President Obama gave a sort of “shout out” to Iowa Senator Tom Harkin in his speech to congress tonight.
“After 40 years, I finally got mentioned in a State of the Union message,” Harkin told Radio Iowa after the speech, laughing. “Kind of nice.”
The president praised Harkin’s plan that would raise the national minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.
“I hope that his strong support for increasing the minimum wage just sort of sent a message to everyone that we have to get this done,” said Harkin, who announced a year ago he would not seek reelection in 2014.
Harkin, a Democrat, said the senate’s Democratic leader has indicated the senate is likely to vote in March on legislation to boost the minimum wage. Senator Chuck Grassley, a Republican, said the president mentioned a few things during the speech that might get bipartisan support in congress, but Grassley doesn’t think the president made much progress in advancing an agenda tonight.
“When you work with congress, it’s a meticulous sort of job. It’s hard work and he hasn’t demonstrated that hard work,” Grassley told Radio Iowa. “It’s almost like he’s shunned congress to some extent.”
Congressman Tom Latham, a Republican from Clive, said he “heard a lot of platitudes” but nothing new from the president.
“I’m not sure what the speech actually was meant to accomplish,” Latham told Radio Iowa. “I thought it was more divisive than it was constructive as far as congress and the relationship with the White House.”
Congressman Bruce Braley, a Democrat from Waterloo, said Obama offered a “strong start” to the year by calling for a “year of action” in Washington.
“Based upon the year we just finished I think that was an important challenge to us,” Braley told Radio Iowa, “and I think we’ve seen some positive signs based on the budget agreement, the spending bill, the negotiated Farm Bill that we’re going to be voting on tomorrow that shows we are starting to move in a direction of greater action.”
Congressman Dave Loebsack, a Democrat from Iowa City, said everyone can agree on the president’s overall priorities of U.S. economic growth and national security.
“We’re going to have differences, of course, about how to do that, especially about how to get the economy moving again,” Loebsack told Radio Iowa. “But there are a lot of folks I think who are very aware that we’ve got to look to the future.”
Republican Congressman Steve King of Kiron posted a video statement on his website, calling Obama’s speech “tepid…and pretty much predictable.”
The president did not mention the controversy over an EPA proposal that would reduce the amount of ethanol and biodiesel that’s produced in 2014, nor did Obama mention the Farm Bill compromise which is likely to be voted upon in the U.S. House today (Wednesday). Obama got negative marks for those omissions from both Republicans and Democrats in Iowa’s congressional delegation.