Democrats and Republicans in Iowa’s congressional delegation suggest President Obama tried to hit a reset button with tonight’s State of the Union address.
Senator Chuck Grassley, a Republican from New Hartford, says Obama is trying to become a more “centrist” leader because of Republican gains in the 2010 elections.
“This is a miraculous transformation,” Grassley says. “I think it shows that he is responding to the electorate as you ought to with, using his words, the ‘shellacking’ that he took.”
Senator Tom Harkin, a Democrat from Cumming, says he appreciated the president’s focus on education reform as an engine for economic growth.
“I also believe his emphasis on investing in infrastructure was right on target,” Harkin says. “We just have to have better roads, rails, bridges, sewer and water systems. We have to make our veins and arteries of commerce better in this country.”
Congressman Bruce Braley, a Democrat from Waterloo, says there was a “bipartisan mood” in the House tonight, and Obama struck the right notes.
“I think his call at the beginning to the need of all of us to come together and work to solve people’s problems was a theme that played well,” Braley says.
Congressman Leonard Boswell, a Democrat from Des Moines, agrees that Obama struck the right tone by focusing on bipartisanship.
“This nation is in great need. We’ve got a chance to put it back together and we’d better do it,” Boswell says. “If we bicker, then nothing gets done.”
Congressman Tom Latham, a Republican from Ames, says while he’s encouraged Obama expressed a willingness to discuss cuts in “entitlements” like Social Security and Medicaid, the government spending freeze Obama proposed doesn’t go far enough.
“With the massive increases in spending that have occurred in the last two years, basically by freezing those in place it doesn’t really get us on a path to a balanced budget,” Latham says.
Congressman Dave Loebsack, a Democrat from Mount Vernon, says the president outlined the challenges ahead and the “tipping point” the country faces.
“He was very good at appealing to our ‘better angels’ if you will,’ Loeback says, “and doing all that he can and all that we can to move beyond the partisan food fights that we see here in Washington, D.C. because we really do have more important issues that we need to be addressing.”
Congressman Steve King, a Republican from Kiron, says he agrees with the president on some points, like the need for corporate tax cuts, but King says he still wants to repeal the health care reform plan Obama signed into law last year.
“The president also held out the olive branch of bipartisanship and said that things won’t happen in this country unless it has the votes of both Democrats and Republicans,” King says. “He wasn’t interested in that when he had the Democrat votes to run everything in the House and the Senate, and so now he’s interested in bipartisanship.”
Republicans now control the U.S. House, while Obama’s fellow Democrats hold a majority of seats in the U.S. Senate.
The two senators and five congressmen made their comments this evening during telephone interviews with Radio Iowa after the speech.