Reax to SOTU 2013: Divided along party lines
President Obama’s one-hour State of the Union Speech gave commentators much to talk about. Early reactions divided along party lines.
Senate Majority Harry Reid (D-Nev.) praised the president: “President Obama delivered a clear vision for strengthening the middle class and creating a foundation for long-term growth. The President outlined an agenda in which fairness is not just a principle for which to strive, but a powerful engine of growth and prosperity for all Americans. Senate Democrats stand ready to work with him to make his agenda a reality, and we are already making significant progress toward fixing our broken immigration system and addressing gun violence in our society.”
That was challenged by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) also his party’s nominee for vice president last November: “We need to balance the budget. Otherwise, we’ll provoke a debt crisis. Our finances will collapse. The economy will stall. And the most vulnerable will suffer. Instead, we have to budget responsibly—so we can expand opportunity for everyone in this country.
“I’m concerned the President doesn’t fully appreciate the challenge of our national debt—and its threat to our economy. Tonight, he outlined many new programs in detail. But when it came to spending restraint, he was remarkably brief. He overstated his administration’s success on this front. And he downplayed the task before us.
“This isn’t a partisan issue. It’s math. Over the last four years, the national debt grew by $6 trillion, the largest increase of any presidency. But the President hasn’t changed course.”
On immigration, Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) backed the president: “I agree with the president that we need comprehensive immigration reform, including increased border security and pathways to citizenship for the over 11 million people living and working in the United States.”
That was seconded by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.): “I’m pleased the president outlined steps to fix our broken immigration system in ways that are fair and sensible. We must meet the needs of families and workers while providing effective enforcement and security at the borders, and we have to include a pathway to earned citizenship.”
Criticism came from Israel Ortega, editor of Libertad.org and Spanish Media Associate at the Heritage Foundation: “Add meaningful reforms to our immigration system unless the President drops his insistence on dealing with immigration policy in one gargantuan comprehensive bill.
“The President was right to talk about ways of streamlining legal immigration by reducing bureaucracy, but lumping in citizenship for the 11 million undocumented workers in a singular stand-alone bill will surely make the task more difficult where he knows even members of his own party are reluctant to vote in favor a bill that undermines the rule of law.
“This zero-sum approach is a disservice to our country of immigrants that is revitalized every time a naturalization ceremony takes place. We desperately need to take meaningful steps to improve our immigration system so that it works effectively and allows for increased legal immigration while discouraging illegal immigration.”
Sherman also attacked any potential government shutdown: “The President is right to focus our immediate attention on our economy and the need to create more jobs. Nothing would hurt our recovering economy more than sequestration or a federal government shutdown. Once we see significant and consistent economic growth and get Americans successfully back to work we can begin focusing on long-term deficit reduction.
“Additionally, we must close loopholes like those that benefit people who shift profits overseas and those that provide subsidies to oil companies. However, provisions that allow middle class families to deduct home mortgage interest and state and local taxes are not loopholes.”
The chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) looked at things differently: “Tonight, I’d hoped to hear from the President his vision for us working together to create a better America. Instead, I heard those same old lines and repackaged ideas of spending our way into prosperity.
“Investing in America isn’t about the government taking your money and investing it. It’s about you taking your money and investing it in those things that create high paying American jobs. I believe we can get there. I believe we have to get there.
“To get there, we need the President working with us and the private sector, in a way that wasn’t presented tonight.”
President Obama’s emotional appeal for eviscerating the Second Amendment “right to keep and bear arms” was backed by Feinstein, the author of major gun-control legislation: “The president tonight repeated his call for Congress to pass commonsense reforms to our nation’s gun laws. I appreciate his leadership in the ongoing struggle to remove weapons of war from our streets and require universal background checks. It’s only through reasonable laws like the Assault Weapons Ban of 2013, which the president supports, that we will finally begin to see a decline in the terrible mass shootings that have devastated families and traumatized the nation.”
A video response to the State of the Union address featured National Rifle Association chief lobbyist Chris Cox, who said: “Obama’s experts say that a gun ban, like the one being debated right now in Congress, will not work without mandatory ‘gun buybacks and not exemptions.’ Mandatory gun buybacks. That’s government confiscation of legal firearms owned by honest citizens. Requiring gun registration with the federal government, that’s an illegal abuse of privacy and freedom unprecedented in our history.”