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Sen. Tammy Baldwin Outlines What Democrats Hope To Hear In Trump Address


President Donald Trump takes the stage before a joint session of Congress tonight. It's not a State of the Union address officially. And unlike the campaign-style rallies he's accustomed to holding, this won't be before a fully friendly crowd. Senator Tammy Baldwin, a Democrat from Wisconsin, joins us from the Capitol to talk about what she's listening for tonight. Welcome to the program.

TAMMY BALDWIN: It's a delight to join you. Thank you.

CORNISH: So many Democrats are bringing guests of one kind of another to tonight's speech, Muslim-Americans, refugees. You're bringing a 38-year veteran of a Wisconsin foundry. Is this a form of protest for Democrats?

BALDWIN: You know, for me, this is about listening to Wisconsin workers and holding President Trump accountable to his campaign rhetoric to apply buy-America and hire-America policies. And Roddy Rice, who spent his career working at the Neenah Foundry, I think, wants to hear the same.

CORNISH: You have a House Democrat, Maxine Waters, saying that she's not even going to attend. Will Democrats, you or any others, be doing any form of protest tonight?

BALDWIN: You know, I plan to listen. I respect the office of the president of the United States. There are things that I'm hoping to hear. I certainly hope that our new president decides to use this occasion in a very different way than he did in his inaugural speech, where he talked about American carnage.

CORNISH: You've talked about being supportive of an infrastructure plan. You're saying that's an issue that both parties can kind of get around. But the policy priorities for Republicans and this president right now have been repealing the existing health-care law and also, further down the road, the tax code. Are you interested in either of those?

BALDWIN: The Affordable Care Act brought so many critical protections that have resulted in Americans who couldn't get health care being able to have that protection now. What we need to know is that there will be a bipartisan commitment to repair the flaws with the Affordable Care Act but not to repeal the protections that were so hard-fought. And I would just say that, in 2012, the people of Wisconsin did not send me to the Senate to take away people's health care.

CORNISH: But in 2016, they did, right? I mean, essentially, you have - Trump won your state. And he won it on a platform that involved repeal of that law.

BALDWIN: No, I think that Wisconsin was very much focused on working people struggling to get ahead and hearing from President Trump a message of buy America, hire America, frankly, things that I agree with this new president on. But I don't think anybody was making their decision based on a threat to take people's health protections away. In fact, having high-quality health care and keeping those protections in place make it easier for people to get ahead.

CORNISH: You're one of several Democrats who's up for re-election in 2018 in a state that was won by Donald Trump. What sense are you getting that your constituents want to see from you, somebody who resists this president or someone who makes deals with this president who won their vote?

BALDWIN: You know, I look at it in a slightly different way, which is - when I ran the first time in 2012, I promised to stand up to powerful interests in Washington that were essentially rigging the system to their own advantage and not to the advantage of hardworking people. Where Donald Trump offers proposals that dovetail with what I promised my constituents, I would fight for. I will work with him. But where his policies will cause harm, I plan to stand up and fight.

CORNISH: Senator Tammy Baldwin, Democrat of Wisconsin, thank you so much for speaking with us.

BALDWIN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.