Less than "Bitter" PA Representatives respond to President's SOTU Address

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President Obama addresses Congress and America in State of the Union speech 1-24-12 (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama’s State of the Union speech has received mixed reviews, mostly along party or ideological lines. However, in Pennsylvania, the speech was not all praise and glory or doom and gloom. Which may seem odd, after in 2008, President – then Senator – Obama uttered those famous negative words about Pennsylvania voters. “You go into these small towns in Pennsylvania . . . and it’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or antitrade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”

Predictably, Republican response from those like U.S. House Representative Tom Marino (R-PA), do reflect the party line.

Tonight,” Marino wrote. “President Obama delivered a campaign speech . . . [u]nfortunately, the President’s words never seem to match his actions.” Fairly harsh. But in light of the President’s penchant for turning every speech into a campaign these days (he is running for re-election), Marino’s criticism seem well placed. For instance, the President remarked how his administration has been working toward energy independence for the past three years, his obstruction of the Keystone Pipeline (not to mention the jobs his actions have delayed while he says how hard he is working to create jobs), his banning drilling for an unnecessary period of time and intentions to tighten regulations to an unreasonable level after the Gulf oil spill of 2010, seem to belie any intent to actually do what he says. As Marino points out, his “words never seem to match his actions.”

Yet on the same political side of the fence, you have U.S. Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA). Although he still has negative words for the President, they take the form of gentle rebuke rather than outright vitriol.

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What we need is for the President to unite Americans,” Toomey said in his response. “Not divide them.”

Yet Toomey seems to have hopes that the President will abide by his call for toning down of rhetoric (something Rep Marino would said is words not matching action, as he wrote “this President’s words and actions are dividing, not uniting.”).

In his response Toomey used phrases such as Obama was willing to “work with Congress on a few pro-economic growth policies, and I will always welcome working with the President and anyone who wants to pursue ideas that will grow the economy and create jobs.”

Toomey also promised he is “still going to fight for those policies, and I hope the President will come along with us on at least some of them.”

U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) should be all praise for his President’s State of the Union speech. Although not making any detracting statements that his GOP counterparts did, he was not all “follow the leader” in his response. In one section of his response, he seemed to be warning the President not to overreach his power, nor try to garner more. When discussing the crack down on China’s unfair trade practices, he said that the “Senate has passed legislation to crack down on China’s currency manipulation. The House must follow suit and the Administration must do more to use its existing powers to level the playing field for U.S. Workers.” (Emphasis mine.)

He also was very verbal about the parts of the President’s speech that focused on bipartisan work. “Everywhere I went [in Pennsylvania] I heard two things: create jobs and work together. We owe it to those we serve to make that our focus as well . . . I hope that we build on the spirit of bipartisanship seen in the Chamber tonight as Democrats and Republicans sat together to create jobs and grow the economy.”

Other PA state legislators had similar responses.

Rep. Mark Critz (D-PA) echoed Casey’s call for bipartisan efforts to curb unfair trade practices by China.

Rep. Alyson Schwartz (R-PA) said that she urges her “Republican colleagues to work with President Obama and Democrats to find common ground.”

Rep. Joe Pitts (R-PA) called for bipartisan work as well, stating that the elections “are 10 months off and we shouldn’t be sitting on our hands until then.”

There were, however, those who still insisted on maintaining the party line. Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA) and Glen Thompson (R-PA) both took note of the blocking by President Obama of the Keystone Pipeline which cost both in the aspect of energy independence and job creation, which, they explained, the President made as key components of his Administration’s successes. “The President’s denial of the Keystone XL pipeline,” Thompson remarked. “Is the latest example of this White House’s failure to understand our nation’s energy needs and potential.”

And on the Democratic side, without surprise, was Rep. Chaka Fattah, ever present “cheerleading” of the President. “Tonight the President presented a plan to secure the American Dream and pave the way for a promising future for all.”

But overall, the response from the representative of the people the President once called “bitter,” who “cling to guns or religion or antipathy” was fairly middle of the road.

Despite the campaigns of both the GOP candidates and the President over the next ten months, there can only be hope that the members of the legislature will begin to climb above the rhetoric and resume the “work of the people.”

Perhaps they can start with the OPEN Act, and address online piracy without affecting online freedoms.

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