Minn. delegation reacts to Obama speech; Bachmann delivers tea party's rebuttalby Madeleine Baran, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — Minnesota's Congressional delegation reacted to the president's State of the Union speech Tuesday night.
Democrats praised President Obama's focus on job creation, while Republican lawmaker Michele Bachmann blamed the Obama administration for the nation's increased deficits and unemployment rates.
"For two years President Obama made promises just like the ones we heard him make tonight," Bachmann said. "Yet still we have high unemployment, devalued housing prices and the cost of gasoline is skyrocketing."
Bachmann's remarks were delivered on the Tea Party Express website after U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan delivered the traditional Republican rebuttal. Several major networks, including CNN, also broadcast Bachmann's speech.
Bachmann, who represents Minnesota's 6th District, pointed to a chart showing the unemployment rate over the last decade. The data was shaded by presidential administration.
"In October 2001, our national unemployment rate was at 5.3 percent," she said. "In 2008 it was at 6.6 percent. But, just eight months after President Obama promised lower unemployment, that rate spiked to a staggering 10.1 percent."
Republican U.S. Rep. John Kline issued his remarks in a written statement.
"Since the President took office two years ago, he and Congressional Democrats have overseen the largest budget deficit in the history of our nation, driving the national debt to a staggering $14 trillion," Kline said.
"While the nation suffers from 20 straight months of unemployment above 9 percent, Washington has been on an unsustainable job-killing spending spree. After listening to the President's remarks, I hope his actions match the rhetoric we heard tonight," he said.
Kline, who represents the state's 2nd District, mentioned two areas of agreement with the president - a commitment to education reform and a commitment to "winning the war against Islamist extremists."
Democrats, not surprisingly, were less critical of the president's agenda.
"Creating jobs and improving the economy has to be our top priority and I'm glad we heard that from the President tonight," U.S. Sen. Al Franken said in a statement after the speech.
U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum commended Obama for urging Congress to remove loopholes in corporate tax codes and to eliminate billions of dollars of subsidies for the oil industry.
"We have a tax code that has been manipulated by special interests and lobbyists," McCollum said. "I think some of the special treatment that lobbyists have received over the years, especially oil companies at a time when they're making record profits, and taking those funds and using them to re-invest in America's potential for being competitive for the next wave of jobs so that we can be more energy independent, is a smart move."
McCollum, who represents Minnesota's 4th District, also criticized the budget plan created by Republican lawmakers, in a statement released Tuesday evening.
"The Republican budget plan cuts education, infrastructure, and research that will weaken our economy, kill jobs, and cede global leadership in the 21st Century to China, but they don't fix the budget problem. I want America to win the future, not turn global leadership over to China," the statement said.
However, Democratic lawmakers expressed caution about the president's proposal to freeze discretionary spending for 5 years.
"It's all very daunting, freezing the budget for the next five years, and accomplishing these things is going to be quite a task," Franken said after the president's address.
U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, who chairs the House Progressive Caucus, said he supports the president's focus on job creation, but isn't sure about his view of the president's spending freeze.
"I'm a little bit apprehensive about that," Ellison said. "I'll need to know way more about that. He said he's not going to let the cuts fall on the poorest Americans, but you know what? ... We'll see ... Unless we're talking about some real cuts in the military, which he did mention, to his credit, I don't know where he's going to get it from."
MORE FROM MINNESOTA'S DELEGATION
DEMOCRATIC SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR:
"I think everyone knows we're going to have to do long term deficit debt reduction. ... There are ways to invest in the short term and he really outlined some ways we can also add money back in. ... I'd add one -- home mortgage deduction. Very important to middle class families, but if you cut it off at $500,000 in value, most Minnesotans would be OK with that. ... As the president pointed out, you also have to do tax reform. You can actually simplify and reduce taxes by closing some of these exemptions, by looking at them sensibly, making sure we keep Social Security strong and keeping those savings within Social Security."
REPUBLICAN U.S. REP. CHIP CRAVAACK:
"And I agree with what the president said, a lot of things. I agreed with 80 percent of what he said, but the problem is I haven't agreed with about 80 percent of what he's done. Now he had a great speech at the last State of the Union as well, but he didn't follow through. If he follows through on a lot of these projects, I could be with him."
REPUBLICAN U.S. REP. ERIK PAULSEN:
"I also agree with his focus on actually drawing attention to the budget deficit and the need to get control of our debt. If you don't control your debt, you don't control your destiny as a country. I don't agree with him that we should just freeze spending at current levels. I do think we need to go back to pre-bailout and pre-stimulus levels if we're going to really make sure we're going to control Washington spending."
DEMOCRATIC U.S. REP. TIM WALZ:
"So I think we ought to try and tackle those things we can come together on ... together, as the president said, having a split Congress can be a positive thing."