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The Takeout: What to expect from Trump’s first joint address to Congress

Next week’s must-watch political television is the president’s joint address to Congress Tuesday. How will the president command the podium in the august House chamber? What will it feel like in the room? 

Trump's freewheeling presser 03:56

Though Mr. Trump claims his White House has run like a “fine-tuned machine,” there have been a few stalls and false starts. For instance, a key executive order, the travel ban, has been stayed by the courts, forcing him to write a new one. Mr. Trump and his top aides are at war with the media -- he declared several TV networks the “enemy of the people last week.”

A new CBS News poll this week shows the president’s approval ratings are low -- 39 percent -- similar to other recent polls over the last couple of weeks. 

Just over a month after his inauguration, it seems likely that Mr. Trump could use this speech to turn his attention from the solo executive actions and cabinet appointments toward the agenda that will require working with Congress.

How will all of this be manifest in the president’s Tuesday address? Correspondent Margaret Brennan, who covers the White House and foreign affairs for CBS News, joined Major Garrett for this week’s episode of “The Takeout” podcast.

“It sounds like there’s maybe a tone shift there,” Brennan said, “but I think in standing before Congress, there’s going to be a lot of demands for ‘okay -- and what about the things you need us for here?  Tell us a little bit more about the plans to replace Obamacare Where are we on that… and what does it look like?” 

Listen to this episode on Stitcher

Tax reform also requires the president and Congress to work side by side -- over the past week, the president and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin have said that tax reform will follow health care. Mnuchin told the Wall Street Journal this week it could come in August. 

Mr. Trump may have more to say about how he’d like to see his legislative priorities unfold, though that’s not exactly a safe bet.

“I don’t know that the president’s going to have some of those decisions made by the time he meets and speaks to Congress next week,” said Brennan.

It’s a balancing act. Congress will want to hear a road map from the president, but at the same time, GOP leaders don’t want to be lectured. The president is going to have to finesse this.

President Trump is still also wading through a messy first few weeks with his foreign policy teams. In the State Department the wisdom of career diplomats was not tapped by the administration, and his first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, was forced to resign weeks after his appointment.

“There’s a lot of consternation and concern right now that all these people who work and have studied and have regional expertise aren’t having their voices heard by the people who are forming policy,” Brennan said. “Maybe that’s changing now there’s perhaps a new approach to how to structure the National Security Council; we saw that new national security adviser being named this week, but there’s been a lot of angst in these past few weeks.”

Filling key positions has not been easy, especially since some who have said unflattering things about Mr. Trump  are eliminated from consideration. Elliott Abrams saw his potential deputy secretary of State appointment evaporate over his past comments.

“When the White House said ‘get in line or get out’, that really rubbed people the wrong way, threw a lot of salt in the wound because it basically said if you don’t agree with everything that is said rhetorically, then you have no part in shaping any part of this policy,” Brennan observed. 

For more from Brennan’s conversation with Garrett and CBS News Senior Political Editor Steve Chaggaris, where they talk more about what stood out to them from Trump’s news conference as well as her favorite music and movies, listen to “The Takeout” podcast, available on iTunesGoogle PlayStitcher and And follow “The Takeout” on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter: @TakeoutPodcast. 

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