On Tuesday night, President Barack Obama laid out his plans for the country’s future in his State of the Union address.
Congress members sat together in a show of solidarity and unity after the shooting of Congresswoman Garbrielle Giffords, but the reaction to the speech is divided along party lines.
Every Connecticut Congressional member is a Democrat and they are giving Obama high marks, but some also have concerns.
U.S. Rep. John B. Larson, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, agreed with Obama that the economy and jobs are the biggest concern for the country.
“As we invest for our future, we will take responsibility for our current deficits and make the necessary cuts to prioritize our overall goal-making a stronger, smarter, more competitive America,” Larson said. “I applaud President Obama for his pledge to not accomplish this by privatizing social security or on the backs of our current and future seniors.”
U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, a ranking member on the Labor, Health, and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee, said the address reflected the country’s top priorities: creating jobs, strengthening our economy and investing in our future.
“I will continue to advocate for policies that create jobs for the middle class, strengthen our domestic manufacturing and rebuild our economy to compete in the 21st century, and I have introduced legislation to this end,” DeLauro said, referring to the National Infrastructure Development Bank. “We need to become a country that builds things again, rather than just buying things made overseas.”
She also took a shot at the Republican party and vowed to fight Republican cuts and the party’s agenda.
“The agenda put forward by the new Republican majority stands in stark contrast to the president’s vision tonight. … Now is not the time to cut funding for critical services such as law enforcement, education, economic development, and health care,” she said.
U.S. Rep. Jim Himes said the president was forward-thinking, pragmatic and gracious.
“I particularly appreciated his focus on education and innovation, which are the keys to prosperity—now and in the future. … (I)f we use education and innovation as the foundation for our path forward, we can and will rebuild America,” Himes said.
He said the greatest challenges are to make the United States the leader in science and math education again, to fix the tax code to make it fairer for emerging businesses and individuals, to protect health care, national security and economic competitiveness.
“Reducing our debt while making the investments we need to fix our schools and rebuild our highways, railways, and networks is no small task, but it is our only choice,” Himes said.
U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy said Obama played the role of a uniter.
“In order to win the future, we’ve got to be hungry for the next great ideas to put people to work. …. But to make economic progress, we’ve got to stop hemorrhaging jobs overseas,” Murphy said. “The best way to do that is to put politics aside, roll up our sleeves, and get tough with our competitors by closing loopholes in our Buy American laws.”
The state’s freshman Senator, Richard Blumenthal, sat in on his first State of the Union address as a Congress member and called the address “powerful” and said officials need to come together, regardless of party.
“For all the inspiring words, hard work still remains. … We need and deserve a government that can rise above partisan rhetoric and rancor to create jobs, create clean energy, invest in infrastructure and provide our children with a world class education,” Blumenthal said.
Gov. Dannel Malloy, the state’s first Democratic governor in decades, attended the State of the Union as Larson’s guest, and saw similarities in the address and challenges for the state.
“Connecticut finds itself in much the same position as our nation does. We need to create new jobs and get our fiscal house in order. I spoke with my commissioners earlier today and made clear to them that solving our budget crisis and creating new jobs starts with them. That means no new spending, no borrowing for operating expenses, no early retirement proposal and we absolutely must meet our pension obligations. Period,” he said. “I look forward to working with President Obama, the delegation in Washington, the General Assembly in Connecticut and anybody else who wants to get Connecticut back on track again.”
But local Congress members also had some concerns about Obama’s plans.
DeLauro is concerned about Obama’s call for a five- year spending freeze in non-security, discretionary spending.
“This area of the federal budget is one that has the most direct impact on families around the country that are still struggling, and will affect state’s budgets as well,” DeLauro said. “It is time that we also look to other areas of the federal budget also targeted for deficit reduction.”
Murphy said he would have liked to have heard the President talk more about how to promote American manufacturing in ways other than trade agreements.
State Senate Minority Leader John McKinney, the highest ranking Republican in Connecticut politics, said Obama said some encouraging things.
"The prescription for our predicament in Washington and Hartford boils down to two words: 'reduce spending.' The American people are frustrated with the amount of state and federal spending and the negative impact it has had on their lives,” McKinney said. “Tonight President Obama said some encouraging things about working in a bipartisan way to put our fiscal house in order, just as Governor Malloy has said some encouraging things about reducing spending in Connecticut. They both have the talking part done. Now we'll see if their actions match their rhetoric. For the sake of our state and country, I hope they do."