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Reactions To Obama's Final State Of The Union Speech

President Obama, State of the Union
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U.S. Senator Charles Schumer:

"The President gave a speech aimed--not at the next six months or the next election--but at the next generation. By appealing to the 'better angels of our nature,' the President stood in sharp contrast to the nastiness of the Republican Presidential Primary." 

U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand:

“President Obama spoke tonight about the progress we have made toward getting our economy back on track and the ways we can continue this momentum to create more jobs and remain competitive in a growing global economy.

And while we must continue to be vigilant and work to stop terrorism from metastasizing abroad as the President outlined, we must also take every step necessary to prevent and protect against any threats here at home.

I am optimistic as we enter 2016. We can work together to end gun violence. We can and should work together to give every working American paid leave. I will continue to work toward making these goals a reality for all New Yorkers in the year ahead.”

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders:

“President Obama raised some enormously important points regarding the long-term future of our country – much I agreed with. Not only can we effectively combat climate change, we can create good paying jobs. Yes, we have to destroy ISIS, but we must do so through a coalition, and we cannot get bogged down in perpetual warfare in the quagmire of the Middle East.

“I also appreciated the president’s point that we need more civil politics, that we need to get big money out of politics, and that at a time of tremendous wealth and income inequality we must revitalize American democracy.”

U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy:

"I share the President’s optimism about America’s future.  But as far as we’ve come from the depths of the Great Recession of 2008, much more needs to be done to open the doors of economic opportunity and help working families.  We need steady, focused action to make the economy and government work for the middle class, and not just for the swelling ranks of the rich and the privileged.

For our middle class we need policies that bubble up, not failed trickle down schemes.  Making college available, affordable and a real choice for millions of students needs to move to Congress’s front burner as a top priority this year and beyond.  Too many students are saddled for decades with school debt.

We also need to pursue smart, effective national security answers without discarding our hard-won freedoms and values.

The tantrums and government shutdowns by obstructionists in Congress are completely out of step with the vast majority of Americans.  They want cooperation and effective action on our most pressing opportunities and challenges.  I hope the constructive tone the President set tonight will resonate this year in the halls of Congress."

U.S. Senator Chris Murphy:

“Tonight, President Obama gave an exceptional and unique speech, talking straight to the American public, asking them to take charge of raising the debate above the partisanship and rancor that defines much of politics today. And he reminded America that government isn't always the enemy – that it operates best when it sets the rules of the game so that the rich and powerful don't run away with all the spoils. He stood up for the American values that make us the envy of the world, and I hope both members of Congress and voters themselves take it to heart.

I was pleased that he spent a long time outlining the path forward for a smart, strong progressive American foreign policy. He made it clear that destroying those who are plotting to kill us was goal number one, while reminding us that not every problem around the world can be solved with guns and bombs or tough talk. The world is changing in unpredictable ways, and it’s essential that we approach new challenges with a sound, deliberative approach that embraces at the same time our nation's power, values, and limitations. We’ve got to get it right.

I believe tonight’s speech was a needed reminder of why we all feel fortunate to be Americans. We heard that the state of our union is strong, and with a little work, we can make it even stronger. I was honored to be joined tonight by my friend Mark Barden. His presence tonight, and the visual of an empty chair between the First Lady and Governor Malloy, were stark reminders of the work ahead of us to make our union stronger and safer for everyone.”

U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal:

“In his final State of the Union, President Obama rightly looked back on past accomplishments and reflectively forward – but my focus is on the future, and especially creating more jobs and driving economic growth. The President has overseen an economic recovery that added more than 113,000 private-sector jobs in Connecticut, reducing unemployment in the state from 9.2 percent to 5.1 percent, but there is still so much more to do in building a 21st century economy and expanding economic opportunity and fairness. My hope is that we can fulfill the vision of this speech – investing in our young people by making college more affordable and debt free, and investing in jobs and economic growth. I was also delighted that the President stressed keeping faith with our veterans – one of my top priorities. Protecting our national security means stronger measures in the war against ISIL, as well as steps to improve all entry programs, including reforms of visa and visa waiver programs and rigorous refugee screening. Washington again has an opportunity to put aside bitter partisanship and work across the aisle to confront the challenges we face together. The American people deserve nothing less.”

U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren:

"As President Obama said tonight, ‘democracy breaks down when the average person feels their voice doesn't matter, that the system is rigged in favor of the rich or the powerful.' Congress has done enough damage with tax breaks for the rich and special favors for the banks.  It's time to put hardworking people first, to invest in our kids by lowering the cost of college and cutting student loan interest rates, by giving seniors and veterans a raise, by rebuilding our infrastructure and rewriting our tax laws so companies build jobs here in America.  Like the President, I'm full of optimism that we can build a stronger America together -- it just takes our voices and our votes."  

U.S. Senator Edward Markey:

“President Obama’s message tonight to the American people was clear: We have come far but there is more work to do to ensure that all Americans can maximize their God-given abilities. He recognized the challenges that lay ahead, and offered a vision of our nation’s future built on the time-honored values of fairness, hard work and opportunity. I was honored to be joined tonight by John Rosenthal, a Massachusetts leader who has dedicated so much of his life and career implementing innovative solutions to some of our nation’s greatest challenges.

As America goes, so goes the world on climate action. As a nation, we have made significant progress in the transition to a clean energy economy, creating good jobs building wind turbines and installing solar panels, and reducing the pollution causing climate change. American leadership was key to reaching the global climate agreement in Paris. Now we must continue to lead the global clean energy revolution that will make a 100 percent renewable economy a reality.

Leading on climate change means leading by example in how we manage the oil, gas and coal resources that belong to the American people. I welcome the President’s call to implement reforms that I have been fighting for to ensure that we are not worsening climate change by giving away these fossil fuel resources at bargain basement prices.

Last year saw more Americans die from opioid overdoses than from auto accidents, and this public health crisis is only worsening. I applaud the President’s commitment to work with Congress on the substance abuse and addiction scourge that is devastating families. The fight to end the prescription drug and heroin epidemic is my number one priority this year, and it should be for the entire U.S. Congress. We need to expand access to opioid overdose remedies, mandate medical education on safe prescribing and increase treatment and recovery services. The least we can do this year is pass legislation that will help stem the tide of this epidemic.

We cannot allow the empty seat at tonight’s address to be an empty promise to Americans to stop the mass shootings and gun violence that is devastating neighborhoods in Massachusetts and across the country. President Obama has taken popular and sensible action to reduce gun violence through executive actions, and now it is up to Congress to stand up to the gun lobby and pass commonsense gun safety legislation, including strengthening background checks and implementing smart gun technology.

President Obama inherited two wars, a meltdown in the nation’s financial markets and a severe economic recession on the day he took office. He has shown tremendous leadership, optimism and dedication addressing the challenges we face at home and abroad. His hope for our nation has not wavered, and tonight’s address outlined the values and aspirations that will continue to guide our nation, this year and beyond.”

U.S. Representative Paul Tonko:

“Tonight, the President reflected on the progress we’ve made over the last seven years – and the work we have left undone. Since 2009, we have seen 70 consecutive months of private sector job growth, the lowest uninsured rate in five decades, giant strides taken in the great need we have to act on climate change, and many more achievements we should be proud of.

However, Congress still has a large to-do list. From updating the Voting Rights Act, to fighting against bad trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership that suppress American wages, to updating our aging infrastructure above and below ground, Democrats and Republicans must come together. We must understand the challenges we face and the decisions we make, or don’t make, impact our communities, families and small businesses in meaningful ways. 

The problems that need fixing in our great nation are nonpartisan. Our approach must be thoughtful and academic. The American people deserve nothing less.”

U.S. Representative Elise Stefanik:

“Tonight President Obama spoke to a nation that overwhelmingly believes our country is headed in the wrong direction. Families across our country and across our district need better jobs and higher wages, and they are concerned that our government is not doing enough to keep our nation safe.

My top priority as a Member of Congress is to promote economic growth and job creation, which is why I was so pleased that we were able to accomplish significant achievements last year. We delivered certainty to our economy with a two-year budget agreement that lifted arbitrary sequester cuts on our nation’s defense; we passed the first long-term transportation package in a decade; and we secured important North Country economic priorities such as the reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank and a delay in the medical device tax, among other measures.

“This year I will continue working hard with my House colleagues on behalf of families in our district to put forth a vision for broad-based tax reform that will make our tax code flatter, fairer and simpler for our businesses to compete across the globe. I will also be working to reduce our out of control regulatory code that burdens small businesses and passes additional costs onto consumers. And I will continue to build upon my record of finding commonsense fixes to our healthcare system to reduce costs and improve the quality of care families receive.

I hope the President helps continue our recent record of bipartisan successes by working with Congress this year on these policies. And I hope the President finally moves forward with a clear, comprehensive strategy to defeat ISIS. There is chaos around the globe and now more than ever we need sound policies in place to protect our national security.

President Obama’s last year in office does not have to be drowned out in an election year – he should work with Congress to help ease the concerns of the American people.”

U.S. Representative Nita Lowey:

“The President’s speech tonight inspired us to harness the American spirit and work together to ensure peace, well-being, and opportunity for all. We’ve made great progress since the depths of the Great Recession, but there is still much more work to be done to help hardworking families.

The American people – and certainly New Yorkers – want commonsense solutions to the long-term challenges our country faces: reducing gun violence, leaving future generations with a greener planet, ensuring quality education for all students, protecting our communities and our national security, and helping Americans who are working hard, but not reaping enough in return.

“I look forward to continuing to work with the Administration, my colleagues, and local officials to ensure prosperity for the Lower Hudson Valley for years to come.”

U.S. Representative Elizabeth Esty:

“Tonight, President Obama highlighted our country’s resilience and recovery since the 2008 economic collapse, and reminded us of our shared, uniquely-American tradition of working together to create a brighter future for all our children.

I join the President in his call for innovation and investment in education and economic opportunities. Focusing our efforts in this way is essential to growing our middle class, lifting wages, and helping working families in central and northwest Connecticut.

The President also challenged Congress to take action on gun violence prevention legislation and to prevent opioid addiction. I have repeatedly called on my colleagues to have this debate since the tragedy at Sandy Hook, as we have not had a single vote on the issue. Partisanship cannot be an excuse for inaction in Congress and it is time we answer the call to honor with action those we have lost due to senseless gun violence.

“Make no mistake, the United States remains the strongest nation on Earth. As Americans, we have risen to every challenge, secure in the knowledge that when we work together, when we draw on the best from all of our people, we will prevail.”

Vermont Governor Peter Schumlin:

"Tonight, President Obama reminded us why he has been such a force for positive change over the last seven years. His ability to inspire the American people to work towards a better future is why he has been able to achieve so much from the longest streak of private sector job growth in the history of this country to extending health care to 18 million people. I'm proud that Vermont has stood shoulder to shoulder with the President on issues like extending Pre-K education and health care to all, raising the minimum wage, making college more affordable, and charting a clean energy future that forcefully combats climate change.

"I was especially pleased to hear the President's forceful rejection of the politics of hatred, division, and bigotry that have come to dominate our political dialogue this election season. President Obama's ability to appeal to our better instincts of goodness, compassion, and understanding has always been what makes him a truly great leader."

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