2013 SOTU reax roundup
The following are responses to President Obama’s 2013 State of the Union Address from members of Congress, political leaders from both parties and experts in their field:
Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) chair of the House Republican Conference:
Republicans hoped the president would use the State of the Union as an opportunity to seriously talk about his plan to create jobs and grow the economy, but his plans are what we’ve heard before: more spending and higher taxes. The president showed once again that he is out of touch with the majority of hardworking Americans by not proposing a credible plan to control Washington spending and reduce our debt.
President Obama also failed to bring forward a serious replacement to his own devastating sequester. If the President does not get serious soon, his inaction will trigger dangerous, across-the-board cuts on March 1 that will hurt hardworking taxpayers across the country. The House adopted legislation twice to replace the president’s arbitrary cuts. Tonight’s speech was nicely phrased and well delivered, but now we need more than empty rhetoric. We need a plan – to replace his sequester, create opportunities for middle-class families, and get Americans back to work.
Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.):
I am pleased the president challenged us to adopt common sense gun safety legislation. I have consistently supported measures that the president mentioned including limiting magazine sizes and demanding universal background checks.
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.
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.
And as Ranking Member on the subcommittee overseeing nonproliferation and terrorism, I appreciate the president’s focus on the dangers presented by North Korea and Iran and worldwide cyber-terrorism.”
Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) chairman of the House Financial Services Committee:
The president’s speech tonight can be summed up in a few short words: same song, different verse. By and large, the problems we face today – out of control spending, high unemployment, rising health care costs, entitlement programs on a fast track to insolvency – are not new. Regrettably, neither are the president’s solutions to these problems.
For the past four years, the president has talked about the problems we face and promised solutions. Unfortunately, the results have failed to live up to his rhetoric.
Al Cardenas, chairman of the American Conservative Union:
Senator Marco Rubio has an uncanny ability to connect our time-tested conservative values with America’s middle class families, and give voice to those struggling to make ends meet. He was inspirational to those wanting a better future for themselves and their families and constructively laid bare the mistaken efforts by President Obama and his supporters to make bigger government the solution to our problems.
Academics diagnose insanity as making the same mistakes over and over again expecting a different outcome. Under his administration, he has saddled our children and grandchildren with trillions of dollars of additional debt while steering our country into the heart of greater malaise and despair. Tonight we did not hear about his plan to empower businesses and cut the bureaucratic red tape that encircles small business owners – the engine of our economy.
Instead, tonight we heard more about President Obama’s America, where success is to become more government dependent rather than self-reliant. Where it is okay to accept mediocrity as long as we can punish those who have worked hard and succeeded. When is this insanity going to stop?
Senator Rubio had it right tonight. We yearn to defend the America our parents dreamed of for our generation. One where everyone of us has the opportunity to succeed if we try hard, play by the rules and provide for our families. An America that celebrates success rather than resents it. An America where all of our dreams are possible as long as government gets out of our way and allows us to strive to be the best we can be.
Mr. President, we can’t spend our way to prosperity, we can’t create opportunity by stifling innovation, we can’t create wealth if we increase our taxes and we can’t bring our country together if you keep dividing us. Our country needs leaders who can address the challenges of our day without labels or parties but respect for the history of our tried and true values that made America the greatest nation on earth. Mr. President, you challenged us to address how our country can prosper. We accept. There are steps we can immediately take: reduce our debt, promote investment, and lessen the burdens imposed on our small business men and women. And, most importantly, bring all of us together to achieve our common goals.”
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee:
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.
Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform:
President Obama began by attacking the “sequester,” which would actually reduce federal government spending and was the one good idea Obama has contributed to the national debate over the last four years. Obamacare, the stimulus, and Dodd-Frank all were written and driven by the Democrat leadership in Congress. The Sequester, as liberal Washington Post writer Bob Woodward reported, was Obama’s very own idea.
Otherwise, the speech was written not by his teleprompter but by his Thesaurus with the evident goal of finding as many different phrases to replace “raising taxes” and “spending” without actually using those overly clear words for his past, present and future plans.
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) chairman of the House Budget Committee:
Last year, the American people chose divided government. So this year, both parties have to make it work. We need to make progress on real solutions. We need to strengthen our economy. And we need to create jobs – because if we don’t, we’ll have a diminished future.
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. For the fourth time in five years, he’s failed to submit a budget on time. And Senate Democrats haven’t passed a budget in nearly four years.
This spring, House Republicans will offer a budget – on time – as we have in the past two years. If the president wants to work together, he’ll find a willing partner in House Republicans. But he needs to get serious about the challenges ahead.”
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.): “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.”
John R. Lott Jr., author of the forthcoming book, At the Brink: Will Obama Push Us Over the Edge?
Despite President Obama’s repeated calls to vote on gun control laws, none of the cases that he cited would have been stopped by any of the laws he was pushing.
His claim that the semi-automatic guns he wants banned are “weapons of war” may get people’s attention, but these are not the type of guns that self-respecting military in the world would use.
Obama never makes a serious case for gun control. His argument is that essentially just that gun control is “good,” but there is never an acknowledgment that gun control laws also have costs and he never makes the case that the benefits exceed the costs. We all want to stop criminals from getting guns, but the system also stops a lot of law-abiding citizens from quickly getting guns. For many those delays, might simply be an inconvenience, but there are others who could can’t get a gun when they really need it for protection.”
Chris Cox, chief lobbyist for the National Rifle Association:
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.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence:
The president tonight correctly focused on jobs and the economy. Congress must work to reform the tax code and make investments that promote jobs and growth while continuing to bring our deficit under control. I was pleased the president talked about investing in manufacturing, educating our workforce and cleaner energy to fight climate change, all of which are necessary for our middle class to compete in a global economy.
I also believe Congress must confront the looming sequester cuts, which could cost California more than 200,000 jobs if fully implemented. I support the president’s call for a more responsible package of spending cuts and revenue measures that will lead us to fiscal sustainability without crippling our economic recovery.
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.
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.
Israel Ortega, editor of Libertad.org and Spanish Media Associate at the Heritage Foundation:
Anyone hoping to hear a more conciliatory speech than the inaugural address must have been disappointed to hear an equally argumentative President deliver this year’s State of the Union Address. Oblivious to a Republican-controlled House of Representatives, the president ticked off a laundry list of lofty progressive goals that are sure to placate his liberal base, but have little chance of being signed into law.
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.
John Berlau, senior fellow for Finance and Access to Capital at the Competitive Enterprise Institute:
John F Kennedy cut personal and corporate tax rates to fuel the 60s boom. Mr. President, you’re no Jack Kennedy!
Obama is right to praise Congress for passing “part of” his American Jobs Act, because Congress passed the right part. The modest but significant deregulatory provisions for startup and emerging growth companies. The Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act that Obama signed in April exempts newly listed companies from some onerous Sarbanes-Oxley and Dodd-Frank provisions for five years. We’ve seen a slight uptick in initial public offerings as a result. May we build on this bipartisan deregulation.
May Obama also prod the SEC to stop delaying provisions of that bill that would lift barriers to crowdfunding, allowing sites like Kickstarter to allow equity shares in projects as well as trinkets.