State of the Union discussion thread

President Barack Obama delivers the State of the Union address tonight. Share any comments about his speech or his presidency in this thread.

I find the prospect of a Democratic president arguing for austerity budgeting deeply depressing. A domestic budget freeze is a bad idea, and an earmark ban is just a waste of time. Earmarks don’t add to the deficit; they just give members of Congress more power to control how certain pots of money are spent.

I cannot believe how much media coverage has been wasted on plans for some Democrats and Republicans to sit together for the State of the Union. Who cares?

The “revisionist history” blaming Rahm Emanuel for Obama’s mistakes during his first two years sounds pathetic, even though I am not at all an admirer of Emanuel.

UPDATE: John Deeth is liveblogging at his place.

SECOND UPDATE: I don’t know why Obama is so intent on repeating the “great mistake” of 1937.

I’ve posted statements released by Iowa’s Congressional delegation after the jump.

Statement from Senator Tom Harkin:

“Last year, I listened as the President laid out in real terms the state of our economy and the tough road ahead.  He spoke of the need for job creation to restore our economy.  In the past year, Congress and the White House worked together to make our economy work again for hardworking Americans.

“We brought health care costs under control with the new health reform law, which I was proud to help craft.  We also took action on a long-overdue effort to make college more affordable.  And Congress passed and the President signed into law a new financial reform effort to help stabilize our economy, make future bailouts less likely and protect families on Main Street from abusive financial practices.  

“In the upcoming year, Congress will continue the effort to create jobs, restore the economy and reduce our deficit.  Tonight, President Obama laid out a number of steps on which Congress and the President can work together to achieve that goal.

“As Chairman of the Senate HELP Committee, I was encouraged by the President’s strong focus on education reform as an engine for economic growth.  Teachers across the country work hard every day to educate our children. It’s past time for Congress to do its job and fix the No Child Left Behind Act and I look forward to leading this bipartisan effort.  Advancing education reform through a new Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) will help ensure that all students can attend high-quality schools that equip them with the skills and knowledge to succeed in college, careers and the global economy.

“The recently passed health reform law, something I have long believed was a starter home from which to continue to build, put health decisions back in patient’s hands – not the insurance companies.  That important bill provided new protections to consumers by ending discrimination against those with pre-existing conditions, allowing parents to keep their kids on their insurance until age 26 and investing in prevention efforts to keep Americans healthy.  I was pleased to hear the President defend these important protections and suggest we build on them as we move forward.  

“The health reform bill was also a deficit reduction bill, saving the federal government over $1 trillion over the next 20 years.  Just two weeks ago, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the House Republicans’ repeal effort will drive up the deficit by nearly a quarter trillion dollars over ten years.  Health reform was the first of many efforts Democrats will take to reduce our deficit and rein in spending.   We will continue these efforts in this Congress.  There is room for significant but smart cuts in both domestic spending and defense programs.   And we also have to have a real conversation on fair taxation, which includes making sure higher income Americans and corporations pay their fair share.

“Budget cutting rhetoric is one thing, but reality is much more difficult.  That is why it is so important that our deficit reduction efforts be done in a smart way.  These cuts should not impede our recovery or be borne disproportionately by working Americans.  And they should still allow us to invest in our future.

“The economy is slowly getting back on track.  With bipartisan cooperation, Congress and the Obama Administration can accelerate that recovery.”

Statement from Senator Chuck Grassley:

The top priorities have to be job creation and fiscal discipline, and there ought to be broad-based political support for those goals.  It seems like the President has come to this realization after last November’s election.  The new seating arrangement for tonight’s State of the Union address is symbolic, but it can’t do as much as the tone set by the President in his remarks and, even more so, the follow through after the speech.

I had constituent meetings in 24 Iowa counties last week and heard employers say they need long-term tax certainty and tax reforms to enhance competitiveness and enable job creation.  They need relief from costly mandates and regulations that undo any benefit they’re supposed to get from the federal government, especially in rural America.  The President’s goal to look at contradictory or unneeded regulations is welcome, and I intend to give him some common sense ideas from Iowa to get started.  Washington also should foster innovation and the resulting economic opportunities with initiatives such as patent reform.

American manufacturers, farmers and service industries need new markets for exports.  International trade leads to higher paying jobs and new opportunities for workers.  It’s time for the administration to match its rhetoric with reality by getting the United States off the sidelines and finalizing valuable trade agreements that have been pending for years.  The rest of the world is moving forward without us, at the expense of America’s workforce.  For example, Caterpillar is waiting to export more bulldozers made in Illinois to Colombia under a free-trade agreement signed in 2006 but never implemented.  If U.S. companies can’t get access to foreign markets, companies in other countries will.  The President’s stated goal of doubling exports will be hard to achieve on the margins, without trade agreements.  I want to work with him to achieve those agreements, if he’s willing to back his words with action.

A positive outcome of the 2010 election must be fiscal restraint.  That needs to include spending freezes, spending reductions, and beefed up efforts to stop fraud, waste and abuse of tax dollars.  The renewed effort to pass a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution is very good news for taxpayers and good government.  It should be accompanied by line-item veto authority for the President.  Both measures would result in greater accountability in Washington.

Statement from Representative Bruce Braley:

“In tonight’s speech, President Obama presented an ambitious vision for our country’s future – it’s a vision that I’ve been fighting for since I came to Congress.

“I fully support an innovation agenda for America. In Iowa, we are already leading the way in new energies like biofuels – with help from legislation like the New Era Act, which I introduced and passed into law, Eastern Iowa Community College and Hawkeye Community College are training the next generation of biofuels technicians right now.

“And I commend the President for recognizing the state of Iowa when he talked about expanding high-speed Internet to rural communities. It’s great to hear that this is high on his priority list, because it certainly is on mine.

“But even as we work to create the jobs of tomorrow, we cannot forget about jobs today – and the people who depend on having jobs today. American manufacturing is hurting – I’ve seen it in companies like Wilbert Plastic Service in Winthrop which has been open since the 1960’s. They employed over a hundred people. And they had to close down last year. This is unacceptable to me – and I won’t stop working until we can bring about a resurgence of American manufacturing. Because if we want families to make it in Iowa – or anywhere in America – we need to make things in America once again.

“I look forward to working with the President, and my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to create jobs, to cut the deficit in a responsible way, to simplify government, to take care of our veterans and military families – and to give hard-working Americans in all of our districts a chance to succeed.”

Statement from Representative Dave Loebsack:

“The President’s address this evening tapped into some of the concerns and worries that I hear from Iowans every time I go home, job creation and economic development. Our country is on the road to recovery, but far too many Iowans are still struggling. Going forward, our focus needs to be on growing an economy that works for Iowa and our country.

“There is no over-night fix for our nation’s economy, and it is going to take a comprehensive approach to move our country forward. From advancing my workforce development initiative to spur industry growth and job creation through worker training; ensuring our children receive a world-class education; supporting key drivers of our economy such as small businesses, manufacturing, infrastructure, renewable energy, and 21st century technologies; and making the tough choices necessary to put our fiscal house in order, I am committed to tackling our economic challenges head-on.

“Iowans are tired of the dysfunction in Washington and they want to see the work of the American people get done. I am pleased that President Obama emphasized the need to look beyond our partisan differences to take on the challenges that are facing our nation. The time is long past due for Congress to come together to craft common-sense solutions to create jobs, right our economy, and put our country back on a sustainable and responsible path.”

Statement from Representative Leonard Boswell:

“President Obama’s remarks laid out a blueprint for how our country can move forward together to create jobs, grow the middle class, and reduce the deficit.  I appreciate that the President has directed Congress to focus on the number one issue on every Iowan’s mind – job creation and the economy – and highlighted ways that we can do that such as rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure, investing in Iowa’s energy industry, building American goods with American hands, and helping more students go to college. This is crucial to making our nation competitive with the rest of world.”

“The President also made an important call for fiscal responsibility with a five-year freeze on discretionary spending. In the 111th Congress, my colleagues and I made bold choices that pulled our economy out of a recession to the point where it is growing again and unemployment is on the decline in Iowa. Now it is time to tighten our purse strings, do away with programs that are not working or duplicative, while continuing to support the initiatives that are responsible for creating an environment where our economy can grow. I support the President in this call.”

“In the 112th Congress, I am hopeful that lawmakers can continue the feelings of camaraderie and good will that grew out of the tragedy in Tucson, and work together toward building solutions that work for every American.”

Statement from Representative Tom Latham:

“As President Obama correctly noted in his address, our country faces grave challenges on a number of fronts. First and foremost, leaders in Washington must focus on creating jobs, strengthening our economy and putting Americans back to work. A real economic recovery will not take root, however, until Congress and the White House show a commitment to fiscal restraint. Our country’s economic health is closely linked with its fiscal standing.

“But we must never lose sight of how the decisions made in Washington have a real impact on American families, farmers, workers and small business owners. These challenges are far too big for any single leader or political party to face alone. I’m committed to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle in Congress and with the White House to move our country forward toward prosperity and growth. Every time our country has found itself in a moment of peril, we have risen to the challenge. I have no doubt that the American people – regardless of political persuasion or background – will again live up to that proud tradition.”

Statement from Representative Steve King:

“He said he wants to freeze domestic spending for five years, but he didn’t say whether it was 2011 levels or 2008 levels. That’s a huge difference. I think the remarks he made in respect to cutting corporate taxes is a good thing. The way he addressed the Obamacare repeal was personable. It’s interesting that he’s willing to talk about amending it. I put a happy smile by the place in his speech about tort reform.”

Statement from Iowa Democratic Party chair Sue Dvorsky:

“Tonight, President Obama issued a challenge to Democrats and Republicans to continue moving our nation in the right direction by investing in our future. At the heart of President Obama’s proposals, there is a clear commitment to renewable energy and education for all Americans. Two areas in which Iowa is poised to become a national leader.

“Realizing the need to look forward and innovate, Iowa already has committed itself to attracting renewable energy companies. Today, through the Iowa Power Fund, we’re set to create up to 22,000 green-collar jobs and have already brought $300 million in federal and private investments into Iowa. With 20 percent of our energy produced from renewable sources, Iowa is well on its way to reducing our dependence on foreign oil and reaching the President’s goal of creating 80 percent of our nation’s energy from clean sources by 2035. On education, we have made a commitment to preschool for all Iowans. In the words of President Obama, ‘When a child walks into a classroom, it should be a place of high expectations and high performance.’ This is the promise we’ve made to parents and children by offering universal preschool, taught by certified teachers, in over 90 percent of Iowa counties.

“While we are poised to lead the nation, our progress continues to be challenged. It is my hope that President Obama’s commitment to moving our nation forward is shared by all Iowans, regardless of political party, and that we will work together to continue our economic progress by creating 21st century jobs and investing in the future of the United States of America.”

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