Congressional reactions to Obama's State of the Union
Lawmakers from Congress
Sen. Jimm Webb (D-Va.)
The overriding objective of the President and the Congress over the next year must be to offer the kind of leadership that regains the confidence of the American people in our system, in our deliberative process, and above all in our leaders. With that in mind, my colleagues on both sides of the aisle should work ever harder to approach the issues that face us with less partisan maneuvering and a more genuine commitment to resolving the truly daunting challenges that now face working Americans.
Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)
The President is always welcome at the Capitol, especially at a time when there is so much important work to be done on behalf of the American people.
The President talked about jobs tonight. This is a welcome change in focus after the President and his administration spent nearly an entire year pursuing a partisan health care plan that would have spent trillions of dollars we don't have rather than on a plan for getting Americans back to work. I'm hopeful the administration's new focus on the economy will lead it to say no to more spending and debt, more bailouts, and more government.
The President's words about the importance of deficit reduction are timely.
The times require that we build upon these modest proposals. Americans are concerned about what kind of country we will leave to our children. The administration could address this concern right away by directing unspent Stimulus and TARP funds to pay down the federal deficit, and it could implement a true spending freeze. It could also assure families and small businesses that their taxes will not go up at the end of the year, as currently planned.
The administration could also reassure Americans who are still rattled by the attempted Christmas Day bombing by vowing to make a priority of preventing the next terrorist attack, not treating captured terrorists like common criminals so we can place them in a civilian court. Americans have a right to find out everything captured terrorists know in order to prevent future terrorist attacks.
Americans are concerned about government spending, debt, jobs, and keeping the homeland safe. They expect us to focus on these core issues until we get them right. In the year ahead, there is much work to be done, and the task before us is clear. We need to get Americans back to work and remain focused on keeping America secure and putting our nation back on the road to prosperity. Republicans look forward to working with the President on these shared goals.
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa)
After all the anxiety and hardship people are facing because of double-digit unemployment and a continued sluggish economy, at this point, it's not what the President says, it's what he does. During the last year, the administration's focus has been on government spending, government control of the financial system, energy and health care policies that mean more regulation, higher taxes and new mandates for employers, and a national security strategy that treats terrorists like common criminals. The President's initiatives tripled the deficit, piled on the debt and created a hostile environment for small businesses, where more than 70 percent of new jobs are created. That's on top of a tight credit market for the little guy, thanks to government officials favoring special interests on Wall Street and in Detroit with their management of taxpayer-funded bailout programs.
There's also tremendous frustration and anger about a lack of transparency and accountability in Washington. On the most sweeping proposal in decades, the health care bill, the administration and the Democratic leadership of Congress made major decisions behind closed doors, promised earmarks and cut deals with special interests. To try to restore some level of trust, the President needs to show that he won't operate this way or tolerate it from congressional leaders in his own political party.
People wanted President Obama to change Washington, not change America. With the record of the last year, it'll take sustained action in the opposite direction -- rather than one big speech or even a few weeks of rhetoric and public relations -- to convince people that those who are in charge in Washington really understand the reality for most people who are working to make ends meet in their own households and survive the economic recession.
For job creation, I've urged the President to get behind a comprehensive tax relief plan to encourage small business activity, and I introduced a bill last summer (S.1381) that would leave more money in the hands of small business owners to hire workers, pay employee salaries and make investments that lead to new jobs. I've also urged the President to seize opportunities for U.S. exports, which create jobs in value-added agriculture, renewable energy, manufacturing and the service sector. For a year now, international trade has been neglected and effectively rejected by the administration, putting U.S. employers at a competitive disadvantage because America's trading partners have moved on and made trade agreements among themselves and not with us.
Looking ahead, bipartisanship needs to be established in the beginning of an initiative. It's not a matter of peeling off a few votes at the end in order to push through extreme-type measures. And, Congress and the White House need to listen to the grassroots, where people are looking for a landscape that will let them create jobs and build opportunities for the future, not a heavy hand from government that saps the strength and inhibits the ingenuity that have defined the American dream for generations."
Senator-elect Scott Brown (R-Mass.)
I was pleased to hear President Obama acknowledge that our economy must be a national priority and I applaud him for taking some important first steps. But putting America back to work requires bold action. Bold action means broad-based tax cuts for families and businesses to create jobs and not merely targeted tax relief. Bold action also means major reform and restructuring to actually cut spending and not just freeze it. I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the political aisle on far-reaching new initiatives that will put our economy back on track and get our fiscal house in order.
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.)
My hope is that the president now will focus on jobs, debt, and terror. And it would suit me fine if he would stop right there until he has all three headed in the right direction. On jobs, that means lower taxes instead of higher taxes, cheap energy instead of a national energy tax, reducing health care costs instead of increasing them, and ending TARP instead of spending TARP. And it means getting the government out of the automobile business. All of that would create an environment in which Americans could create more jobs.
Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.)
Like the President, Senate Democrats are focused on putting Americans back to work, protecting struggling homeowners, strengthening our national security and ensuring affordable health insurance.
President Obama engaged America in a conversation about what has worked, what needs improvement and how we can move forward together. Senate Democrats view the challenge of cleaning up the mess we inherited as an opportunity to set our nation back on the path to progress and prosperity.
Nevadans and all Americans should know that their leaders in Washington understand their struggles and have a plan to relieve them. Jobs are still too few, health care is still too scarce and expensive, foreclosures are still too frequent and our energy future is still too treacherous. With thousands of Nevadans and millions of Americans under this tremendous pressure to make ends meet, now is no time to let up. As the President expressed tonight, we are moving full speed ahead in bringing about the meaningful change that we were sent to Washington to deliver."
Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio)
We were pleased to welcome the President to the People's House tonight for his annual address to the nation. We had hoped to hear a new commitment to keep his promises to govern from the center, change the tone in Washington, and work with both parties in a bipartisan way to help small businesses create jobs and get our economy moving again. Unfortunately, the President and the Democrats in charge of Congress still aren't listening to the American people.
The American people were looking for President Obama to change course tonight, and they got more of the same job-killing policies instead. If the President and the Democratic leaders of Congress are serious about helping the middle class, they will abandon their job-killing agenda, which is making it harder for middle-class families and small businesses to save, invest, and hire. That includes a trillion-dollar 'stimulus' that isn't working, a fiscally-irresponsible budget that doubles our debt in five years and triples it in 10, a costly government takeover of health care, and a massive national energy tax. The President's message isn't the problem, it's his job-killing policies. The American people don't want them, and that's why they are saying 'Enough is enough.'
For the last year, Republicans have been standing with the American people in asking the question: 'where are the jobs?' But all we have seen from Washington Democrats is more reckless spending and more unsustainable debt. Republicans have offered better solutions to help small businesses create jobs, lower health care premiums by up to 10 percent, and an 'all-of-the-above' strategy to clean up the environment, increase American energy production, and promote clean energy alternatives. It's long past time for Democrats to start working with Republicans on common-sense solutions on behalf of middle-class families and small businesses struggling in this economy."
Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)
Tonight, President Obama presented a vision to the American people of a stronger union, a new foundation for prosperity, and a thriving middle class. Working together, we will adopt a bold agenda for our economic growth - founded on good-paying jobs, strong schools, quality, affordable health insurance, and critical investments in small businesses and our clean energy future.
President Obama also presented a comprehensive approach to our first responsibility as public servants: to keep the American people safe. This Congress remains fully committed to working with the President for the security of our nation.
Despite signs of progress in our economy, too many Americans are out of work and struggling to make ends meet. To put people back to work, we will assist small businesses and invest in infrastructure and clean energy jobs. To ensure a competitive workforce, we will improve the way we educate our next generation.
In the wake of a crisis borne out of taking risks with taxpayers' money, we will protect Main Street from the excess of Wall Street and restore accountability to the financial sector.
Addressing a critical challenge for our economy and millions of households, Congress will pass health insurance reform that lowers costs for American families and small businesses, creates jobs, and ends the insurance companies' worst practices.
Every step along the way, Democrats will demand fiscal discipline - examining unnecessary spending across-the-board, empowering a bipartisan commission to recommend a sustainable fiscal path, and making the pay-as-you-go principles that have been the rule of the House the law of the land.
President Obama spoke tonight about the long overdue need to repeal 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' and acknowledged the many lesbian and gay service members who serve honorably in our military, and wish to do so openly. We look forward to working with him on this issue of fundamental fairness and supporting the patriotic Americans who serve - and wish to serve - our country in uniform.
With his powerful words tonight, the President demanded that we fulfill our promise to fight for the interests of America's families, rebuild the keystones of progress, and restore opportunity to every family. Working together, we can realize a vision of growth, security, and economic success for all Americans."
Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.)
Tonight, President Obama spoke about the reality of these hard times, as well as the determination and optimism that have helped America overcome hardship in the past--the same qualities that are essential to our recovery today. Since President Obama took office in the midst of an economic crisis, America has seen significant progress, much of it due to the passage of the job-creating Recovery Act. But far more work remains to restore the promise this nation has to offer. President Obama understands that, which is why job creation and strengthening the middle class were front-and-center in tonight's address.
President Obama's commitment to fiscal responsibility was unmistakable tonight. He urged the passage of a pay-as-you-go law, and he announced the creation of a bipartisan commission to address our most pressing fiscal challenges at a time of high deficits and debt. I hope that my colleagues across the aisle will join us and lend their effort and ideas to the struggle of deficit reduction.
Finally, the president reminded us that, even in hard times, we cannot neglect policies that strengthen our future prosperity and national security. One of those is health insurance reform, which can reduce costs for families, provide more freedom to workers, and create some 4 million jobs over the next decade; for those reasons, the president reasserted his strong support for reform tonight. It is also essential to pass Wall Street reform that will bring accountability to our financial sector and put an end to the reckless gambles that endanger the future of millions of average Americans. Setting high standards for education and creating jobs with clean energy are also crucial to a recovery that is sustained and widely shared. And the president also pledged continued vigilance against terrorism at home and abroad.
I look forward to working with President Obama and my colleagues in Congress-on, I hope, both sides of the aisle-to make this much-needed agenda a reality.
Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.)
The conditions across America leading up to this speech tonight are quite serious - unemployment is at double digits and in South Carolina, it is at an all time high at 12.6%. Hardworking families across the country are facing a difficult state of affairs. Like many of these families who tuned in tonight, I too was hoping to hear more concrete job creation plans from the President.
I was encouraged by the President's mention of a first-time homebuyers tax credit, but there are many more important proposals that we have presented to Speaker Pelosi that I hope will receive more bipartisan support - including the President's.
American families are concerned about immediate job creation in their communities and the debt that lawmakers continue to pawn off on our children and grandchildren. They want more than just rhetoric about the so-called stimulus and they want more than just a small, symbolic effort to cut spending.
Truly tackling out-of-control Washington spending will require a spending freeze based on 2008 levels. It will also require a commitment from Speaker Pelosi and Senator Reid to forgo their 85% spending spike.
On the issue of national security, I was pleased that the President reiterated the value of sending 30,000 more reinforcements to Afghanistan. I very much respect the President's decision to listen to our commanders on the ground as they aggressively pursue a multi-dimensional counter-insurgency strategy to secure Afghanistan. For the sake of our mission, American families at home, and our brave men and women in uniform, I hope the President can rally Congressional leaders behind his strategy and our troops' mission," said Congressman Joe Wilson.
Rep. Jason Altmire (D-Pa.)
The [health-care] debate was in grave danger of being dead, but he kept it alive. It was near dead, but the president kept it alive. But I'm not sure Congress has the appetite.
Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.)
I think it's a little difficult. We all agree you need [fiscal discipline]. The ability to carry it out if you're not starting till 2011 -- that's my kind of like my problem every Sunday night, I'm going to start that diet come Monday. The further you put it away, it never happens. ...I didn't see the structure to take down the deficit, more, We'll start on that in 2011. Talking about just more focus-grouped words on some stress to different parts of the country.
Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.)
I thought the veto pen was way too dormant the last 8 years, and I hope that he will be a ble to hold to that promise to veto if spending exceeds certain limits. And I think he will; in any event, if he does, I'm certainly going to be very supportive of his effort. ...Bipartisanship has been on life support, and I was afraid they were going to unplug it. But he's made a renewed pitch for those on the other side of the aisle to step forward, step across the aisle, come up with their ideas, whether it's on health care or in other areas. The people of America are demanding that, and it's time that it be delivered.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.)
In his State of the Union address, President Obama asked Congress to repeal the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy. I am immensely proud of, and thankful for, every American who wears the uniform of our country, especially at a time of war, and I believe it would be a mistake to repeal the policy.
This successful policy has been in effect for over fifteen years, and it is well understood and predominantly supported by our military at all levels. We have the best trained, best equipped, and most professional force in the history of our country, and the men and women in uniform are performing heroically in two wars. At a time when our Armed Forces are fighting and sacrificing on the battlefield, now is not the time to abandon the policy.