Local Officials' Reactions To President Obama's State Of The Union Speech | WAMC

Local Officials' Reactions To President Obama's State Of The Union Speech

Jan 21, 2015

U.S. President Barack Obama delivered his State of the Union Speech Tuesday night. Local officials react to issues mentioned ranging from free community college to the state of the economy to raising taxes on the wealthy.

U.S. Senator Charles Schumer:

“This was a speech that appealed to the better angels of our nature; it was optimistic, forward-looking and non-partisan. President Obama didn’t point any fingers, and without any anger or negativity, he simply said ‘let’s come together for the good of America and the good of the middle class’. President Obama’s speech was uplifting for Democrats and for the country, and we hope our Republican colleagues will join us in coming together in the spirit of the speech.”

U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand:

“Tonight President Obama presented a plan to ensure a fair shot at the American dream for anyone willing to earn it. As I travel throughout the state, New Yorkers tell me they are still struggling even as the economy begins to show signs of recovery. They want action from Congress to ease the burden of the basic costs of living so they can provide for their families, afford to send their kids to college, work good paying jobs, and retire with dignity. Now, Congress must do its part to work together, Democrats and Republicans, to expand economic opportunity for hard working families. 

“I had hoped the President would use this opportunity to demand that we also make college campuses safe. Last week I personally urged the President to shine a national spotlight on the need to flip the incentives that currently reward colleges for sweeping sexual assaults under the rug. I was honored to have Emma Sulkowicz as my guest tonight who represents the grassroots movement of young women holding Congress and the system accountable. I will continue to fight to pass the Campus Accountability and Safety Act, a bipartisan bill that will finally force colleges and universities across the country to face this problem head-on with the goal of making safe campuses for America’s students a reality.

“The President's goals for an expanded middle class, a fairer tax system and a better shot for hardworking families should rise above political party, and I am hopeful Congress will use his ideas as a starting point for real action."

U.S. Senator Ed Markey:

“The President’s remarks tonight are a reminder that the strength of this nation comes from its people – Americans who work, who heal, who educate, who never give up, and who represent the great spirit of independence that is the hallmark of the United States. I was honored to be joined by advocate Joanne Peterson, one of those Americans, who dedicates every day of her life to bringing hope to others.

“President Obama tonight presented a vision in which all Americans – regardless of race, creed, nationality, gender, or socio-economic status – can access the opportunities that will allow them to maximize their abilities and pursue the American Dream in the 21st century. It is a playbook for strengthening our economy, promoting fairness, creating jobs, and protecting our people and our planet.

“For too many years, the things that matter so much in life have been beyond the reach of many Americans and their families. Our goal must be to support the middle class and invest in the industries that promote economic growth and job creation in the 21st century. The president’s ambitious plan to make community college accessible to all those who want to attend will build skills and offer a generation of Americans a step up on the ladder to success. In Massachusetts, I have seen how bringing together college leaders with biotechnology executives can help prepare community college students for good jobs while they are still in school. And the president’s paid leave proposal will provide an invaluable safety net for workers and families so they don’t have to chose between losing a job or caring for a loved one.

“We need tax reform and a tax system that is fair and requires the wealthy pay their fair share. Any tax code reform should be guided by the principles of economic fairness and job growth. Americans want a system that works for everyone, and the President outlined a plan that can help get us there.

“The President’s call to expand broadband and remove barriers for communities to build their own broadband networks will help connect families and workers to vital resources, and strengthening privacy protections for students and consumers will increase transparency and security. We must ensure that the Internet remains open, unfettered and the greatest medium for communications and commerce in our history.

“Tonight we heard about the devastating impacts of climate change on our health, economy and national security. The president has already taken key steps to halt this generational threat and to begin to address the impacts that are already happening. This year, the United States has the opportunity to grasp the mantle of global leadership on climate change at international negotiations. The president is right: We need to move past debate about one unnecessary and harmful pipeline project and instead invest in a clean energy revolution that is already creating jobs in Massachusetts and around the country.

“The federally-funded medical research that saves lives also supports jobs and industry in Massachusetts’s successful innovation economy. We need to increase this support so the Bay State and America can continue to discover the cures for diseases like Alzheimer’s and cancer that are bringing misery to families. Massachusetts is the hub for the cutting-edge research that will ensure America’s global competitiveness.

“We have an opportunity to work together – the President, Congress and the American people – to move our nation toward a bright, bold future with opportunities and advancement for all Americans. We can raise the minimum wage and ensure that a woman earns as much as a man. We can honor our veterans with good-paying jobs. We can rebuild our infrastructure for the 21st century. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Senate on all of these issues to ensure our economy and way of life is working for everyone.”

U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren:

"President Obama said it right: ‘This country does best when everyone gets their fair shot, everyone does their fair share and everyone plays by the same set of rules.' He laid out ways we can create more opportunities for working families -- helping students get an education without getting crushed by debt, expanding access to paid sick time and family leave, and investing in medical and scientific research for the future. He also made clear that the White House will push back hard against efforts to roll back critical Wall Street reforms. Families just need a level playing field, and if they can get it, we can rebuild America's great middle class. It's time to get started."

Congressman Paul Tonko:

“What we heard tonight from the President was a strong message that we need to create an economy that works for everyone. Shortsighted policies and endless political brinksmanship in Washington over the last four years have led to an economy that serves Wall Street very well, but does nothing to boost Main Street and the American middle class.

“By investing in our workforce and the education of those looking to train for the jobs of tomorrow, we can provide a down payment on America’s future success. Through increased access to college, paid sick leave, and targeted tax cuts for the middle income community, Washington can work with the private sector to provide real opportunity for the strongest force the world has ever known – the American middle class.

“The top zero-point-one percent of our nation and Wall Street have enough people and special interests taking care of their needs. It’s time the rest of us are heard as well. I support many of the proposals that President Obama has laid out here tonight. It is now time to roll up our sleeves and get to work. It is the responsibility of Congress to act on these issues, find common ground, improve the financial stability of America’s working families – and to create an economy that works for everyone.”

Congresswoman Elizabeth Etsy:

“Tonight, President Obama laid out a bold agenda and challenged Congress to take action to spur innovation and expand economic opportunities for middle-class families. From investing in community college education and technical training to expanding access to high-speed broadband internet, fixing our broken immigration system, and closing tax loopholes for companies that ship jobs overseas, tonight’s proposals will strengthen our economy, grow wages for hard-working Americans, and help make those paychecks go a bit further for families.

“Many of the priorities President Obama mentioned tonight enjoy strong support from Republicans in Congress and in states across the country. Partisanship cannot be an excuse for inaction in Congress. There are areas of common ground around manufacturing, workforce training, rebuilding our transportation infrastructure, and investing in education. I am optimistic and energized to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle on these critical issues to move our country forward.”

Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney:

“Growing up, my parents weren’t rich, but they could buy a house, send five boys to college, and save for retirement all on one income. Today their story is unimaginable for middle class families; college and child care are unaffordable, homeownership is out of reach, and saving for retirement is tougher than ever. We can return to a prosperous middle class, but only if we work together on big ideas - like we did in the Clinton Administration - to grow our country in the middle, not just at the top.”

Congressman Richard Neal:

“I thought President Obama did a good job tonight articulating his vision on how every American can benefit from our recovering economy. Since he was elected, there has been 58 consecutive months of private sector job growth and more than 11 million new jobs have been created. Unemployment is down to its lowest rate since 2008, the average price for a gallon of gas is close to $2.00, and the federal budget deficit continues to shrink. And while our economic prospects are upbeat, not everyone has seen their paycheck rise or their income grow. That is why the President was correct when he said that Congress needs to work together in a bipartisan way to help improve the lives of every member of the American family. I was especially pleased that he endorsed my proposals to enhance the Earned Income Tax Credit and my automatic-IRA retirement savings vehicle. These common sense initiatives will help strengthen and expand the middle class because they also need to feel the benefits of the nation’s economic comeback.  As President Obama begins the fourth quarter of his term, I intend to work with him on these critical pieces of legislation that invest in our working families,” said Congressman Richard E. Neal.

Congresswoman Nita Lowey:

“Tonight, the President outlined economic priorities that will provide a strong foundation for the future. We need to ensure that recent progress benefits all Americans. Now is the time for Congress to:

  • Secure bigger paychecks by increasing the take-home pay for middle-class Americans through tax credits;
  • Provide responsible students access to higher education through tuition-free community college; and
  • Promote work-life balance for families – particularly women – with paid leave and paid sick leave.

“We’ve come too far to roll back the progress we’ve made, and it’s my sincere belief that bipartisan solutions on the issues outlined in the President’s speech are possible – and essential – to securing economic prosperity for generations to come. Together we can keep our Union strong.”

Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin:

“I applaud the President's call to shore up middle class families and restore the link between hard work and getting ahead. Tonight, President Obama made putting more money back into working Americans' pockets the national economic priority it deserves to be. From job training and higher education to health care and infrastructure, the President has a plan to build on the significant progress the nation has made under his leadership. We have a lot of work to do to improve the lives of working Vermonters and Americans, but tonight the President reminded us that America is well positioned to seize the many opportunities ahead.”

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman:

“I applaud President Obama’s remarks tonight, which laid out an innovative agenda to serve the American people in the face of Congressional gridlock. The President’s proposals to reform our broken immigration system, make community college more affordable, and cut taxes for middle- and low-income families are motivated by the painful reality that far too many Americans face staggering inequalities in their communities. As we work to improve our society, we must also remain vigilant about the threats, seen and unseen, that we face every single day. There is a pressing need for a comprehensive overhaul of our country’s cybersecurity protocols, which is why I have proposed legislation in New York State that will help companies better safeguard against dangerous data breaches and strengthen protections for consumers. I look forward to working in New York with state and federal officials to promote the President’s agenda of equality, opportunity, and safety for all.”