Democrats in Wisconsin's congressional delegation praised President Obama's State of the Union speech Wednesday for its focus on jobs and fiscal responsibility, though some had reservations about his call for a three-year freeze on discretionary spending.
Republicans were more critical of the speech, saying the president's rhetoric has again failed to live up the reality of his policies.
U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, a member of the House Budget Committee, said she's curious how Obama's call for a discretionary spending freeze would mesh with efforts to meet some of his ambitious goals in areas like research and development. She also said she will make the argument that education needs to be held harmless from any freeze because of the need for an educated workforce.
She also was not intimidated by his threat to use his veto pen if lawmakers did not heed his call for fiscal responsibility.
"He is a president. He is not a king," Moore, D-Milwaukee, told WisPolitics in an interview. "Therefore, Congress and the majority will try to make its mark on the budget process."
U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, D-La Crosse, said he was inspired by the speech and thrilled with Obama's veto threat. He complained that President Bush did not veto a single spending bill during his eight years in office as the federal government saw its fastest and largest growth in decades and the explosion of earmarks.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has said she disagrees with the president's decision to exempt defense spending from the three-year spending freeze, and Kind said he believed there were efficiencies in defense spending that need to be considered. That includes the defense systems now in the pipeline that are already $300 billion over budget.
"We've got to end this practice of blank checks for defense contracts because today they believe the sky is the limit and the American taxpayers will write the check for any amount," he said during a teleconference with reporters.
U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, one of the leading GOP House voices on budget matters, said he was happy with the president's focus on job creation and fiscal responsibility. But he said the president's renewed call for health care reform showed a commitment to a reckless expansion of government and undercut some of his calls for restraint.
"The president was right to acknowledge that our massive deficits are unsustainable," Ryan said in a statement. "We must build momentum to tackle this fiscal crisis, but the illusion of budget discipline must be matched with actual solutions."
Other members of the Wisconsin delegation also weighed in:
- U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Menomonee Falls, said he has heard many eloquent words from the president over the past year and hoped that those words would begin to match his actions.
He praised the president's call for fiscal responsibility and for providing incentives for energy efficiency and clean energy.
"And when the climate change bill does just that, I would be happy to support it, but in its current form, it's a tax increase on all Americans and American businesses, with additional costs being passed onto consumers, and millions of jobs being outsourced to India and China," Sensenbrenner said in a statement.
- U.S. Rep. Tom Petri, R-Fond du Lac, said in a statement before the speech that he hoped the president would take a step back on health care.
"I hope he recognizes the need to reboot on health care and work on making some progress rather than saying, 'My way or not at all,' because that approach has not been working very well," he said.
- U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, said the president rightfully made job creation, the middle class and helping small business the centerpiece of his speech.
"We must and we pledge to bring that recovery to Main Street while exercising strong oversight of the titans on Wall Street," she said in a statement.
- U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Middleton, built on the president's call for fiscal responsibility in a statement, calling for the approval of pay-as-you-go legislation, a line-item veto authority for the president and earmark reform.
"As the president said, addressing these challenges will take Democrats and Republicans working together and Congress should respond with bipartisan efforts to create jobs and cut the deficit," Feingold said in a statement.
- U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl, D-Milwaukee, issued a statement praising Obama for mentioning the need to strengthen retirement security, and said he was pleased that the president remains "remains committed to reforming our enormously expensive health care system."
- U.S. Rep. Steve Kagen, D-Appleton, said in a statement he was "proud to hear President Obama make job creation and strengthening the middle class the focus of his address."
"In that pursuit, the thousands of small business owners I have the honor of representing across Northeast Wisconsin appreciate his strong support for job creating tax credits like the one I proposed earlier this year," Kagen added.