© 2023
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

#SOTU 2015 - NY Representatives React

WAMC photo by Jim Levulis

In his first State of the Union Address to a Republican-controlled Congress, President Barack Obama outlined an earnest agenda infused in Democratic priorities.   

With gas prices tumbling, the economy rebounding, employment numbers and his own popularity poll numbers rising, the timing seemed to be right for President Obama, who tailored his message to the middle class, with talk of tax increases for the wealthy; education and child care help for working families and a stern warning that he'll veto any efforts to roll back the Affordable Health Care Act or regulations that reined in Wall Street after the economic collapse.

Congressman Paul Tonko, a Capital Region Democrat, had a prime spot for the address as usual, the first lawmaker to reach out and shake hands as the president made his way to the podium to deliver his speech. He says it's no secret that the economy has worked for top one percent and Wall Street.    "Last night I heard this formula presented by the president  in his SOTU that offers the prescription for the great many of us who have not felt that economic recovery and to strengthen the economy in so doing. When you take and grow stronger infrastructure, when you create more affordabilty and accesibility to a college education and when you provide for fairer taxes for the great many of us, that's a shot in the arm to the economy for all of us. I believe America's working families deserve and require a raise."

As for Obama playing the veto card against GOP initiatives, Tonko takes that notion with a grain of salt.   "I would only hope that we would take a deep breath, absorb what the message was all about, and move forward. To have people already suggesting where it's gonna fail or how it's gonna fail isn't productive."

Republican Congressman Chris Gibson of the 19th district is cool to the president's plan to circumvent Congress, as heard on WNYT.     “We have a Constitution. Its worked for us for well over 200 years. We separate power so the respective branches have to listen to their constituents and forge consensus. So whether it be a Democratic president or a Republican president, we should adhere and follow the constitution.”

On foreign policy issues, Obama mentioned that after 50 years it was time to lift the Cuban embargo. Hudson Valley Democratic Congresswoman Nita Lowey expressed hope the initiative can move forward:    "This is just the beginning. I hope they can move in a bipartisan way."

The president said he'll work with Congress on a new authorization for military action against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria, defending his decision to return to military action in Iraq and sanction airstrikes in Syria.     "The United States that can't get it alone, do alone. We can't let evil take over the world. So it was very important to use force," said Lowey, who  believes coalition partners should contribute more to the military effort.  Tonko says the issue is ripe for debate on the House floor.   "We need to determine strategically how we'll use our military. Our military is exhausted after its involvement in several wars, the longest in our history, and the taxpayer is exhausted."

Lowey liked the president’s take on legislation to guard against cybersecurity and protecting personal information.  "I've been worried a long time, even before the Sony incident. There are hackers from organized crime, there are hackers from China and other state actives   This has to continue to be a priority."

President Obama also renewed his call for fast-tracking free trade agreements with Asia and Europe, which garnered some intra-party criticism earlier Tuesday. Tonko aligns with other Democrats who favor "fair trade."    "Fair trade is where its at - where can't give up and sell short jobs and workers and our regional economy by advancing this notion  of ‘free trade,’ which has us operating on something other than a level playing field.”

Obama’s sixth State of the Union address had barely ended before Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Speaker John Boehner and other Republicans accused the president of calling for the same litany of new taxes and new spending that he's sought in the past.

Lowey disagrees. She feels the president set out a solid agenda, including equal pay for women, a more equitable taxation plan, free community college and  raising the minimum wage .   "And I do hope that Republicans and Democrats can really work together to accomplish all the goals that were set out."

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
Related Content