U.S. President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union speech Tuesday night on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. (REUTERS/Larry Downing)
ALBANY — For Southwest Georgia’s congressional delegation, how President Barack Obama’s State of Union speech Tuesday was received depended on which side of the aisle the lawmaker was sitting on.
To see U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson's video statement, click here.
“The president delivered an impressive, sincere, and realistic speech about the Executive Branch’s plans to meet and overcome many challenges our nation faces,” U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop, D-Albany, said. “Laying out a set of practical proposals to grow the economy and support the middle class, the president called for an increase in the minimum wage, improved access to a college education, jobs in high-tech manufacturing, affordable housing, enhanced retirement security, and other Presidential initiatives.
“Without a doubt, the president sees 2014 as a year of opportunity, action, and optimism. As the congressman from Middle and Southwest Georgia, I look forward to a year of working with Congress to find and pass balanced solutions that reduce the federal deficit, continue to strengthen our economy, and create opportunity for all Americans.”
The Second District representative’s views weren’t shared by Eighth District U.S. Rep. Austin Scott, R-Tifton.
“You know,’ Scott said, “the president has spent a lot of time the last couple of weeks talking about income inequality and the challenge that many Americans face. He says times are tough, and I agree with him. Times are tough, and a lot of people are struggling. The things this administration has done has made them tougher, and he’s proposing more things that’ll make them tougher again.”
The No. 1 thing that Washington leaders can do to bridge the income gap, he said, “is help the people out there creating jobs. When he’s talking about raising the price of minimum wage, we should be talking about how do we create more jobs by getting out of the way of the small business owner. He talks about putting more rules and regulations in place, making it harder for people to start a business, therefore making it harder for people to find a job. We want to remove those rules and regulations and let Americans get back to work. Take the heavy foot of Washington off the throats of small business owners.
“He wants tax increases. He wants to bring more money from your community into Washington, D.C., so he can redistribute it to the areas where he wants to put it. I say you’re better off with that money left in your community. A dollar paid to taxes in Washington, D.C., is a dollar your employer can’t pay to you in wages. You want higher wages, I’ll tell you, more jobs is the way to get there.”
Scott also was critical of Obama’s plan to circumvent Congress if it doesn’t follow his lead. He said that administration end-around has already been done once with the Affordable Care Act, which he said has created uncertainty for businesses and families.
“When you get down to it, all of this can be turned around,” Scott said. “What America needs is a plan. A plan that’s developed by a president working with Congress like our forefathers envisioned. … Instead, we’ve got a president right now that says if he can’t get his way, he’s going to go around Congress, around the Constitution. Well, he did that once. And despite his pledge to the American public that Obamacare wouldn’t raise prices, wouldn’t have their plans cancelled … that you could keep your insurance if you wanted it and, oh yeah, you’re doctor was going to be the same one it was before Obamacare went in effect. You know, that pledge to the American public just didn’t come true.”
U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Moultrie, also was critical of Obama imposing more regulations and with his plans to bypass Congress.
“I understand the president’s frustration over inaction in Congress – I feel the same way,” said Chambliss, who will leave the Senate at the end of his term in January. “However, Americans don’t want more job-killing regulations and directives from Washington. Americans want pro-growth policies that will invigorate our economy and create new jobs.
“Instead of finding ways to work around Congress, the president should commit to work with us on passing bipartisan solutions, such as reforming entitlements or simplifying the tax code.”
U.S. Sen. Johnny Isaskon, R-Marrietta, said more investment is needed in the American work force and called for Obama to create jobs and promote energy independence by signing the Keystone pipeline agreement.
“America is not on the right track,” Isakson said. “Since the president took office, median household income is down nearly $4,000, job opportunities are less during this protracted time of unemployment, and the American people are concerned for their future and the future of their children.
“The president called for 2014 to be a ‘year of action.’ I urge the president to take action on several items, including the Workforce Investment Act, which I’m have been working on in a bipartisan manner in the Senate. The Workforce Investment Act hasn’t been reauthorized in six years. We ought to pass this legislation to expand job training and opportunity. Additionally, we need Trade Promotion Authority granted to the president so he can initiate further and aggressive trade agreements around the world.
Isakson said the problems with the Affordable Care Act need to be addressed.
“Furthermore, we need to address Obamacare, which is inflicting a great deal of pain on the American people, especially in terms of higher premiums, cancelled coverage and fewer choices,” Isakson said. “Obamacare is also causing Americans to lose their jobs or forcing them into part-time employment.
“Lastly, the crowning blow is the president’s failure to sign the Keystone XL Pipeline agreement, which sits on his desk and would immediately bring jobs to America and promote energy independence in our country.”