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July 24, 2014, 4:59 pm

Mixed reaction to Obama’s speech

Democrats cheer, Republicans frown at State of the Union

 

Reaction to President Barack Obama’s first State of the Union speech of his second term broke down, predictably, along party lines – Democrats praised the president while Republicans criticized.

Two local Democrats applauded Obama’s speech while urging Republicans get behind the president as he opens his second term.

“At the beginning of President Obama’s second term, he has laid out a forward-looking agenda for America. The Congress should step up and be a full partner in moving our nation forward,” said U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah, in a slight jab at his Republican colleagues.

Obama gave the first speech of his second term on Tuesday night in front of a joint session of Congress, laying out his plans for his next four years in office. It included a call to reform gun laws, education reform and raising the nation’s minimum wage.

In this week’s speech, the president presented his proposals as a way to boost the middle class, an echo of the just-finished campaign that often centered on the differences between the president and his opponent Mitt Romney, who most voters came to see a voice for the wealthy.

“It is our generation’s task, then, to reignite the true engine of America’s economic growth – a rising, thriving middle class,” the president said. “It is our unfinished task to restore the basic bargain that built this country – the idea that if you work hard and meet your responsibilities you can get ahead, no matter where you come from, what you look like, or who you love.”

Speaker of the House John Boehner issued a statement following the speech saying the policies of Obama’s first term have failed and that he heard nothing that gave him hope for the president’s second term.

“Four years after the president first addressed a joint session of Congress, Americans are still asking, ‘Where are the jobs?’ He offered them little more than more of the same ‘stimulus’ policies that have failed to fix our economy and put Americans back to work,” Boehner said. “We cannot grow the middle class and foster job creation by growing government and raising taxes.”

Obama’s first term was tempered by a deeply divided and recalcitrant Congress, which, led by Republicans, attempted to block many of the president’s major initiatives – though the stimulus bill and health care reform did pass.

As his second term began, House Republicans showed little inclination to compromise. The weeks following the election were dominated by bickering over the fiscal cliff and the debt ceiling.

Even in the Senate, which has a Democratic majority, Republicans have held up several of the president’s cabinet nominations and other selections for administration posts including the new Consumer Protection Agency.

Fattah, who has just been chosen to lead the congressional Black caucus’s charitable foundation and serve on the Appropriation Committee’s subcommittee of veterans’ affairs, said Obama “has outlined a bold agenda to create jobs, strengthen the middle class, and support our veterans, men and women in uniform, and their families” for this second term.

He was not alone in praising the president while subtly highlighting what many see as Republican unwillingness to work with the administration.

Rep. Allyson Schwartz praised Obama for his “bold vision” and added that it was now up to Congress to put petty differences aside and work for the good of the country.

“Congress must take action to meet our looming fiscal deadlines and provide certainty and stability for our families and businesses,” she said. “This means not only demanding fiscal discipline in both spending and tax policy that strengthens the middle class, but also providing new revenue to make the right investments for a growing economy.”

Even the audience to Obama’s speech was divided, with more Democrats tuning in than Republicans, found a CNN poll. The same poll found that Obama’s speech did have an impact on its audience.

The poll found that 77 percent of viewers had a “somewhat or very positive” reaction to the president’s speech. That compared to 22 percent who had a “negative” response. CNN reported that more Democrats than Republicans watched the speech – 44 percent of the audience was Democrats compared to 17 percent Republicans. A majority of voters also said the president’s policies would put the country on the right track; 71 percent supported Obama’s policies a jump from 65 percent prior to the speech.

 

To comment, contact staff writer Eric Mayes at 215-893-5742 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .