A speech by President Obama Tuesday night didn’t change any opinions from Arkansas all-GOP delegation, all of whom said the nation’s chief executive offered little to persuade them to support his proposals.
Obama gave his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress before a nationwide audience. In the 6,600 word speech, Obama talked about a series of issues including the economy, foreign policy and politics.
“We are fifteen years into this new century. Fifteen years that dawned with terror touching our shores; that unfolded with a new generation fighting two long and costly wars; that saw a vicious recession spread across our nation and the world. It has been, and still is, a hard time for many. But tonight, we turn the page,” Obama started the speech.
However, the state’s junior senator, Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., said the President’s speech offered little.
“Tonight it’s evident that President Obama learned little from November’s elections. The policies and ideas he put forth are from the same tax and spend playbook he’s been using for the last six years. Unfortunately, his strategy has made the lives of hard-working Americans more difficult with fewer jobs and lower wages,” Cotton, who defeated incumbent Democrat Mark Pryor last fall, said. “It’s difficult to understand how President Obama doesn’t see that Arkansans don’t want — and can’t afford — more of the same failed policies. They want an efficient, accountable government that can do more with less. And they want a government that prioritizes our safety and will stand up to the grave threats we face around the world. In light of the last several months, it is particularly disappointing the national security ‘strategy’ President Obama laid out tonight contained little more than strong rhetoric and appeasement. But my colleagues and I understand what the President doesn’t. Rest assured, we are ready to change course.”
On the economy, Obama catered his words to the middle class.
“So the verdict is clear. Middle-class economics works. Expanding opportunity works. And these policies will continue to work, as long as politics don’t get in the way. We can’t slow down businesses or put our economy at risk with government shutdowns or fiscal showdowns,” Obama said. “We can’t put the security of families at risk by taking away their health insurance, or unraveling the new rules on Wall Street, or refighting past battles on immigration when we’ve got a system to fix. And if a bill comes to my desk that tries to do any of these things, it will earn my veto.”
Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., called the speech, “Yet another missed opportunity.”
“President Obama has a chance to work with Congress in areas where we can find common ground. We are ready, willing and able to do so and I believe there are ample opportunities for us to get things done for the American people. However, the tone the President struck seems to indicate that he is focused on what he wants, not what the American people want.
“Tax reform is a perfect example of an issue that the American people are calling on Washington to address, where we can indeed find common ground, and instead the President proposes more of the same rate hikes that failed time and time again. We are pushing for true reform that makes the tax code fair, simple and reduces the burden for working Americans while creating an environment where the economy can flourish. We can make that happen with constructive cooperation, but we need everybody to come to the table,” Boozman, the state’s senior senator said.
“Americans voted for change last November, but the President’s speech unfortunately was more of the same, raising taxes to create more government programs as opposed to making the programs we already have work efficiently and effectively. Arkansans have been forced to cut their spending significantly last few years because of the President’s economic policies. They want Washington to do the same thing,” he added.
HOUSE MEMBERS DISAGREE
All four of Arkansas’ Republican House members took issue with parts of the President’s speech. Rep. Rick Crawford, R-Jonesboro, noted that the nation’s debt crisis was not addressed.
“Our country needs bold action by elected officials in Washington with regard to our debt crisis and tonight the President all but ignored the greatest threat facing every American family – our debt crisis. The tax plan presented in the State of the Union Address follows the same tax-and-spend pattern we’re used to hearing about, but it didn’t address our debt of $18 trillion as well as our looming interest rate crisis,” Crawford said.
“The American people deserve to hear from the President about the ramifications of neglecting our debt crisis and how, if left unaddressed, will cause interest rate payments to soar and become the single greatest line item in our federal budget. Our national security is critical and the President’s call for use of force against ISIS is well warranted, but we need a more concrete plan on how to address the growing threat against all freedom-loving nations,” Crawford added.
Rep. Bruce Westerman, R-Hot Springs, said he believed the speech missed the mark.
“While President Obama gave a good speech with nice words about the middle class, this is yet another reminder that his words and his actions do not match up,” Westerman, who represents the 4th District, said. “It is hard for me to take the president’s talk of strengthening the middle class seriously when he proposes tax increases on college savings accounts that benefit the middle class. Increasing taxes, coupled with promises to veto legislation promoting energy price stability and restoring the 40-Hour work week shows me that he is simply continuing to talk out of both sides of his mouth. The voters spoke in a loud, clear voice in November when they voted to increase the Republican majority in the House and gave the Senate its first Republican majority since the president took office. We heard our constituents. Unfortunately, the president appears to have turned a deaf ear and remains focused on campaigning for his legacy—not governing the country.”
Obama also spoke about foreign policy, calling for authorization to go after ISIS and including a policy change in Cuba.
“This effort will take time. It will require focus. But we will succeed. And tonight, I call on this Congress to show the world that we are united in this mission by passing a resolution to authorize the use of force against ISIL,” Obama said.
“In Cuba, we are ending a policy that was long past its expiration date. When what you’re doing doesn’t work for fifty years, it’s time to try something new. Our shift in Cuba policy has the potential to end a legacy of mistrust in our hemisphere; removes a phony excuse for restrictions in Cuba; stands up for democratic values; and extends the hand of friendship to the Cuban people,” Obama said. “And this year, Congress should begin the work of ending the embargo. As His Holiness, Pope Francis, has said, diplomacy is the work of “small steps.” These small steps have added up to new hope for the future in Cuba. And after years in prison, we’re overjoyed that Alan Gross is back where he belongs. Welcome home, Alan.”
Rep. French Hill, R-Little Rock, said the speech provided little specifics.
“What the President’s speech tonight boils down to is increased taxes, increased government, and increased national debt, but this isn’t what the American people called for last November. I had hoped the President would have committed to working with Congress, but instead he put forth a go-it-alone plan that would hurt hardworking taxpayers, make it harder for individuals and small businesses in Arkansas to obtain loans, and stifle our economic growth,” Hill said. “Before granting any request for new military authorization by the President, Congress must confirm an actual and effective strategy that not only combats radical Islamic terrorists wishing free nations harm but also reinforces American leadership. I am committed to working with my colleagues to support new trade agreements with Europe and Asia to help our economy and provide new trade opportunities for Arkansas.”
Hill said Congress has acted on the economy.
“The House has passed bipartisan measures to boost our economy and spur job creation, while the President has issued veto threats and unconstitutional executive actions. The American people are frustrated and want their government to work. It is time for us to come together and find solutions that will ensure our national security, grow our economy, and allow individuals and businesses in America to thrive,” Hill said.
Rep. Steve Womack, R-Rogers, said the President’s policies were dismissed at the polls last year.
“The ‘growing economy, shrinking deficits, bustling industry, and booming energy production’ President Obama talked about tonight have not happened because of him, but in spite of him and his repeated calls for higher taxes, more spending, and bigger government – policies that have been squarely rejected by the American people and stand in the way of what hardworking taxpayers need more than anything: jobs,” Womack said. “I was hopeful that President Obama would recognize the will of the American people and the message they sent in November, but in tonight’s State of the Union rerun, he blatantly disregarded both. What part of ‘jobs’ does he not understand?”