President Barack Obama (D) delivered his fourth State of the Union speech to a Joint Session of Congress, calling on more investment in American infrastructure, energy independence and fundamental tax reform.
The annual high-profile Presidential speech was generally hailed by Democrats and denounced by Republicans, highlighting the bitter divide in American politics.
Obama said “economic fairness” was “the defining issue of our time,” as he called for raising taxes on higher income citizens.
“You can call this class warfare all you want. But asking a billionaire to pay at least as much as his secretary in taxes? Most Americans would call that common sense,” said Obama.
Obama also said that he “won’t stand for obstructionism,” a signal that gridlock in Washington, D.C. between the two major political parties is likely to continue. In a high-stakes election year battle, Democrats and Republicans are not only fighting for the Presidency, but also strategizing on gaining or holding majorities in the two houses of Congress.
Interestingly with the nation’s focus and the majority of his speech focused on domestic issues, the President opened and closed his State of the Union address with arguably his greatest foreign policy accomplishment: the killing of 9/11 mastermind terrorist, Osama bin Laden.
Reactions from Arkansas’ federal delegation were quickly received:
U.S. Senator Mark Pryor (D):
The state of our union is better this year. We are creating manufacturing jobs for the first time since the late 1990s, our auto industry is making a comeback with GM at the helm, consumer confidence is up and domestic oil production is higher than it’s been in eight years. And for the first time in nine years, Americans are no longer fighting in Iraq.
Yet, we have too many Arkansans receiving an unemployment check when they’d rather be earning a paycheck. We need the President, Republicans and Democrats to create an environment that leads to new economic opportunities in America. The President’s commitment to enable more businesses to hire, more entrepreneurs to innovate and more students to graduate prepared for a 21st Century job should be shared by both parties in Congress. I hope to work with him and my colleagues to achieve these goals in 2012.
While I share the President’s interest in growing our energy capacity, we must also embrace the potential that already exists. We cannot afford to forego traditional forms of energy. I disagree with his decision to postpone the Keystone pipeline. I believe in this day and age, this project can be done in a responsible way that protects the environment.
Despite predictions otherwise, I am hopeful Congress and the White House can deliver results this year. My six point solution to job creation offers common-sense initiatives to strengthen our country’s future. We can find common ground and put our nation on a stronger path for tomorrow.
U.S. Senator John Boozman (R):
Facing high unemployment rates, rising gasoline costs and ever increasing regulatory burdens, Arkansans and all Americans, need to see the light at the end of the tunnel. It’s time the President stop finger-pointing and reach-out to work together on common sense solutions to the problems and the challenges facing our country.
Time and time again, the President’s rhetoric hasn’t matched his actions. His call for reducing our energy dependence comes on the heels of his rejection for a permit to build a pipeline that would decrease our need to rely on hostile regimes for fuel sources while simultaneously increasing jobs.
President Obama spoke of an ‘all-of-the-above’ strategy on energy and noted it was American ingenuity, investment and hard work that built major infrastructure projects like the Hoover Dam and the interstate system. I’d remind the President that we could be building the Keystone Pipeline which would put 20,000 Americans to work and lower gas prices for us all. There is no reason for him to have denied this major infrastructure project from getting off the ground.
We certainly need to reform the tax code, close loopholes and ensure that the middle class are not bearing the brunt of the tax burden. However, President Obama’s vision of ‘fairness’ is based on the idea that raising taxes on the American people and our small business owners can solve our economic problems. Washington doesn’t have a revenue problem, it has a spending problem. Americans are calling on Washington to do as they do, which is to devise a budget and live within our means, something that the Senate Majority has refused to do for the last 1,000 days.
I am willing to work with President Obama to jumpstart job growth in the private sector, pave the way for energy independence so we aren’t forced to rely on radical regimes for fuel sources and make it easier for small business to provide employment opportunities by alleviating hurdles to job creation. The President must be part of the solution and he needs to start by leading by example.
U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford (R-AR1):
At home in Arkansan my constituents ask, ‘Where are the jobs?’ Over the last three years, nearly 2 million more Americans and many Arkansans have joined the ranks of the unemployed. Nothing is more demoralizing than not being able to find a job, and support a family. At the same time, the Obama Administration has imposed a flurry of new regulations that have left small businesses hamstrung. Nothing kills jobs faster than a Washington regulation. The federal government must stop regulating businesses out of existence and jobs into extinction.
Tonight, the President talked about creating American jobs and finding new sources of energy. The Keystone XL Pipeline would have created 20,000 jobs immediately and nearly 100,000 more jobs over time. Keystone also had the added benefit of providing the United States with a new energy source that would make our country less dependent on Middle Eastern oil. Even with these tremendous benefits the President chose to reject the Keystone project. Our country faces many challenges. We should not let divisive partisanship be the challenge that prevents our success. I want to work with Democrats and Republicans to create American jobs.
U.S. Rep. Tim Griffin (R-AR2):
Sadly, President Obama has become a spectator to history when it comes to addressing our out-of-control spending and encouraging job creation. The time for talk has long passed; it’s time for him to lead or follow.
I wish the President had offered a bold, real plan for balancing our budget – or pledged to work with us to get our spending under control.
When the President talks about getting Americans back to work, it’s hard to take him seriously, one week after he killed thousands of new Keystone pipeline jobs. He needs to get real about job creation, and he can start by approving the pipeline, so hard working Arkansans – not Chinese – can benefit from these new jobs. Approval of the Keystone pipeline is the biggest no-brainer I have seen since being elected to Congress. The pipeline would provide a big dose of shovel-ready jobs and energy independence – now.
Regardless, I will continue to fight for hard working Arkansas taxpayers who are tired of a president who throws money away on ineffective ‘stimulus programs,’ but won’t approve a massive private sector jobs project staring him in the face – a project supported by Democrats and Republicans alike.
U.S. Rep. Mike Ross (D-AR4):
I appreciate the President presenting a detailed plan on how we strengthen the middle class and get this economy back on track – two important priorities for this Congress.
I strongly urge the President and Congress to come to the table, actually listen to one another and work in a bipartisan way. The November elections are ten months away, so there’s still plenty of time to govern and get the job done. We simply cannot afford to wait any longer to address our national debt or our jobs crisis. It’s time for Republicans and Democrats to stop putting party over country and get to work on behalf of the American people.
As a fiscal conservative and leader of the fiscally conservative Democratic Blue Dog Coalition, I’ll continue the fight to reduce our deficits and put people back to work. And, I’ll continue to offer commonsense leadership in our nation’s capital, fighting for the people I represent and working hard to bring both sides together.
U.S. Rep. Steve Womack (R-AR3) had not issued a statement as of this posting.