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Trump calls on Congress to end defense spending caps
President Trump delivers the State of the Union speech before members of Congress in the House chamber of the U.S. Capitol. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)

President Trump reiterated entreaties from military leaders on Tuesday when he called for Congress to end defense spending caps and increase funding for the Pentagon.

Trump used his first State of the Union address to link America’s ability to push back against militants in places in Iraq and Syria, and confront powerful states like Russia and China, to a strong defense budget.

“In confronting these dangers, we know that weakness is the surest path to conflict, and unmatched power is the surest means of our defense,” he said. “For this reason, I am asking the Congress to end the dangerous defense sequester and fully fund our great military.”

While defense spending has been constrained as a result of the 2011 Budget Control Act and the across-the-board budget limits it created, the Trump administration is hoping to restore military funding. The administration is expected to request $716 billion for its 2019 defense budget, a significant increase.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and other military leaders have said that the spending caps and a lack of a regular budget process endangered military readiness and jeopardized American security.

Fact-checking and analysis of Trump’s State of the Union 2018 address

The Washington Post is live-blogging President Trump’s first official State of the Union address to Congress tonight. The speech begins at 9p.m. Eastern time and the president is expected to be, well, presidential.

Post national reporters Ashley Parker and Michael Scherer write that Trump aides say “he will deliver a unifying speech on American values and patriotism, one that touches on everything from the just-passed Republican tax plan and the new immigration proposal to trade, infrastructure and national security. The question is whether the swirl of conflict and diversion that has monopolized so much of his first year in office will distract from the message he is trying to deliver.”

The Post’s chief congressional scribe, Paul Kane, points out that it’s not just Trump whose behavior can be unpredictable — it’s also that of “mercurial” congressional Republicans when it comes to the president.

From Paul: “Sometimes they are in bitter fights with Trump, challenging his nationalist policy approach as an affront to traditional conservatism while also questioning his mental fitness for office. Other times they drift into a deep public swoon for the president that seems to directly contradict their previous criticism.”

Check back here for frequent updates on the speech, including real-time fact-checking and analysis of what the president says on key issues like the economy, national security and infrastructure.

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