TN commenary on ‘State of the Union’ speech; UT prof says GOP response highlights party fractures

From the News Sentinel:
Perhaps the most telling part of an otherwise “pedestrian” State of the Union address Tuesday, has been the fractured reactions from the President Barack Obama’s opposition, according to a political scientist.

“This is the first time (following a major presidential speech) I can remember it being so obvious the opposing party is speaking not with one voice, but with several,” said Anthony Nownes, a political scientist at the University of Tennessee. “They are not able to work together to propose an alternative to the president other than to say ‘We don’t want what he wants.’”

The official, televised party response came from highest-ranking woman in the House, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, of Washington, who commentators largely agree succeeded in her measured, thoughtful reply to the president.

“Republicans have plans to close the gap, plans that focus on jobs first without more spending, government bailouts and red tape,” she said.

But there were a flurry of other replies from Sens. Rand Paul, of Kentucky, and Mike Lee, of Utah, along with Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, of Florida, who delivered a Spanish-language speech that echoed much of what McMorris Rodgers said.

The tone from Paul and Lee, both Tea Party members, was pointed and combative compared to the more even tone from McMorris Rodgers. Other Republicans issued news releases with reflections on the speech, including Sen. Lamar Alexander, of Maryville. Alexander’s statement pushed for the president to offer “a real answer to income inequality” by suggesting he “liberate the free enterprise system from Obama regulations so it can create more good new jobs.”

Some news releases from Tennessee politicians on the State of the Union are below.

From Sen. Lamar Alexander:
WASHINGTON, Jan. 28 – U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today said the president failed to “give a real answer to income inequality” in his State of the Union speech.

Alexander cited his Scholarships for Kids Act – which he introduced in the Senate today as an example of a policy that would address income inequality by giving “parents more freedom to choose a better school for their child.” Alexander introduced his legislation at the American Enterprise Institute alongside Senator Tim Scott (R-S.C.), who has introduced legislation that would create similar scholarships for children with disabilities.

Alexander attended the State of the Union with Tennessee Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey as his guest. The senator’s full remarks on the president’s speech are below:

“I would have preferred to hear the president give a real answer to income inequality, and the first real answer is to liberate the free enterprise system from Obama regulations so it can create more good new jobs,” Alexander said. “The second real answer is to give parents more freedom to choose a better school for their child, and today I introduced legislation to do just that by allowing $2,100 federal scholarships to follow 11 million low-income children to the schools they attend.

“Each state would make the decision about how much school choice to allow, but these scholarships for kids would redirect up to $24 billion in existing federal school funding that right now is often diverted to wealthier schools. ‘Scholarships for Kids’ would only benefit children from families that fit the federal definition of poverty, which is about one-fifth of all schoolchildren.

“Allowing federal dollars to follow students has been a successful strategy in American higher education for 70 years, and my proposal would allow the same opportunity to attend a better K-12 school that we have allowed in higher education. ‘Scholarships for Kids’ is the most ambitious proposal ever to use federal dollars to expand school choice. If the president wants to address inequality in America, he should do so by helping all children have the same starting line.”

From Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey (who attended as Alexander’s guest) in a Facebook post:
While the President talks about about building ladders to the middle class, his signature legislation is systematically removing the rungs from that ladder. Obamacare has devastated employers and puts at risk the health insurance of the middle class he pretends to preserve and protect.

Despite presiding over debacle after debacle, the president offered no real explanation for his administration’s overreach and incompetence – only empty rhetoric and more empty promises.

From state Rep. Joe Carr‘s campaign:

–Nashville, Tennessee–Tennessee conservative Republican Senate candidate Joe Carr issued the following statement in response the President Obama’s State of the Union address.

“Tonight we heard about extending unemployment benefits, capping student loan payments, and undoing cuts to federal research – but nothing from the President regarding restoring the recent cuts to veterans’ pensions.”

“The President’s omission tonight was troubling, but equally troubling is Senator Alexander’s silence on the issue – no doubt in part because he played a key role in helping these pension cuts pass.”

“First, Senator Alexander cast a crucial vote for cloture for the Ryan-Murray budget deal and then voted for the appropriations bill in which the majority of the cuts were preserved.”

“President Obama and Senator Alexander may choose to be silent about their cuts to veterans’ pensions, but I won’t. I’ll fight for veterans in this campaign, and, if given the opportunity, I’ll fight for them in the United States Senate.”

“Government spending needs to be reduced, but President Obama and Senator Alexander have put veterans first in line for cuts, and that is unacceptable,” said Joe Carr.

The Ryan-Murray budget deal cut veterans’ pensions and the Omnibus bill preserved the majority of these cuts. The Free-Beacon (1/28/14) reported: “The controversial provision originated in the bipartisan budget agreement crafted by Rep. Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) and Sen. Patty Murray (D., Wash.) could cost service members as much as $124,000 in lost retirement pay. The omnibus spending bill, signed into law earlier this month, left the vast majority of the cuts in place…”

From U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn:
WASHINGTON – Congressman Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) issued the following statement tonight in response to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union Address.

“Each year, the President comes to this hallowed chamber and gives to us an update on the State of the Union. Unfortunately, President Obama’s outreach to Congress over the past five years has started and ended there. Tonight, President Obama’s update was less of a vision for the legislative year to come and more of a threat to Congress. President Obama casually told the American people that he would gladly move around Congress, around their elected Representatives, and around the Constitution to unilaterally enact more of his own failed policies because it’s easier than reaching across the aisle to achieve the bipartisanship and transparency he promised. The President alone should not be allowed to serve as the sole judge and jury when deciding the policies of our country.

“For years this administration has embraced the mantra that you have to pass legislation so you can find out what’s truly in it. Now the President is telling the American people that we must allow him to sign executive orders before we can all see what impact they will have on American jobs, our borders and civil liberties. It is past time that the President and his administration finally roll up their sleeves and work with the representatives of the American people.

“President Obama and I do agree on one thing- Washington should work better. Unfortunately, tonight was more of the same failed big-government policies from President Obama. The past years have shown that fast government action, including an $800 billion stimulus package, Obamacare, Dodd-Frank, and a regulation-happy bureaucracy, does more to halt lasting jobs growth than sustain it. That’s why I’m continuing to fight for common sense legislation that will get the government out of the way of America’s job creators. When America grows sustainable jobs, we grow the middle class; we lower unemployment; we grow the economy; and we grow the very industries that will create more jobs.

“When I was elected to serve the 7th Congressional District, I took an oath to bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution. President Obama is not royalty or a celebrity. He must work within the rules and laws of our country. If the President is serious about his plans for a better America, a stronger middle class, and greater opportunity, then he might want to do more than hold the people’s House hostage.”

From U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper:
WASHINGTON—U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper (TN-5) attended President Obama’s State of the Union address and issued the following statement:

“The President gave an optimistic, energetic speech urging Congress to behave and put America first. I am proud he praised Tennessee’s education reforms. He spoke well tonight and there are positive signs that Congress will do less bickering and more work.”

From U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann:
WASHINGTON− President Obama offered his sixth State of the Union tonight; following the speech Congressman Fleischmann released the following comments.

“Tonight the President gave perhaps his most egregious speech to date. Our founders, through the Constitution, expressly vested the duly elected Members of the House and Senate with the power to legislate. President Obama promised to bypass both the Constitution and the American people through use of executive orders, which can only be deemed as a grave abuse of power.

“The American people want a freer economic system that will create desperately needed jobs. What we need is a system that empowers the individual, not more failed big government policies. The greatness of our nation does not come from Washington; it comes from the people in towns like Athens, Chattanooga and Oak Ridge. Republicans are working to advance plans that place trust in the people and restores the freedom needed to achieve the American dream.

“The President called for this to be a year of action. I am hopeful that he and Senate Democrats will finally join House Republicans in taking the ‘actions’ needed to allow the greatness of the American people to shine.”

From U.S. Rep. John J. Duncan Jr:
WASHINGTON – Congressman John J. Duncan, Jr. (R-Tenn.) addresses transportation proposals and condemns the overuse of executive orders in his response Tuesday to the State of the Union Address:

“As Vice Chairman of the House Transportation Committee and former Chairman of the Highways and Transit and Water Resources Subcommittees, I was encouraged President Obama mentioned near the beginning of his speech the need for new transportation and waterways bills. We are simply going to have to wait and see what the cost and details of any proposal are going to be.

“I have worked for years to streamline the way we approach infrastructure projects in this Nation by cutting red tape and reducing federal bureaucracy. The average federal highway project takes more than 15 years from concept to completion in the U.S. because of excessive regulations.

“President Obama also vowed to take action without legislation ‘wherever and whenever’ he could.

“The power of a president to issue executive orders was not meant to be used to replace the Congress or set up some type of presidential dictatorship.

“Many people have said this president has shown less willingness to work with the Congress than almost any president in the past 100 years, and this should be very disappointing to anyone who believes in true bipartisanship.”

From U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais:
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Representative Scott DesJarlais, M.D. (TN-04) released the following statement following President Obama’s 2014 State of the Union address:

“Allowing President Obama to bypass Congress to accomplish his liberal agenda will create a constitutional crisis that will impact the coequal branches of government for generations to come. Therefore, Congress must stand its ground. If the president chooses to move into the arena of ignoring the Constitution and the role of Congress, then every available Constitutional remedy to prevent his actions must be considered.”