a proposed tax credit that would go toward donations to private school scholarships, along with other school choice measures.

However, it's a virtual nonstarter in the Democratic-controlled House. Starting in 2019, families can withdraw up to $10,000 from 529 plans (essentially educational IRAs) to pay for private elementary and high schools, a version of school choice. That's due to an overhaul of the tax law in 2017 by the Trump administration. Elissa Nadworny , reporter and editor for NPREd; and Anya Kamenetz , education correspondent

10. Include paid family leave in budget

What Trump said:

"I am also proud to be the first president to include in my budget a plan for nationwide paid family leave, so that every new parent has the chance to bond with their newborn child."

Where it stands — in progress

Trump signed a defense bill that included a provision that granted 12 weeks of paid parental leave to federal employees. Although this doesn't do anything for private-sector employees, the president's daughter and adviser Ivanka Trump said she sees this as a big first step. Tamara Keith

11. Pass legislation that limits abortion

What Trump said:

"I am asking Congress to pass legislation to prohibit the late-term abortion of children who can feel pain in the mother's womb."

Where it stands — in progress

While legislation in Congress hasn't gotten very far, measures on the state level have drawn national attention, including an Alabama bill signed in May that bans nearly all abortions. It's considered to be the most restrictive abortion law in the country. Other states, like Georgia and Mississippi, have passed laws that prohibit abortion once heartbeat activity can be detected. Debbie Elliott , national correspondent covering the South

12. Send astronauts to space on American rockets

What Trump said:

"This year, American astronauts will go back to space on American rockets."

Where it stands — no action

The U.S. has not launched people on a spacecraft of its own since the space shuttle retired in 2011. NASA astronauts have been traveling to the station in Russian capsules. Two American companies, Boeing and Space X, have spent years building private space taxis that can take NASA astronauts to the International Space Station.

While there was a possibility of astronauts taking off from U.S. soil in 2019, delays and technical setbacks kept both companies' spacecraft — Boeing's Starliner and Space X's Crew Dragon — from launching with a crew on board. However, it is possible astronauts may finally go up on an American space vehicle in 2020. Gisele Grayson , Science Desk deputy editor

13. Pass bill to boost use of retaliatory tariffs

What Trump said:

"Tonight, I am also asking you to pass the United States Reciprocal Trade Act, so that if another country places an unfair tariff on an American product, we can charge them the exact same tariff on the exact same product that they sell to us."

Where it stands — no action

Then-Rep. Sean Duffy of Wisconsin sponsored HR 764 (United States Reciprocal Trade Act) two weeks prior to the president's address to Congress. It was referred to a subcommittee on trade in March, and no progress has been made since. Scott Horsley

14. Rebuild infrastructure package

What Trump said:

"Both parties should be able to unite for a great rebuilding of America's crumbling infrastructure."

Where it stands — no action

While there have been some infrastructure-related bills introduced in Congress, there haven't been any significant infrastructure developments since Trump's last State of the Union. Kelsey Snell , congressional correspondent

15. Lower prescription drug prices

What Trump said:

"I am asking Congress to pass legislation that finally takes on the problem of global freeloading and delivers fairness and price transparency for American patients, finally."

Where it stands — no action

No significant legislation to lower drug prices got all the way through Congress in 2019. On the House side, Democrats passed a landmark bill on drug prices in December, but it is unlikely to pass a Republican-controlled Senate. A bipartisan effort on the Senate side, which has the support of the White House, has not won over Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, so its prospects for passage this year are not great.

Trump does talk a lot about how drug prices have gone down during his presidency, citing the consumer price index, though many fact-checkers have pointed out that it is an imperfect measure and that drug spending overall has continued to climb. Selena Simmons-Duffin

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