Most of KY delegation found at least one thing to like in Obama's speech

01/26/2011 08:04 AM

Republicans and Democrats in Kentucky’s congressional delegation came away with hope of agreeing over some of the broad approaches President Barack Obama outlined Tuesday night in his State of the Union Address.

The president’s references to clean energy innovation, streamlining regulations, lowering corporate taxes or his acknowledgments that the government must be scaled back all won at least tacit praise in the reaction statements of Kentucky’s six congressman and two U.S. Senators.

Freshman Republican U.S. Sen. Rand Paul appeared to be the least impressed with Obama’s State of the Union Address based on the statements.

Here’s a summary of what Kentucky’s members of Congress liked and didn’t from the speech:

McConnell: Obama’s ‘centrist’ proposals could win support


Kentucky’s senior senator and the Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell said he “was pleased to see that he has adjusted his rhetoric considerably since last year.”

“He seems to be advocating more centrist policies that I think will be approved by the vast majority of the American people,” McConnell said after the speech.

Specifically, McConnell praised Obama for calling for lowering the nation’s 35% tax on corporations — the highest rate among industrialized nations. Obama called for offsetting the cuts by closing loopholes in the tax code carved out for specific industries.

McConnell also said he was encouraged by Obama’s pledge to curb government spending through spending and federal pay freezes.

“However, freezing government spending for five years at the increased levels of the last two years is really not enough,” McConnell said. “We need to reduce domestic spending substantially. And I hope the President will work with us to achieve that.”

He also put his response in video form.

Paul: President’s ‘liberal agenda’ will bankrupt the country


Paul also put his response on Youtube. Overall, he said Obama failed to offer solutions that mesh with his preferred approach of tackling the national debt.

“The debt hangs like the sword of Damocles, each day reminding him that he cannot continue to pursue his liberal agenda without raising taxes or bankrupting the country,” Paul said.

Specifically, Paul took issue with Obama’s call for additional government “investments” in some areas, such as construction of bridges and roads and the nation’s education system. In light of the nation’s $1.4 trillion annual budget deficit, the United States can’t afford that, said Paul, who proposed a bill that would cut $500 million from federal discretionary funding.

“You would think then that he would know that he cannot propose expensive new government programs, because the debt crisis is at hand and even Democrats who love to spend other folks’ money can no longer ignore that we face a day of reckoning.”

Obama, at one point in his speech, said he knew some of the members of Congress had proposed ways to cut spending. But Obama called for tackling the more expensive programs affecting the nation’s long-term debt, such as Medicare and Social Security.

“Most of the cuts and savings I’ve proposed only address annual domestic spending, which represents a little more than 12 percent of our budget,” Obama said. “To make further progress, we have to stop pretending that cutting this kind of spending alone will be enough. It won’t.”

Paul said he hopes Obama will work with Republicans “to get an overzealous federal government out of the way.”

“Ultimately, though, it may take another election to right the ship of state and allow us to leave behind this terrible recession and joblessness,” Paul said.

Rogers: Congress must take lead with ‘largest funding cuts in history’


U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers, the Somerset Republican who chairs the powerful House Appropriations Committee, said he applauded Obama for his bipartisan sentiments but said the speech fell short when Obama failed to talk about deeper cuts in government spending.

“Everyone – including the President – must be willing to sacrifice to accomplish the common goal of reducing our skyrocketing deficits and debt,” Rogers said. “Yet, in his speech tonight, the President called for sending more taxpayer dollars into a variety of government programs.”

Rogers, like McConnell, said the spending freeze Obama is pushing for isn’t enough because spending should be rolled back to at least 2008 levels.

“My committee is crafting legislation right now that will include the largest funding cuts in the history of Congress, going line by line to reduce spending and prioritize programs,” Rogers said.

Whitfield: President’s call for energy innovation could be boon for Kentucky


Republican U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield of Hopkinsville recently took the helm of the House subcommittee on energy environment.

He picked up on Obama’s push last night for innovation in clean energy. Obama set a goal of having 80% of America’s electricity coming from clean energy sources by 2035.

“Some folks want wind and solar. Others want nuclear, clean coal, and natural gas. To meet this goal, we will need them all. And I urge Democrats and Republicans to work together to make it happen,” Obama said.

Whitfield said he was “glad to hear the President call for an ‘all of the above’ strategy that includes nuclear and clean coal.”

“However, I remain concerned that in the President’s call for investments and subsidies into new energy technologies, we will be neglecting opportunities to grow and utilize the resources that are currently available,” he said. He said he also would have liked to have heard more from Obama about how to strike a better balance between regulation of energy and allowing companies more latitude.

“In Kentucky, for example, thousands of jobs are tied to the coal industry both directly and indirectly. By responsibly developing and utilizing the resources we currently have domestically, we can fulfill that call as new technologies are developed and put onto the market,” Whitfield said.

Chandler: Obama needs to keep talking about jobs


Throughout his 2010 re-election campaign, Democratic U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler of Versailles stuck to the mantra that it’s all about the economy.

He said Obama’s State of the Union address offered the right tone on promoting job creation. It’s now up to Republicans and Democrats in Congress to find areas of agreement.

“I am a moderate and believe we need to find the middle ground. It’s time the extremes of both sides find a way to stop fighting and come together to fix our nation’s problems, to create jobs and make meaningful progress for our economic future,” Chandler said.

Davis: President is right to address ‘excessive regulation’ of businesses


Republican U.S. Rep. Geoff Davis of Hebron said he was particularly pleased by the section in Obama’s speech in which he pledges to review government regulations.

“When we find rules that put an unnecessary burden on businesses, we will fix them,” Obama said about two-thirds through his remarks. “But I will not hesitate to create or enforce commonsense safeguards to protect the American people.”

Davis has introduced a bill called the REINS Act aimed at curbing bureaucrats’ ability of using regulations to essentially create new laws.

“We must do better at every level to reduce the burden of government on job creators and I stand ready to work with the president and all Members of Congress on these efforts,” Davis said. “One of the most significant ways to move forward with achieving this critical goal is the REINS Act, a proposal that will improve oversight of and restore accountability for federal regulations to the people they are supposed to serve.”

Yarmuth: Obama is balancing ‘ambitious’ spending cuts with smart investments


Democratic U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth of Louisville praised Obama for the type of spending cuts proposed while also calling for strategic investments in technology research and development and infrastructure.

“President Obama mapped out an ambitious plan for fiscal responsibly that focuses on programs that are critical to our economic recovery,” Yarmuth said. “In Louisville, federal investments have revitalized manufacturing at Ford and Appliance Park, leading to the creation of thousands of jobs. If we do not continue to make these investments in innovation as well as education and infrastructure we will essentially surrender our nation to our global competitors.”

Guthrie: Tone of speech was right but government can’t create jobs


“Many of us watching President Obama’s address tonight were encouraged by his priorities, and willingness to work across the aisle to rebuild our manufacturing base and ensure America remains competitive in the global market,” Republican Rep. Brett Guthrie of Bowling Green said.

But Guthrie seemed to take issue with Obama’s call for additional government spending. Obama said in his speech he wanted the government to invest more in promoting innovation in certain areas, including clean energy, biomedical research and information technology.

“Innovation and job creation will not come from the halls of bureaucrats’ offices in Washington, but in garages and basements across America,” Guthrie said. “Unfortunately, to this point, job creation has meant a trillion-dollar stimulus bill; energy independence meant a cap-and-trade scheme that would bankrupt Kentucky families; and health care reform meant another trillion-dollar bill that empowered federal bureaucrats instead of patients and doctors.”

- Compiled by Ryan Alessi

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