Minnesota delegation divided on Obama speech, agendaby Brett Neely, Minnesota Public Radio
Washington, D.C. — From both sides of the political aisle, members of Minnesota's congressional delegation predicted a tough road ahead for President Barack Obama's agenda outlined in his State of the Union address.
Republicans heard little to move them towards compromise on jobs programs and spending cuts, and DFLers were cautious about progress given the deep divide on Capitol Hill.
"A lot of these things are going to be a very difficult lift," said DFL Rep. Tim Walz after the speech. But he held out hope for his bill to ban insider stock trading by members of Congress. Obama said he would sign the STOCK Act if it reached his desk.
"The STOCK Act is not a difficult lift. It restores faith in Congress. We can get it passed," he said.
Having the president talk about the bill after "working away [on it] in the hinterlands for five years" was "pretty positive," Walz added.
But Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar said a deadlocked Congress meant the president would have to find creative means to achieve his goals.
"Some of the stuff he will do by executive order, some of the things will move in Congress," she said. "Some things, if people are obstreperous, we'll have to do after the election."
Still, DFL Rep. Betty McCollum said the speech should inspire Congress to act after a year on bruising infighting.
"People keep asking me, can Congress do anything? Yes, we can," said McCollum. "If we want to come together as the president said, we can give middle class families that hope and opportunity they've been asking us for."
DFL Sen. Al Franken said he thought the president's agenda sounded modest.
"It seemed like fairly minimal and achievable, what he was talking about actually," Franken said.
In terms of tone, DFL Rep. Keith Ellison said he thought it struck all the right notes.
"I thought that it was important for him to not be too political or antagonistic, but I also thought, no backing down, and he made that clear that he wasn't going to do any backing down," Ellison said.
Minnesota Republicans were less impressed with the speech.
"Well, you know, it's kind of like the president's speech last year," said freshman Rep. Chip Cravaack. "He says the right thing but what he does seems to be another story, especially when he was talking about trying to eliminate regulations."
Fellow Republican Rep. Erik Paulsen said he welcomed the president's emphasis on supporting high-tech startup firms and said if Obama is serious, he'll help out Minnesota's medical device industry.
"We've got some policies that are killing this industry, we've got a device tax that's on the horizon, we've got an FDA that needs to be modernized and streamlined," he said. "So I think we've got a great opportunity with some bipartisan support on some of these bills to move them through."
Rep. Michele Bachmann, who recently pulled out of the 2012 presidential race after a poor showing in the Iowa caucuses, turned down interview requests with Minnesota media outlets after the president's speech. But in an appearance on Fox News with Greta Van Susteren, she was critical of the speech.
"Some of his language, Greta, may have appeared like he was reaching out but there was no reaching out, there was no new ground that was forged tonight," she said.
GOP Rep. John Kline said in written statement that the president's speech just reinforced divisions between political parties and classes.
In addition to the Minnesota members sitting on the House floor, the galleries above were crowded with guests including former Marine and Iraq war veteran Mike McLaughlin, who was invited by Walz. McLaughlin said he was inspired by the president's words about how the commandos who hunted down and killed Osama bin Laden worked together.
"The way we work together is the way this nation needs to move," he said.
- Morning Edition, 01/25/2012, 7:20 a.m.