Predictably, Tennessee political response to President Obama’s State-of-the-Union address varied by political party. Here are some of the reactions:
U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-TN):
“I had hoped President Obama would moderate his policies and his rhetoric, and while certainly there were aspects of the speech I agreed with, it didn’t seem to me that he’d learned a great deal from the past year. While that is disappointing, I do get the sense that my colleagues in the Senate HAVE learned a great deal over the past year, and for that reason, we have a far better chance to be able to work in a bipartisan fashion to implement good policies that will stand the test of time.”
U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander R-TN):
“My hope is that the president now will focus on jobs, debt, and terror. And it would suit me fine if he would stop right there until he has all three headed in the right direction. On jobs, that means lower taxes instead of higher taxes, cheap energy instead of a national energy tax, reducing health care costs instead of increasing them, and ending TARP instead of spending TARP. And it means getting the government out of the automobile business. All of that would create an environment in which Americans could create more jobs.”
7th District congresswoman Marsha Blackburn (R-Brentwood):
“There is a piece of Tennessee wisdom the President indicated tonight that he may have learned, ‘when you’re in a hole, stop digging.’ Unfortunately, our economic condition requires more than just a freeze on spending. In the last year, Washington tried to punish the economy into health. Punishing profit and risk has only dug the hole deeper. It is time to shift focus to incentives. By incentivizing individuals, we can expand the economy.
“We need to take immediate action to repair the damage. That means cutting federal spending, not just freezing it. Additionally, we must ease the federal burden on taxpayers to allow them to invest and save. We must ease regulations to allow small businesses and industry to grow and hire.”
9th District congressman Steve Cohen(D-Memphis):
“President Obama delivered a great speech tonight that laid out a clear path to rescue, rebuild and restore our economy while offering a new foundation for the prosperity of our nation. At a time of great challenge for our country, President Obama reminded all of us that the real strength of our union is found in our boundless optimism and unending hope that tomorrow can, and will, be better than today.
Jobs and Economic Development
“I commend the President for making jobs the very first issue he discussed in the State of the Union address. The President is right when he says this has been a difficult year for some, especially in the Ninth District. The unemployment rate in Shelby County has remained unchanged for the last two months, and I know how desperately many people want a job that pays the bills, keeps the roof over their heads, and let’s them plan for retirement or their children’s future.
“I voted for the Main Street for Jobs Act which the House passed in December that makes investments in small businesses, green jobs, clean energy, and infrastructure projects. Over the last year, the Ninth District has received millions in Recovery Act funding to jumpstart job creation and save thousands of teaching, public safety and private sector jobs that would have been lost had Congress not acted so swiftly.
“I was pleased President Obama called for an even greater investment in our transportation infrastructure — not just to create jobs, but also promote economic development. Memphis is the distribution hub of the nation. Our roads, river, runways and rails roads keep people and commerce moving. These unique assets are some of the reasons why companies are becoming more interested in doing business in the Ninth District. As a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, I look forward to working with the President on his ambitious plans — including his commitment to expanding high-speed rail across America.
“I look forward to working with the President to do even more in the months ahead to address the foreclosure crisis, help people keep more of their paycheck to save for their retirement, make the dream of college a reality for even more people, and finally make health care affordable for all those who need it. This is a solid path forward to increasing the cost of living and standard of living for all Americans.
“President Obama reminded the nation tonight that the stakes are simply too high to abandon health care reform efforts. To do nothing means that health care premiums will increase, businesses will drop coverage for employees and people with pre-existing conditions will still be at the mercy of the insurance industry.
“An overwhelming majority of constituents in the 9th District want to see a health care reform bill passed. I am working with the Speaker and Democratic Leadership to see that the needs of the 9th District, including funding for The MED and programs to reduce infant mortality, are included in the final bill sent to the President for his signature.”
Ending the Cycle of Boom and Bust
“As Chairman of the Judiciary Committee Subcommittee that deals with the nation’s bankruptcy laws, I commend the President for putting forth a financial regulatory plan that will provide consumers with the information they need to make important financial decisions so they can avoid foreclosure and the bankruptcy courts.
“Wall Street can not be allowed to go back to their business as usual ways of massive bonus payments, golden parachutes for top executives or creative accounting practices that pushed us to the brink of depression. The banks and financial institutions that received TARP money must repay every dollar. The regulations that President Obama outlined tonight will hold banks accountable and provide greater oversight of the financial sector so that the cycle of boom and bust can become a thing of the past.”
Education“The foundation of our long-term economic success won’t be found in the boardrooms on Wall Street, but in the classrooms of the Memphis City and Shelby County Schools. We must invest in education, and that means ensuring there is a qualified teacher in every classroom, 21st Century computers and technology in every school, a renewed commitment to foreign languages, and an emphasis on character and diversity.
“As Congress prepares to discuss reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Law, I will work with President Obama and Education Secretary Duncan to make sure that school children in the 9th District are able to compete and become employed in the global 21st Century economy.”
“The President spoke passionately tonight about the need to strengthen our nation’s commitment to civil rights. At long last we have a Civil Rights Division at the Justice Department that is focused on prosecuting civil rights violations. Whether its hate crimes, violations of equal pay laws or simply ensuring equal justice for all, I look forward to working with the President to diligently pursue these aims.”
“As the President said tonight, ‘our destiny is connected to those beyond our shores.’ President Obama has made great progress in turning around the tarnished image of our nation. Once again, the United States is a voice for human rights and leader in the world community on climate change and economic growth. I applaud the President for his commitment to do more to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS in Africa and for his leadership in responding to the earthquake in Haiti.
“I applaud the President for his efforts to wind down the war in Iraq and bring our troops home. However, I am concerned about the path forward in Afghanistan. I believe the President deserves an opportunity to implement his plan, which includes an exit strategy for our troops. The fight in Afghanistan can not be won by sheer military force alone. We must offer humanitarian and diplomatic assistance to create the foundation for a stable and long-lasting Afghan society that will be free from the Taliban’s influence.”
3rd District Congressman Zach Wamp (R-Chattanooga):
“Since controlling the White House and Congress for the past year, the liberal Democrats in Washington, D.C., have increased the deficit by more than 300 percent to $1.4 trillion. Simply implementing a budget freeze measured against last year’s record levels of spending will do little to curb the ballooning deficit. It is time to return to fiscal sanity.
“Our country can no longer accept these spending policies. House Democrats, in one year of reckless federal government spending, passed $787 billion in stimulus funds, two government spending bills totaling more than $855 billion and increased non-defense spending by 12 percent. This doesn’t include all of their new spending priorities for 2010 or expanding entitlement programs that impose additional mandates on state and local governments.
“The Congressional Budget Office has released its projections that the United States will have a $6 trillion total budget deficit over the next decade. The Wall Street Journal described this $6 trillion aggregate debt as, ‘a level that many economists worry is unsustainable in the long run, and could lead to a currency shock, inflation, crippling interest rates or other economic maladies.’
“The public rightfully has major concerns with the rapid growth of government. We should work to implement responsible policies that decrease our national debt and properly manage the entire federal budget, including mandatory and entitlement programs, and limit our debt in future years.”
Chris Devaney, state Republican chairman:
“Tonight, we heard more of the same from a President who has failed time and again to make good on his promises. President Obama has now been in office for more than a year and in that time Tennesseans have suffered the loss of nearly 90,000 jobs resulting in a statewide unemployment rate of almost 11 percent. Instead of working on real solutions that will help put people back to work, this Democrat Congress and Administration have used the economic downturn as an excuse to blow billions of taxpayer dollars on fiscally reckless policies that are burying our kids and grandkids under mountains of debt.
"Middle-class families are looking for more than empty promises. They want to go back to work. And they want the Democrats who run Washington to stop pursuing a big government, big spending agenda that includes a government takeover of health care, 'stimulus' bills, a new national energy tax and taxpayer-funded bailouts. The recent elections in Massachusetts, Virginia, and New Jersey have shown that voters aren't buying this Administration's rhetoric, and in November I think we'll see that Tennessee voters aren't buying it either."