U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn said he was inspired by President Donald Trump's third State of the Union address Tuesday and was cautiously optimistic that Democrats will want to work with Republicans on some of the president's proposals.
The Colorado Republican, a co-chair of Trump's re-election campaign in Colorado, said in an interview that he cheered when the president talked about the Space Force, a new branch of the military headquartered in Lamborn's 5th Congressional District, but was unhappy at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's reaction to the speech delivered before a joint session of Congress in Washington, D.C.
He had high praise for Trump's emphasis on the economy, including record low unemployment rates among veterans and other populations.
If Trump wins a second term, however, Lamborn told Colorado Politics that he will be happy to join the president to tackle soaring deficit spending by "looking at entitlements" and other discretionary spending.
"I'm proud to be an American. He really inspired me," Lamborn said by phone after making his way from the Capitol to his congressional office.
"I know there were some Democrats there that had a different reaction, but I was really inspired. I thought it was a powerful speech."
He applauded Trump for bringing up "bipartisan things that people can work on together, like transportation and infrastructure, the price of pharmaceuticals, school choice for children, things that maybe, I'm hoping — I'll keep my fingers crossed — that we can work on passing into law this year."
Lamborn, who is seeking his eighth term in Congress in this year's election, added that his optimism is tempered by Washington's deep partisan divides, which have been on stark display for the months since House Democrats began an inquiry into impeaching Trump.
"It's been five months that this has been on the front burner," he said, noting that Pelosi has helped move "a couple of things," like the military budget and the North American trade agreement, both signed by Trump.
"But other than those two things, there has been very little that we have accomplished legislatively," Lamborn said.
"I'm not sure the Democrats are interested in working with Donald Trump, and I'm not sure that the left-wing part of her party here in Congress is able to pass something and give their blessing to something that the Senate would ever pass. I'm not really optimistic that we can get much done this year."
He added: "I'd like to be proven wrong."
Lamborn said he saw "even Democrats who were sitting on their hands for most of the speech" get up and cheer when Trump introduced his guests and told their stories, including a 13-year-old boy who wants to attend the Air Force Academy and his 100-year-old great grandfather, who was a Tuskegee Airman.
"I thought that was kind of amazing, and that was a wonderful story," Lamborn said.
Lamborn said he was pleased Trump led with good news about the economy, including a robust climate for jobs.
"He started out talking about how the economy is doing so well, spent a great deal of time discussing that," Lamborn said. "I think that's important because the average person out there, many of which are struggling to earn a living — maybe they don't have time to watch the speech — their first and foremost concern is taking care of their family and making a living, so the economy is maybe the biggest thing on the average American's mind. We have a great success story. I'm glad he gave it so much time."
When Trump boasted about about slashing unemployment rates among veterans, African-Americans and women, Lamborn said it hit close to home, since more veterans live in the 5th District than any other congressional district in the country.
"Our economy can always be better, but I see things that show it's an economy that's really pretty broadly based," Lamborn said. "I think, while we need to bring, say, health care costs down, because that's a big expense for people, and energy costs — we don't want those to get out of control, and the administration is doing good on that, taking away regulations that increase the cost of energy — I think there's really some good things for many if not most of the families in this country."
Lamborn said he's looking forward to the president's second term, when Republicans can take on an annual budget deficit forecast to top $1 trillion this year, nearly twice what it was when Trump took office.
"Trump and his people have said that if he gets reelected, he is going to make that his top priority, is getting spending under control," Lamborn said. "For whatever reasons, we haven't really talked about the entitlement part of our budget, which is 60% or higher. So to really have meaningful attention paid to the deficit, you have to address mandatory spending, or entitlements." He added, "I'm keeping my fingers crossed that that is true."
During Tuesday's speech, Trump proclaimed, "We will always protect your Medicare and your Social Security," despite raising the possibility that he will consider entitlement cuts in a recent interview, according to the Associated Press.
Lamborn said he's interested in looking at spending reductions in Medicaid, possibly by reviving a plan to send funds to states in block grants and letting the states figure out how to spend the money.
If a 2017 effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act hadn't been derailed by the late Arizona Sen. John McCain, Lamborn said, "States would have had the ability not to have their Medicaid imposed on them by Washington with a one-size-fits-all mentality, but would have had the ability to work out a solution that's best for their citizens, that work best for providing care, and at the same time would have made dollars go further."
"So block-granting to the states would have been a huge step right there," he added. "I would love to start with that."
Lamborn said only one thing bothered him about the speech: "Nancy Pelosi sitting right behind (Trump), not paying attention and then ripping up the speech when it was over and throwing it down. I thought that that was really classless and beneath the dignity of her office. I've got to say that."