Congressional reactions to the State of the Union

From U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.:

Barbara Boxer“President Obama’s speech tonight was inspiring, unifying and visionary.

“He addressed two major issues facing our nation – job creation and deficit reduction. And he rightly continued his call for civility in our discourse.

“Throughout his speech, he drew on the American tradition of rising to challenges through our ability to innovate and work hard.

“The President’s priorities are in line with California’s priorities. We need a clean-energy economy that will create good jobs and keep us at the forefront of the world. We need a top-notch education system that spans from Head Start to college. We need roads, bridges, high-speed rail and other infrastructure that transport people and goods efficiently in order to move our country forward.

“The President clearly stated his intention to pursue fair deficit reduction, which I support, and he also inspired us to continue working across party lines in order to meet the many challenges required of us. I look forward to working with him and my Congressional colleagues to reach these goals and make our nation stronger.”

From Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez:

“The President is absolutely right to challenge our schools to do better. Now is the time for real, substantive changes that will transform our schools and put our students on the path to success in school and in life.

“If we want to win the future, as the President said, if we want our country to prosper, then it is time we decide as a nation that our children can’t afford for us to wait any longer. It is time we decide as a nation to take a hard look at where our schools are and where we need them to be. And it is time we decide as a nation to rid ourselves of the average label we too often receive and excel, out-perform and out-compete other countries.

“If we fail to take action to rewrite the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, we are sentencing our students to the status quo. I’ve been fighting too long to let that happen.

“Real education reform will mean more community involvement, more parental involvement, buy in from teachers and less prescription from the federal level – all of this without losing the accountability our students need to keep them on track.

“It shouldn’t matter if a student is in a school in an urban city or a rural town, in a suburban neighborhood or on a U.S. military base – every child in this country deserves the opportunity to succeed. “We can continue to make excuses or we can realize what other countries have – that our economy will not be strong if the education of all our students is not strong.”

Read more, after the jump…

From Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland:

Barbara Lee“President Obama addressed the critical issues facing our nation by focusing on creating jobs, continuing to rebuild the economy and forging a clear path out of the economic disaster inherited two years ago.

“We need to create opportunity for all, strengthen our middle class, and lift up the over 43.5 million Americans living in poverty. Direct investments in education, infrastructure, health care and clean energy will be key in these efforts. And of course we must do more to address the causes of chronic unemployment and provide much needed relief to the so called 99ers.

“There is a sensible way to jumpstart the economy and reduce the deficit, and that does not include cutting critical social safety net programs while rewarding the super wealthy. There is a sensible way that does not include taking a hatchet to the budget for the sake of doing so as many of my Republican colleagues have suggested.

“The President did express support for the modest military spending cuts proposed by Secretary Gates, and while this is a positive step, we should do more. We must reign in out-of-control defense spending that now sends nearly 60 percent of all discretionary dollars into a black hole at the Pentagon with no oversight, no accountability, and no consequences.

“We can make meaningful and safe cuts to the defense budget, safely end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and close loopholes for millionaires that will immediately save billions of dollars and allow us to make vital investments for our nation’s future.

“Unfortunately, despite growing calls from Members of Congress and the American public, we did not hear the President announce a clear and urgent roadmap to peace in Afghanistan.

“I will continue to demand that the President announce a significant reduction in U.S. forces in Afghanistan this summer but also a complete withdrawal as soon as possible, and certainly well before 2014.

“I am pleased that the President renewed many of his previous commitments, including for comprehensive immigration reform, which is in the best interest of our nation and should not be a partisan issue.

“The President also is rightly not backing down from Republican’s misguided efforts to repeal the healthcare reform law, which is saving lives and returning patient freedoms previously hijacked by the insurance companies.

“Rather than repealing the healthcare law I believe we must go even farther to strengthen the bill and finally ensure healthcare is a basic human right for all and not a privilege of the wealthy few.

“Finally, while I am glad the President emphasized the need to strengthen and protect social security, I disagree that extending a blanket freeze on non-defense discretionary spending is the right path toward responsible budgeting. Budgets are moral documents, and they reflect who we are, and what we value as a people.

“We cannot allow a return to the failed policies of the past that led us to the brink of economic catastrophe, and I will fight any efforts to privatize or weaken social security, rollback Medicare benefits, or balance the budget on the backs of our most vulnerable.”

From Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont:

Pete Stark“Tonight, the President discussed the state of the union. We are making progress thanks to the policies of the last Congress. Two years ago, the country was losing 589,000 jobs a month. This past month, the economy added 103,000 jobs.

“Unfortunately, Republicans have not yet proposed, nor has the House considered legislation that would create jobs. There are a number of common-sense proposals to create jobs that members of both parties can support – from targeted investments in green energy to cracking down on China’s unfair currency policy.

“As the health reform law is implemented, more Americans are finding secure coverage and jobs are being created – over 200,000 in the health industry since the law passed last March. Instead of focusing on jobs, House Republicans have decided to re-fight the health reform debate. This push would repeal important patient protections that have already gone into effect, hurting children with pre-existing conditions, seniors in the donut hole, young adults getting coverage on their parents’ policies, and many other Americans.

“Much of the focus of tonight’s speech was on reducing the deficit. The President called for a freeze in federal non-defense spending. I respectfully disagree with this approach — an eyes-closed, unilateral freeze will gut important programs that Americans depend on. Earlier today, I introduced H.R. 413, legislation to return defense spending to 2008 levels. There is no reason we should exempt 60 percent of federal discretionary spending from budget cuts.

“If we want to speed up our economic recovery, Republicans must offer some ideas to create jobs. Their laser-like focus on refighting health reform is hurting America’s economy and threatening our long-term competitiveness.”

From House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio:

John Boehner“We were honored to receive President Obama in the people’s House tonight for his State of the Union address. I appreciate the fact that the president recognizes the need to reach out and work together whenever possible.

“As I’ve stated in the past, when the president is willing to work with us on the people’s priorities, we’ll be ready to work with him. Unfortunately, even as he talked about the need for fiscal discipline, President Obama called for more ‘stimulus’ spending without making a commitment to the cuts and reforms the American people are demanding. Adding to our debt and pushing us closer to bankruptcy for the sake of more ‘stimulus’ spending will not make our nation more competitive. A partial freeze is inadequate at a time when we’re borrowing 41 cents of every dollar we spend, and the Administration is begging for another increase in the debt limit. Rather than lock in the job-crushing spending binge of the last two years, we are working to carry out our pledge to cut spending to pre-‘stimulus,’ pre-bailout levels and impose real spending caps. The people sent us here to focus on creating jobs and cutting spending, and that’s exactly what we intend to do.

“In the Republican Address, Paul Ryan did an excellent job of defining the size and scope of our fiscal challenges. It was exactly the kind of straightforwardness the people are expecting from us right now. He offered the American people a positive vision of how a smaller, less costly and more accountable government can promote private sector job creation and lasting prosperity.”

UPDATE @ 2:08 P.M. WEDNESDAY: Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, issued his statement today:

Jerry McNerney“Last night was an important moment to reflect on both the challenges we face and all that we can achieve as a country. I appreciated the president’s recognition – in light of the tragedy in Arizona – of all that unites us Americans and what we can accomplish by working together. Our country faces many challenges right now, but we’ve overcome great obstacles before and we have the fortitude, spirit and innovation to do so again.

“There’s no doubt that one of greatest challenges we face is improving our economy and creating jobs. I represent an area that has been hard hit by the bad economy and I’ve heard from many people who have been laid off and are worried about losing their homes to foreclosure. I was glad to hear the president’s commitment to steps that will help create the next generation of jobs in this country, such as investing in clean energy technology.

“During my time as a wind energy engineer, I saw firsthand the result of American energy technology going overseas – that technology created jobs in other countries instead of right here at home. We’re faced with that same challenge now. With the right investment in clean energy projects, our country has great potential to create jobs and lessen our dependence on foreign oil.

“I’ll continue to advocate for these and other policies that will help get our economy back on track and create good-paying jobs for American families.”

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.