Skip to main content

Previewing the 2019 State of the Union

Ahead of President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address Tuesday night, his first before a divided Congress, the Bipartisan Policy Center has laid out a framework of issues expected to be raised in the speech. Our assessment is that the conditions for compromise on four major issue areas ? immigration, infrastructure, higher education, and paid family leave ? exist and that it is possible to see substantial progress.


As budget negotiations have resumed, a deal on border security must be made before we experience another government shutdown. To do this, we must start with a “win” all sides can claim and leave out what loses votes. Expanding the conversation beyond the wall and both sides presenting the elements in which there can be an agreement ? instead of beginning negotiations with non-starters ? is key to reaching a deal.

A bipartisan deal can be made which would include the following: Focusing only on DREAMers & TPS holders for the time being, and at a minimum including protections for TPS beneficiaries who have had status the longest and have been terminated; broadly defining border security ? not just focused on physical barriers or a wall ? and investing in sector-specific technology, roads, port of entry security measures and other infrastructure; and incentivizing service in remote locations and ensuring the ability to more easily transfer personnel to address changing patterns of migration, drugs or other threats at our borders.

“An honest assessment of what’s driving these people ? often families with small children ? to come to the United States shows we’re dealing with a regional humanitarian crisis that no wall can solve.” (Theresa Cardinal Brown and Cristobal Ramón, “The emergency at the border isn’t national. It’s regional,” Roll Call, 1/28/19)

“Overall, the southern border is much, much more secure, it is much much harder to come in an undocumented way across the U.S.-Mexico border ? that is undeniably true. What has changed is that we are seeing a new migratory pattern that we have not experienced before, where a majority of those trying to enter the United States are families with children who are seeking asylum and are not from Mexico.” (Theresa Cardinal Brown, “President Trump Reportedly Wants to Make Asylum Seekers Wait in Mexico. It’s Not That Simple,” TIME, 11/30/18)

“When I was at DHS we never talked about a wall but we always talked about fit barriers and fences as things that are needed at certain parts of the border ? I think if we can move beyond [a wall] and talk about what’s actually needed at the border then some real dialogue can take place.” (Theresa Cardinal Brown, “Will Democrats finally agree to fund the border wall?,” Fox News, 1/27/19)

Follow BPC’s Director of Immigration & Cross Border Policy Theresa Cardinal Brown on Twitter for expert analysis. Members of the press can contact BPC to arrange a conversation or an interview.


America is facing an infrastructure crisis. Despite bipartisan efforts in Congress and state legislatures, the reality is that government alone can’t fully fund all of the roads, bridges and other critical infrastructure our economy needs?let alone upgrade our airports, shipping hubs and water supply systems to meet the challenges of the coming decades.

That’s why public-private partnerships make the most sense. In public-private partnerships, the private partner brings technical expertise, innovation and risk management experience to help control costs, improve efficiency and deliver value for the public. A private partner may also bring financing to the table, helping advance projects that may otherwise have to wait years for public funds. By identifying gaps that preclude private investment, including legislative and regulatory barriers, we can begin to modernize our infrastructure and keep our economy competitive and build communities equipped for the future.

“Currently, there is at least a $1 trillion funding gap between today’s spending levels and the amount needed, which does not necessarily include the price tag of upgrading and modernizing.” (Jake Varn, “What the Midterms Mean for Infrastructure,” BPC, 11/13/18)

“…the need to invest in our water and wastewater systems is as urgent and vital as building the ?gleaming new roads, bridges, highways, railways and waterways’ President Trump spoke about ? The systems that collect, treat and distribute our drinking water, wastewater and stormwater are aging. With hundreds of thousands of systems across the country, spread across all levels of government, bold federal leadership will be key to fixing our water infrastructure.” (Michele Nellenbach, Infrastructure Bill Shouldn’t Ignore Our Aging Water Systems, Roll Call, 2/26/18)

“Our bridges, roads, water systems, energy-related assets, airports, ports, and railroads are in desperate need of upgrades and repairs. Failure to address these infrastructure needs costs the average American household $3,400 each year. Further, it will result in the loss of $4 trillion in GDP and 2.5 million jobs between now and 2025.” (Michele Nellenbach, Federal Facilities Need Infrastructure Funding and Financing Solutions, BPC, 1/4/18)

Read more about how BPC’s expert team believes that Congress can help to rebuild or repair and modernize America’s aging infrastructure. Members of the press can contact BPC to arrange a conversation or an interview.

Higher Education

Congress has not changed its focus on higher education in any considerable way since the Higher Education Act (HEA) was last reauthorized more than 10 years ago. But tuition and fees continue to rise rapidly, student debt has increased to unprecedented levels and there are persistent access and attainment gaps for students of color.

Despite these challenges, education remains a key pathway for income security and economic mobility, and an educated workforce is increasingly required to compete in the global economy. Promoting effective data-collection and greater transparency, incentivizing and allowing innovative learning models and protecting the federal-state balance will help our higher education system adapt to the current landscape.

“In order for the United States to maintain a world-class higher education system, government must be responsive to this changing landscape. We must think creatively about how to address the serious challenges facing the system: rising costs and debt, stagnant outcomes, and an outmoded policy framework that is ill-equipped to promote accountability and serve an evolving student body.” (George Miller & Howard P. Buck McKeon, “Task Force on Higher Education Financing and Student Outcomes,” BPC, 11/9/18)

“The pursuit of postsecondary attainment often masks significant risks associated with the current system?for both students and taxpayers. Students who?fail to complete, for instance, often pay thousands of dollars,?end up with loads of debt, and do not see the same wage gains as degree-holders. This is not a notional problem: Just 60 percent of first-time, full-time students graduate with a bachelor’s degree within six years.” (Kenneth Meegan, “Accountability in Higher Ed: Why Not Share the Risk?”?BPC, 1/30/18)

Read through BPC’s research on the importance of addressing deficiencies in higher education policy as well as expert commentary from BPC’s higher education team. Members of the press can contact BPC to arrange a conversation or an interview.

Paid Family Leave

The United States is the only industrialized country in the world without a national paid family leave policy. The cost of living, growing caregiving needs and changing structure of the family unit have made it increasingly challenging for many families to care for their loved ones while maintaining financial security. This is elevating a national conversation about the need for a pragmatic and bipartisan federal paid family leave policy. The challenge in getting bipartisanship agreement on the issue is the figuring out how to pay for it. We should begin by evaluating the states with paid family leave laws ? such as California ? to determine the best routes for funding.

“To make a federal paid family leave policy reality, we need a pragmatic and bipartisan framework that takes into account Americans from all walks of life. We need Americans to end the silent struggle and start sharing how unpaid leave is hindering the ability to ensure their child has a healthy start to life, provide for sick and ailing family members, or return to the workforce after a health issue.” Adrienne Schweer, “The Momentum is Here and Paid Family Leave is Coming,” BPC, 9/12/18)

“Only 15% of Americans have a paid family leave benefit, which is defined as paid time off for maternity, paternity, caring for an ailing or sick family member, or caring for themselves through serious illness or a major injury.” (Adrienne Schweer, “The Momentum is Here and Paid Family Leave is Coming,” BPC, 9/12/18)

“Paid family leave is an essential component of ensuring that women have equal opportunities in the workplace ? Our economy benefits when everyone has a chance to contribute to their full potential.” (Maria Contreras-Sweet, “BPC Launches New Task Force on Paid Family Leave,” BPC press release, 5/29/18)

Follow BPC Fellow and lead of our Paid Family Leave Task Force Adrienne Schweer on Twitter for expert analysis. Members of the press can contact BPC to arrange a conversation or an interview.

Read Next