April 17, 2014

Iowa delegation comments on State of the Union address

The reaction to President Barack Obama’s fourth State of the Union address was again split among the Iowa Congressional delegation based on party.

Congressman Steve King, a Republican from Kiron, said the speech was notable in that it offered virtually nothing new. “I thought that the members of Congress, House and Senators and the gallery were pretty flat. They didn’t rise to their feet like many of the State of the Union addresses, and I just think because there wasn’t too much of anything that was particularly inspiring,” King said.

The president asked Congress again at the end of his address to pass his gun control proposals. King says those proposals have little or no chance of getting enacted.

“When I looked at the faces around the Judiciary Committee where I sat — and there’s strong Second Amendment defendants there on the Republican side — it looks to me that as long as Republicans hold the majority in the House, it’s gonna be hard for them to confiscate our guns,” King said.

King said he liked the president’s support of Israel and his hope of an AIDS free generation. And he also likes the idea of transatlantic trade and investment partnership that the president talked about. “So I would say those three, Pro-Israel, an Aids-free generation and a transatlantic trade and investment partnership, I did support those three. There’s a longer list of things I disagree with,” King said.

Congressman Tom Latham, a Republican from Clive, said there were some things in the speech he agreed with. “I think certainly the concept of adjusting the immigration problem, if they can come up with a good bipartisan solution that secures the border and certifies that and have a good frank discussion about the future as far our undocumented immigrants in this country is something we can all work on,” according to Latham.

Latham did lot like the president’s threat to enact climate change regulation through executive order. “Individuals everywhere are scared to death of a lot of new regulations coming down that are gonna cost them a great deal of money and really be an impairment as far as economic growth and job creation,” Latham said.

“It’s one of the big reasons we can’t get more people working is people are scared of what he is talking about.” Republican Senator Chuck Grassley said the president didn’t offer any new ideas to cut the deficit.

“We’ve had seven-point-nine percent unemployment, it’s not supposed to get better than seven-and-a-half this year. It’s going to be a long time, three to four years to get down to five-something, and what we need is certainty,”Grassley said. “The most certainty the country needs is to get this deficit under control and he keeps talking about tax increases. But we don’t have a taxing problem, we’ve got a spending problem.”

Grassley is also concerned about the president saying he will use executive orders on climate control if he doesn’t get the action he wants. “He tends to take every leeway that the law maybe gives him to the maximum. You can’t say ‘when Congress won’t act, I will,’ you can only act under the Constitution of this country…. The president just can’t just willy-nilly decide he wants to do something,” Grassley said.

The senator did find something he liked about the address. “What I thought was positive — probably didn’t get much attention and I hope it gets more attention in the future — we’ve got to keep college tuition costs down,” Grassley said.

On the Democrat side, Senator Tom Harkin said the president “laid out a bold agenda.” “I especially liked his call for early-childhood education, and I hope that we can move ahead very strongly on that to have a nation that really pays attention to early education for preschool children,” Harkin said.

The senator was not concerned about Obama’s threat to use executive powers when it comes to climate change issues, and thought the president should have pushed a carbon tax too. “I was hoping that he would come out for that tonight. He didn’t quite say that,” Harkin said.

“But we need a broad carbon tax in this country and in fact in other countries around the world to move us away from carbon-based fuels. But again, if we don’t act I would says the president, he’s got to do what he can with his executive powers to save the future for our kids and grandkids.”

Harkin isn’t sure if the president’s speech will spur any movement on the issues. “Well, I sure hope so. I sure hope that he provoked enough people into thinking that we’ve got to do something soon…As you know, I’ve tried to get rid of the filibuster here in the Senate and we weren’t quite successful. We’ll see if the Republicans here in the Senate will at least allow us to vote on these things.”

Congressman Bruce Braley, a Democrat from Waterloo, had this reaction to the speech. “I like the way the president began by challenging everybody in that chamber to be partners for progress. So, all in all I gave the speech high marks and we have a lot of hard work ahead of us,” according to Braley.

Braley talked about the president’s threat to bypass the legislative process on climate change proposals and utilize executive orders.

“The president and Congress have separate distinct powers under the Constitution. And as long as any president is acting within their powers under the Constitution, I don’t have a problem with that,” Braley said.

“But whether it’s a Republican or Democratic president, they have a strong obligation to do only what they are authorized to do under the Constitution.”

Congressman Dave Loebsack, a Democrat from Iowa City, gave the president high marks. “Overall I thought it was a very good speech, I thought it was very compelling on the issues,” Loebsack said. “In particular I was glad to hear what he had to say about the economy, about the importance of the middle class, making sure that we build it from the middle out and not from the top down. And the recognition that a strong middle class is the key to a strong nation.”

Loebsack was also asked about the use of executive orders when it comes to climate change issues. “Oh, as a member of Congress, I take my job very seriously as a member of one branch of our government. I’m not sure what proposals he’s talking about at this point. I’ll review whatever it is that he has to offer and I’ll pass judgment at that point,” Loebsack said.

He said he doesn’t know if the speech was enough to push the issues ahead, but remains positive. “I’m hopeful that things will begin to move forward. Clearly that’s what I’m hearing here in Iowa, people want us to move off the dime, they want this country to move forward, they want this country to get back on its feet,” Loebsack said.

Radio Iowa’s Todd Kimm also contributed to this story.