State of the Union and Rubio response discussion thread

President Barack Obama delivers another State of the Union address tonight, and U.S. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida is set to give the Republican response. I will miss most of the president’s speech but plan to watch the replay later and will update this post with highlights. Meanwhile, feel free to comment on any topics raised during the speeches in this thread.

UPDATE: Highlights from the speeches and reaction from the Iowans in Congress are after the jump.

I find it depressing that when I came home to catch up on the news, the blogosphere and twitterverse were obsessing over Rubio taking a drink of water during his remarks. So sue him, he’s not the most camera-savvy politician in Washington (yet). Who cares?

The full text from the State of the Union is on NPR’s website. Highlights:

But we gather here knowing that there are millions of Americans whose hard work and dedication have not yet been rewarded. Our economy is adding jobs – but too many people still can’t find full-time employment. Corporate profits have rocketed to all-time highs – but for more than a decade, wages and incomes have barely budged.

It is our generation’s task, then, to reignite the true engine of America’s economic growth – a rising, thriving middle class.

It is our unfinished task to restore the basic bargain that built this country – the idea that if you work hard and meet your responsibilities, you can get ahead, no matter where you come from, what you look like, or who you love.

It is our unfinished task to make sure that this government works on behalf of the many, and not just the few; that it encourages free enterprise, rewards individual initiative, and opens the doors of opportunity to every child across this great nation. […]

Our work must begin by making some basic decisions about our budget – decisions that will have a huge impact on the strength of our recovery.

Over the last few years, both parties have worked together to reduce the deficit by more than $2.5 trillion – mostly through spending cuts, but also by raising tax rates on the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans. As a result, we are more than halfway towards the goal of $4 trillion in deficit reduction that economists say we need to stabilize our finances.

Now we need to finish the job. And the question is, how?

In 2011, Congress passed a law saying that if both parties couldn’t agree on a plan to reach our deficit goal, about a trillion dollars’ worth of budget cuts would automatically go into effect this year. These sudden, harsh, arbitrary cuts would jeopardize our military readiness. They’d devastate priorities like education, energy, and medical research. They would certainly slow our recovery, and cost us hundreds of thousands of jobs. That’s why Democrats, Republicans, business leaders, and economists have already said that these cuts, known here in Washington as “the sequester,” are a really bad idea.

Now, some in this Congress have proposed preventing only the defense cuts by making even bigger cuts to things like education and job training; Medicare and Social Security benefits.

That idea is even worse. Yes, the biggest driver of our long-term debt is the rising cost of health care for an aging population. And those of us who care deeply about programs like Medicare must embrace the need for modest reforms – otherwise, our retirement programs will crowd out the investments we need for our children, and jeopardize the promise of a secure retirement for future generations.

But we can’t ask senior citizens and working families to shoulder the entire burden of deficit reduction while asking nothing more from the wealthiest and most powerful. We won’t grow the middle class simply by shifting the cost of health care or college onto families that are already struggling, or by forcing communities to lay off more teachers, cops, and firefighters. Most Americans – Democrats, Republicans, and Independents – understand that we can’t just cut our way to prosperity. They know that broad-based economic growth requires a balanced approach to deficit reduction, with spending cuts and revenue, and with everybody doing their fair share. And that’s the approach I offer tonight.

On Medicare, I’m prepared to enact reforms that will achieve the same amount of health care savings by the beginning of the next decade as the reforms proposed by the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles commission. Already, the Affordable Care Act is helping to slow the growth of health care costs. The reforms I’m proposing go even further. We’ll reduce taxpayer subsidies to prescription drug companies and ask more from the wealthiest seniors. We’ll bring down costs by changing the way our government pays for Medicare, because our medical bills shouldn’t be based on the number of tests ordered or days spent in the hospital – they should be based on the quality of care that our seniors receive. And I am open to additional reforms from both parties, so long as they don’t violate the guarantee of a secure retirement. Our government shouldn’t make promises we cannot keep – but we must keep the promises we’ve already made.

To hit the rest of our deficit reduction target, we should do what leaders in both parties have already suggested, and save hundreds of billions of dollars by getting rid of tax loopholes and deductions for the well-off and well-connected. After all, why would we choose to make deeper cuts to education and Medicare just to protect special interest tax breaks? How is that fair? How does that promote growth?

Now is our best chance for bipartisan, comprehensive tax reform that encourages job creation and helps bring down the deficit. The American people deserve a tax code that helps small businesses spend less time filling out complicated forms, and more time expanding and hiring; a tax code that ensures billionaires with high-powered accountants can’t pay a lower rate than their hard-working secretaries; a tax code that lowers incentives to move jobs overseas, and lowers tax rates for businesses and manufacturers that create jobs right here in America. That’s what tax reform can deliver. That’s what we can do together.

If we want to make the best products, we also have to invest in the best ideas. Every dollar we invested to map the human genome returned $140 to our economy. Today, our scientists are mapping the human brain to unlock the answers to Alzheimer’s; developing drugs to regenerate damaged organs; devising new material to make batteries ten times more powerful. Now is not the time to gut these job-creating investments in science and innovation. Now is the time to reach a level of research and development not seen since the height of the Space Race. And today, no area holds more promise than our investments in American energy.

After years of talking about it, we are finally poised to control our own energy future. We produce more oil at home than we have in 15 years. We have doubled the distance our cars will go on a gallon of gas, and the amount of renewable energy we generate from sources like wind and solar – with tens of thousands of good, American jobs to show for it. We produce more natural gas than ever before – and nearly everyone’s energy bill is lower because of it. And over the last four years, our emissions of the dangerous carbon pollution that threatens our planet have actually fallen.

But for the sake of our children and our future, we must do more to combat climate change. Yes, it’s true that no single event makes a trend. But the fact is, the 12 hottest years on record have all come in the last 15. Heat waves, droughts, wildfires, and floods – all are now more frequent and intense. We can choose to believe that Superstorm Sandy, and the most severe drought in decades, and the worst wildfires some states have ever seen were all just a freak coincidence. Or we can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment of science – and act before it’s too late.

The good news is, we can make meaningful progress on this issue while driving strong economic growth. I urge this Congress to pursue a bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change, like the one John McCain and Joe Lieberman worked on together a few years ago. But if Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will. I will direct my Cabinet to come up with executive actions we can take, now and in the future, to reduce pollution, prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change, and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy.

Four years ago, other countries dominated the clean energy market and the jobs that came with it. We’ve begun to change that. Last year, wind energy added nearly half of all new power capacity in America. So let’s generate even more. Solar energy gets cheaper by the year – so let’s drive costs down even further. As long as countries like China keep going all-in on clean energy, so must we.

In the meantime, the natural gas boom has led to cleaner power and greater energy independence. That’s why my Administration will keep cutting red tape and speeding up new oil and gas permits. But I also want to work with this Congress to encourage the research and technology that helps natural gas burn even cleaner and protects our air and water.

Indeed, much of our new-found energy is drawn from lands and waters that we, the public, own together. So tonight, I propose we use some of our oil and gas revenues to fund an Energy Security Trust that will drive new research and technology to shift our cars and trucks off oil for good. If a non-partisan coalition of CEOs and retired generals and admirals can get behind this idea, then so can we. Let’s take their advice and free our families and businesses from the painful spikes in gas prices we’ve put up with for far too long. I’m also issuing a new goal for America: let’s cut in half the energy wasted by our homes and businesses over the next twenty years. The states with the best ideas to create jobs and lower energy bills by constructing more efficient buildings will receive federal support to help make it happen.

America’s energy sector is just one part of an aging infrastructure badly in need of repair. Ask any CEO where they’d rather locate and hire: a country with deteriorating roads and bridges, or one with high-speed rail and internet; high-tech schools and self-healing power grids. The CEO of Siemens America – a company that brought hundreds of new jobs to North Carolina – has said that if we upgrade our infrastructure, they’ll bring even more jobs. And I know that you want these job-creating projects in your districts. I’ve seen you all at the ribbon-cuttings.

Tonight, I propose a “Fix-It-First” program to put people to work as soon as possible on our most urgent repairs, like the nearly 70,000 structurally deficient bridges across the country. And to make sure taxpayers don’t shoulder the whole burden, I’m also proposing a Partnership to Rebuild America that attracts private capital to upgrade what our businesses need most: modern ports to move our goods; modern pipelines to withstand a storm; modern schools worthy of our children. Let’s prove that there is no better place to do business than the United States of America. And let’s start right away. […]

Tonight, I propose working with states to make high-quality preschool available to every child in America. Every dollar we invest in high-quality early education can save more than seven dollars later on – by boosting graduation rates, reducing teen pregnancy, even reducing violent crime. In states that make it a priority to educate our youngest children, like Georgia or Oklahoma, studies show students grow up more likely to read and do math at grade level, graduate high school, hold a job, and form more stable families of their own. So let’s do what works, and make sure none of our children start the race of life already behind. Let’s give our kids that chance. […]

Our economy is stronger when we harness the talents and ingenuity of striving, hopeful immigrants. And right now, leaders from the business, labor, law enforcement, and faith communities all agree that the time has come to pass comprehensive immigration reform.

Real reform means strong border security, and we can build on the progress my Administration has already made – putting more boots on the southern border than at any time in our history, and reducing illegal crossings to their lowest levels in 40 years.

Real reform means establishing a responsible pathway to earned citizenship – a path that includes passing a background check, paying taxes and a meaningful penalty, learning English, and going to the back of the line behind the folks trying to come here legally.

And real reform means fixing the legal immigration system to cut waiting periods, reduce bureaucracy, and attract the highly-skilled entrepreneurs and engineers that will help create jobs and grow our economy. […]

We know our economy is stronger when our wives, mothers, and daughters can live their lives free from discrimination in the workplace, and free from the fear of domestic violence. Today, the Senate passed the Violence Against Women Act that Joe Biden originally wrote almost 20 years ago. I urge the House to do the same. And I ask this Congress to declare that women should earn a living equal to their efforts, and finally pass the Paycheck Fairness Act this year.

We know our economy is stronger when we reward an honest day’s work with honest wages. But today, a full-time worker making the minimum wage earns $14,500 a year. Even with the tax relief we’ve put in place, a family with two kids that earns the minimum wage still lives below the poverty line. That’s wrong. That’s why, since the last time this Congress raised the minimum wage, nineteen states have chosen to bump theirs even higher.

Tonight, let’s declare that in the wealthiest nation on Earth, no one who works full-time should have to live in poverty, and raise the federal minimum wage to $9.00 an hour. This single step would raise the incomes of millions of working families. It could mean the difference between groceries or the food bank; rent or eviction; scraping by or finally getting ahead. For businesses across the country, it would mean customers with more money in their pockets. In fact, working folks shouldn’t have to wait year after year for the minimum wage to go up while CEO pay has never been higher. So here’s an idea that Governor Romney and I actually agreed on last year: let’s tie the minimum wage to the cost of living, so that it finally becomes a wage you can live on.[…]

Tonight, we stand united in saluting the troops and civilians who sacrifice every day to protect us. Because of them, we can say with confidence that America will complete its mission in Afghanistan, and achieve our objective of defeating the core of al Qaeda. Already, we have brought home 33,000 of our brave servicemen and women. This spring, our forces will move into a support role, while Afghan security forces take the lead. Tonight, I can announce that over the next year, another 34,000 American troops will come home from Afghanistan. This drawdown will continue. And by the end of next year, our war in Afghanistan will be over.

Beyond 2014, America’s commitment to a unified and sovereign Afghanistan will endure, but the nature of our commitment will change. We are negotiating an agreement with the Afghan government that focuses on two missions: training and equipping Afghan forces so that the country does not again slip into chaos, and counter-terrorism efforts that allow us to pursue the remnants of al Qaeda and their affiliates. […]

But defending our freedom is not the job of our military alone. We must all do our part to make sure our God-given rights are protected here at home. That includes our most fundamental right as citizens: the right to vote. When any Americans – no matter where they live or what their party – are denied that right simply because they can’t wait for five, six, seven hours just to cast their ballot, we are betraying our ideals. That’s why, tonight, I’m announcing a non-partisan commission to improve the voting experience in America. And I’m asking two long-time experts in the field, who’ve recently served as the top attorneys for my campaign and for Governor Romney’s campaign, to lead it. We can fix this, and we will. The American people demand it. And so does our democracy.

Of course, what I’ve said tonight matters little if we don’t come together to protect our most precious resource – our children.

It has been two months since Newtown. I know this is not the first time this country has debated how to reduce gun violence. But this time is different. Overwhelming majorities of Americans – Americans who believe in the 2nd Amendment – have come together around commonsense reform – like background checks that will make it harder for criminals to get their hands on a gun. Senators of both parties are working together on tough new laws to prevent anyone from buying guns for resale to criminals. Police chiefs are asking our help to get weapons of war and massive ammunition magazines off our streets, because they are tired of being outgunned.

Each of these proposals deserves a vote in Congress. If you want to vote no, that’s your choice. But these proposals deserve a vote. Because in the two months since Newtown, more than a thousand birthdays, graduations, and anniversaries have been stolen from our lives by a bullet from a gun.

One of those we lost was a young girl named Hadiya Pendleton. She was 15 years old. She loved Fig Newtons and lip gloss. She was a majorette. She was so good to her friends, they all thought they were her best friend. Just three weeks ago, she was here, in Washington, with her classmates, performing for her country at my inauguration. And a week later, she was shot and killed in a Chicago park after school, just a mile away from my house.

Hadiya’s parents, Nate and Cleo, are in this chamber tonight, along with more than two dozen Americans whose lives have been torn apart by gun violence. They deserve a vote.

Gabby Giffords deserves a vote.

The families of Newtown deserve a vote.

The families of Aurora deserve a vote.

The families of Oak Creek, and Tucson, and Blacksburg, and the countless other communities ripped open by gun violence – they deserve a simple vote.

NPR also posted the full text from Rubio’s response on behalf of Republicans. I didn’t watch the whole delivery, but the speech seemed to hit a lot of stale talking points:

My parents immigrated here in pursuit of the opportunity to improve their life and give their children the chance at an even better one. They made it to the middle class, my dad working as a bartender and my mother as a cashier and a maid. I didn’t inherit any money from them. But I inherited something far better – the real opportunity to accomplish my dreams.

This opportunity – to make it to the middle class or beyond no matter where you start out in life – it isn’t bestowed on us from Washington. It comes from a vibrant free economy where people can risk their own money to open a business. And when they succeed, they hire more people, who in turn invest or spend the money they make, helping others start a business and create jobs.

Presidents in both parties – from John F. Kennedy to Ronald Reagan – have known that our free enterprise economy is the source of our middle class prosperity.

But President Obama? He believes it’s the cause of our problems. That the economic downturn happened because our government didn’t tax enough, spend enough and control enough. And, therefore, as you heard tonight, his solution to virtually every problem we face is for Washington to tax more, borrow more and spend more.

This idea – that our problems were caused by a government that was too small – it’s just not true. In fact, a major cause of our recent downturn was a housing crisis created by reckless government policies.

And the idea that more taxes and more government spending is the best way to help hardworking middle class taxpayers – that’s an old idea that’s failed every time it’s been tried.

More government isn’t going to help you get ahead. It’s going to hold you back.

More government isn’t going to create more opportunities. It’s going to limit them.

And more government isn’t going to inspire new ideas, new businesses and new private sector jobs. It’s going to create uncertainty.

Because more government breeds complicated rules and laws that a small business can’t afford to follow.

Because more government raises taxes on employers who then pass the costs on to their employees through fewer hours, lower pay and even layoffs.

And because many government programs that claim to help the middle class, often end up hurting them instead.

For example, Obamacare was supposed to help middle class Americans afford health insurance. But now, some people are losing the health insurance they were happy with. And because Obamacare created expensive requirements for companies with more than 50 employees, now many of these businesses aren’t hiring. Not only that; they’re being forced to lay people off and switch from full-time employees to part-time workers.

Now does this mean there’s no role for government? Of course not. It plays a crucial part in keeping us safe, enforcing rules, and providing some security against the risks of modern life. But government’s role is wisely limited by the Constitution. And it can’t play its essential role when it ignores those limits.

There are valid reasons to be concerned about the President’s plan to grow our government. But any time anyone opposes the President’s agenda, he and his allies usually respond by falsely attacking their motives.

When we point out that no matter how many job-killing laws we pass, our government can’t control the weather – he accuses us of wanting dirty water and dirty air.

When we suggest we strengthen our safety net programs by giving states more flexibility to manage them – he accuses us of wanting to leave the elderly and disabled to fend for themselves.

And tonight, he even criticized us for refusing to raise taxes to delay military cuts – cuts that were his idea in the first place.

But his favorite attack of all is that those who don’t agree with him – they only care about rich people.

Mr. President, I still live in the same working class neighborhood I grew up in. My neighbors aren’t millionaires. They’re retirees who depend on Social Security and Medicare. They’re workers who have to get up early tomorrow morning and go to work to pay the bills. They’re immigrants, who came here because they were stuck in poverty in countries where the government dominated the economy.

The tax increases and the deficit spending you propose will hurt middle class families. It will cost them their raises. It will cost them their benefits. It may even cost some of them their jobs.

And it will hurt seniors because it does nothing to save Medicare and Social Security.

So Mr. President, I don’t oppose your plans because I want to protect the rich. I oppose your plans because I want to protect my neighbors.

Hard-working middle class Americans who don’t need us to come up with a plan to grow the government. They want a plan to grow the middle class.

Economic growth is the best way to help the middle class. Unfortunately, our economy actually shrank during the last three months of 2012.

But if we can get the economy to grow at just 4 percent a year, it would create millions of middle class jobs. And it could reduce our deficits by almost $4 trillion dollars over the next decade.

Tax increases can’t do this. Raising taxes won’t create private sector jobs. And there’s no realistic tax increase that could lower our deficits by almost $4 trillion. That’s why I hope the President will abandon his obsession with raising taxes and instead work with us to achieve real growth in our economy.

One of the best ways to encourage growth is through our energy industry. Of course solar and wind energy should be a part of our energy portfolio. But God also blessed America with abundant coal, oil and natural gas. Instead of wasting more taxpayer money on so-called “clean energy” companies like Solyndra, let’s open up more federal lands for safe and responsible exploration. And let’s reform our energy regulations so that they’re reasonable and based on common sense. If we can grow our energy industry, it will make us energy independent, it will create middle class jobs and it will help bring manufacturing back from places like China.

Simplifying our tax code will also help the middle class, because it will make it easier for small businesses to hire and grow.

And we agree with the President that we should lower our corporate tax rate, which is one of the highest in the world, so that companies will start bringing their money and their jobs back here from overseas.

We can also help our economy grow if we have a legal immigration system that allows us to attract and assimilate the world’s best and brightest. We need a responsible, permanent solution to the problem of those who are here illegally. But first, we must follow through on the broken promises of the past to secure our borders and enforce our laws.

Helping the middle class grow will also require an education system that gives people the skills today’s jobs entail and the knowledge that tomorrow’s world will require.

We need to incentivize local school districts to offer more advanced placement courses and more vocational and career training.

We need to give all parents, especially the parents of children with special needs, the opportunity to send their children to the school of their choice.

And because tuition costs have grown so fast, we need to change the way we pay for higher education.


All these measures are key to helping the economy grow. But we won’t be able to sustain a vibrant middle class unless we solve our debt problem.

Every dollar our government borrows is money that isn’t being invested to create jobs. And the uncertainty created by the debt is one reason why many businesses aren’t hiring.

The President loves to blame the debt on President Bush. But President Obama created more debt in four years than his predecessor did in eight.

The real cause of our debt is that our government has been spending 1 trillion dollars more than it takes in every year. That’s why we need a balanced budget amendment.

The biggest obstacles to balancing the budget are programs where spending is already locked in. One of these programs, Medicare, is especially important to me. It provided my father the care he needed to battle cancer and ultimately die with dignity. And it pays for the care my mother receives now.

I would never support any changes to Medicare that would hurt seniors like my mother. But anyone who is in favor of leaving Medicare exactly the way it is right now, is in favor of bankrupting it.

Republicans have offered a detailed and credible plan that helps save Medicare without hurting today’s retirees. Instead of playing politics with Medicare, when is the President going to offer his plan to save it? Tonight would have been a good time for him to do it.

Of course, we face other challenges as well. We were all heart broken by the recent tragedy in Connecticut. We must effectively deal with the rise of violence in our country. But unconstitutionally undermining the 2nd Amendment rights of law-abiding Americans is not the way to do it.

On foreign policy, America continues to be indispensable to the goal of global liberty, prosperity and safeguarding human rights. The world is a better place when America is the strongest nation on earth. But we can’t remain powerful if we don’t have an economy that can afford it.

In the short time I’ve been here in Washington, nothing has frustrated me more than false choices like the ones the President laid out tonight.

The choice isn’t just between big government or big business. What we need is an accountable, efficient and effective government that allows small and new businesses to create middle class jobs.

We don’t have to raise taxes to avoid the President’s devastating cuts to our military. Republicans have passed a plan that replaces these cuts with responsible spending reforms.

In order to balance our budget, the choice doesn’t have to be either higher taxes or dramatic benefit cuts for those in need. Instead we should grow our economy so that we create new taxpayers, not new taxes, and so our government can afford to help those who truly cannot help themselves.

And the truth is every problem can’t be solved by government. Many are caused by the moral breakdown in our society. And the answers to those challenges lie primarily in our families and our faiths, not our politicians.

Statement from Senator Tom Harkin:

“Tonight the President outlined a pro-job, pro-growth agenda that will rebuild America’s middle class and continue our path to economic recovery.  The President’s plan is designed to help Americans across the full spectrum: from creating jobs to ensuring that all Americans, including individuals with disabilities, have the skills to compete in a 21st-century global economy.  The President’s agenda is aimed at restoring the promise of the American middle class-that if you work hard and play by the rules, you will be able to earn a fair wage, send your kids to college, and build a nest egg for retirement.

“I was encouraged by his proposals to promote manufacturing and a modern, efficient infrastructure.  Both efforts are immediate job creators.  In education, modern science teaches us that learning starts at birth, and preparation for learning starts before birth.  We know that investing in early childhood education has a high rate of return, so I was heartened by the President’s plan.  His focus on higher education, including the college scorecard, will help increase affordability and accessibility for our nation’s students.  I plan to work closely with the President and his Administration on efforts to reduce the burden of student debt.   His proposals on clean energy will help states like Iowa continue to lead our green economy into the future.

“With a deadline looming, the President outlined a balanced approach to deficit reduction.  I could not agree more.  For too long, many in Washington have been pushing not just misguided budgets, but a dangerously misguided premise – that America is broke, and that we can no longer afford the investments that make possible a strong middle class and a world-class economy.  The fact is, we cannot simply cut our way out of this mess.

“In his inaugural address, President Obama said we can invest in a new generation without pitting it against the generation who built so much of the freedom, security and prosperity we already enjoy as a nation.  In his speech tonight, the President laid out a vision for doing just that – a vision that Iowans and all Americans broadly support.”

Statement from Senator Chuck Grassley:

Senator Chuck Grassley made the comment below in response to the President’s speech tonight.

“President Obama is a talented speaker and his White House has proven to be politically skilled.  At the start of the President’s second term, America needs the White House to set aside its campaign apparatus and take the lead with bipartisan discussions and policy work.  People at the grass roots know our country can’t afford to have those in charge in Washington continue putting off the hard work.

“The biggest challenge for America since President Obama was elected has been the economy and jobs.  By and large, the President’s programs have been enacted and in a partisan way.  The programs haven’t worked, with Americans facing an unemployment rate higher than 7.5 percent through next year.  America’s credit rating was downgraded for the first time ever.  Yet in his Inaugural address three weeks ago, the President barely mentioned the economy and jobs.

“Employers need Washington to create an environment for job creation, with tax certainty, regulatory relief, new market opportunities for exports, affordable and secure energy, an education system that works, and fiscal responsibility with public dollars, including an effort to reform entitlement programs.  If structural reforms aren’t made, we won’t be able to keep the promise already made, as the President said, to future generations.  Growing deficits and debt are moral issues, too, because if we don’t act to curb excessive government spending, our children and grandchildren won’t inherit the same opportunities we did to work hard, earn a living, and build a better life.

“Americans also need bipartisan leadership on other big issues.  Historically, major reforms have been made with broad-based bipartisan backing.  That kind of support ought to be the goal for initiatives like immigration reform and other priorities, including gun violence and protecting the 2nd Amendment, transportation, and national and homeland security.  In addition, policy changes should be made through elected representatives in Congress, who are the voice of the people in our system of government and can be held accountable more directly than the executive branch of our government.  Transparency must be a reality not just rhetoric.  Abuse of executive authority jeopardizes the checks and balances fundamental to our democracy and government of, by, and for the people.

“Strong leadership takes more than lofty words and goals presented in a speech.  It takes the hard work of sitting down with people with different points of view to work through the issues.  It takes fighting for ideas and finding consensus.  It takes sweating the details.  The coming months will show if the President has what it takes to reach across party lines and tackle major issues facing this great nation.”

Statement from Representative Bruce Braley (D, IA-01):

“I’m glad to hear President Obama refocus on the economy tonight.  Congress and the President cannot lose focus on the struggles of the middle class in our country.

“We need a balanced approach to deal with the budget deficit, not a piecemeal approach while standing on the edge of a fiscal cliff.  We won’t solve this problem unless members of both parties work together.

“But the best way to deal with the budget is to get this economy growing faster and creating good-paying jobs.  Doing that takes smart investments in job training, education, infrastructure, and cutting edge technology.”

Statement from Representative Dave Loebsack (D, IA-02):

Washington, D.C. – Congressman Dave Loebsack released the following statement after President Obama delivered the State of the Union Address.  In the spirit of civility and bipartisan cooperation, for the second year in a row, Loebsack sat with Congressman Justin Amash (R-MI-03) for tonight’s address.  Loebsack and Amash recently joined together to introduce a bipartisan balanced budget amendment.  As a member of the No Labels “problem solvers” group, Loebsack wore an orange lapel pin that read “Stop Fighting, Start Fixing”.  The bipartisan organization works to bring Democrats and Republicans together to achieve across the aisle cooperation.

“In what remains a deeply divided nation, where there are few things on which many people agree, growing our economy and creating jobs remains a goal that we can all work towards.  I was glad to hear the President focus so much of his attention on these important issues.  I strongly believe that we must confront the fiscal problems that are facing our nation, but as the President said, we must do this from the middle out, not the top down.  I was happy to hear the President talk about the importance of investing in education for kids of all ages.  It is one of the best ways to ensure the middle class will prosper.

“When we have a strong middle class, we have a strong nation. We must get the budget in order, but it must be done in a balanced way. It cannot be done on the backs of seniors, the middle-class, and hard working families.

“I was also pleased to hear the President focus on investing in clean energy, including wind energy.  I have long been a supporter of the Production Tax Credit, which supports the growth of wind energy jobs in Iowa and across the nation, while lessening our dependence on fossil fuels.  7,000 Iowans are employed in the wind energy industry in Iowa alone and it is important we continue to support and grow this home grown industry.”

I hate when Democrats who should know better demagogue on the balanced budget amendment, a truly horrendous policy. Loebsack is no Tom Harkin, that’s for sure.

I don’t have the full statement from Representative Tom Latham (R, IA-03), because despite repeated requests, his office will not add me to their press list. Oooh, scary liberal blogger!

The Des Moines Register posted parts of his “reaction,” which was written ahead of time.

Republican Tom Latham’s statement hit reporters’ in-boxes when President Barack Obama was still on page 4 of his 13-page State of the Union speech.

The Iowa congressman, seated in the back row, rarely clapped and never rose to applaud the Democratic commander-in-chief. Latham’s emailed statement rejected “unrestrained spending” and “the plague of a runaway $16 trillion debt,” but added that he stands “ready to work with any of my colleagues, regardless of party affiliation.”

“There’s hope, I think, for immigration reform,” Latham told The Des Moines Register in an interview after the speech, but added that the president “has got to show some leadership.” […]

Latham said: “While (Obama) spoke somewhat about getting the economy going and creating jobs, his approach is not going to work. … We’ve got to address the spending problem we have and he just wants to raise taxes.”

The preschool idea “sounds good,” Latham said, but he questioned whether it’s worth higher taxes and one more federal program. Latham wants to see people do well in the private sector, he said, but he’s concerned how raising the minimum wage and tying it to the cost of living would hit small businesses.

Representative Steve King (R, IA-04), released a video statement:

Partial transcript, provided by King’s office:

“President Obama has said to us, American citizens, that we do not have a spending problem with our Federal Government. Here tonight he laid out a series of things that are spending problems that we have and the President is determined to grow the United States government. When he does that, all the growth that we would have in our government spending comes from borrowing.

We’re right now borrowing 40 cents out of every dollar that we’re spending. The President’s pushing for more, it results in tax increases. We have to stop the irresponsible spending. It’s the most important piece of this message that I glean from listening to the President. We don’t have a spending problem? Yes, we do Mr. President.”

King went on to criticize comprehensive immigration reform, “gun grabbers,” and argued that if this country continues to overspend, we will end up like Spain and Greece. King advocated a balanced budget constitutional amendment.

Radio Iowa posted more reaction from Iowa’s members of Congress. Excerpts:

Congressman Tom Latham, a Republican from Clive, said there were some things in the speech he agreed with. “I think certainly the concept of adjusting the immigration problem, if they can come up with a good bipartisan solution that secures the border and certifies that and have a good frank discussion about the future as far our undocumented immigrants in this country is something we can all work on,” according to Latham.

Latham did [n]ot like the president’s threat to enact climate change regulation through executive order. “Individuals everywhere are scared to death of a lot of new regulations coming down that are gonna cost them a great deal of money and really be an impairment as far as economic growth and job creation,” Latham said.

“It’s one of the big reasons we can’t get more people working is people are scared of what he is talking about.” […]

Grassley is also concerned about the president saying he will use executive orders on climate control if he doesn’t get the action he wants. “He tends to take every leeway that the law maybe gives him to the maximum. You can’t say ‘when Congress won’t act, I will,’ you can only act under the Constitution of this country…. The president just can’t just willy-nilly decide he wants to do something,” Grassley said.

The senator did find something he liked about the address. “What I thought was positive – probably didn’t get much attention and I hope it gets more attention in the future – we’ve got to keep college tuition costs down,” Grassley said.

LATE UPDATE: Latham’s press release finally appeared on his official website.

“As the economy has gone almost 50 months with unemployment at or above 7.8 percent, shrunk 0.1 percent in the last quarter and continued to suffer the plague of a runaway $16 trillion debt, Official Washington’s focus must remain on promoting job growth and fiscal responsibility. It would betray our nation’s exceptional tradition to accept grim economic news and unrestrained spending as just part of life in the new America.

“Iowans by their nature are humble and accountable, and they exercise commonsense judgment in their daily lives. I will continue to bring these values to my service in Congress and stand ready to work with any of my colleagues, regardless of party affiliation, to put people before politics and progress before partisanship to solve the urgent problems facing our country today.”

  • Gallery tickets

    A Register story discussed how the Iowa delegation distributed the gallery tickets they received for guests.

    King’s choice for a gallery ticket was Tea Party extremist Jenny Beth Martin. When the Supreme Court ruled that Obamacare is constitutional, she said, “Historians are going to look back on today and equate it with Plessy vs. Ferguson and Dred Scott.” Really? Obamacare = Segregation and slavery?

    By contrast, giving his ticket to Gabby Giffords was a classy thing for Bruce Braley to do.

  • Yep

    I find it depressing that when I came home to catch up on the news, the blogosphere and twitterverse were obsessing over Rubio taking a drink of water during his remarks.

    Hundreds of stories, blogs, and tweets about a drink of water…very few about the message.

    This tells me that the response Senator Rubio gave was above average, and certainly better than those given by Bobby Jindal, Mitch Daniels, Bob McDonnell, and Paul Ryan.  

    When Daily Kos creates more posts about bottled water than about the speech itself, it creates an impression that they “got nothing” on Rubio.  It’s one of the most prominent liberal blogs in America and they created a front page post titled, “The sip of water laughed at worldwide.”

    Oddly enough, citizens around the world didn’t laugh; in fact, they didn’t even care.  In fact, this type of inane headline makes their website a little more laughable. Actually, I’m with you desmoinesdem…the focus on stupid issues like this is depressing, not laughable.

    • I don't think the speech was very good

      based on reading the text. There were a lot of rehashed talking points from last year’s campaign, plus some anecdotes about why government programs helped Marco Rubio, which makes me wonder why he’s so sure “big government” can’t help other people.

      If the GOP thinks that having Rubio deliver the same old message is all the reinventing they need to do, that’s fine by me.

  • My thoughts exactly

    I watched parts of Rubio’s speech. The same old talking points delivered by a Hispanic guy does not seem like a winning formula to me.

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