MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO/AP) — President Barack Obama used his State of the Union address Tuesday night to make his pitch that the nation must come together to address persistent problems, from the wealth gap between rich and poor to economic mobility to lagging schools.
Stymied by Congress, Obama vowed that if lawmakers won’t act, he will use his executive power to achieve some of his goals, which include raising the minimum wage for some workers hired by federal contractors and making it easier for low-income Americans to save for retirement.
The president also called on lawmakers to pass immigration reform and restore unemployment benefits, among other proposals.
Here are some responses to the address from a number of Minnesota politicians:
U.S. Sen. Al Franken
“I’m very pleased that the President highlighted job training in his speech. There are more than three million jobs in this country that could be filled today if workers had the right skills, and with too many people still unemployed, we have to find a way to train Minnesota workers and fill these open, high-skilled jobs.
“I know Erick Ajax, my guest for the State of the Union, shares my concern about the skills gap. And we both know that workforce development accomplishes so many things — it creates jobs, it makes the U.S. more competitive globally, and it helps address college affordability.
“College students in Minnesota often struggle to cobble together the funds necessary to pay for their education, and many still graduate with enormous amounts of debt. I’m glad the President addressed higher education in his speech, and I’ll keep working to make college more affordable and accessible for Minnesota students and their families.”
Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton
“Tonight President Obama presented a clear vision to expand opportunity for all Americans and continue growing our economy. President Obama’s proposals, from increasing the federal minimum wage, to making college more affordable, to investing in high-tech manufacturing, will increase opportunities for more Minnesotans to achieve the American Dream.”
U.S. Rep. Tim Walz (1st Congressional District)
“Tonight, the President laid out a vision for a stronger, more prosperous America. One in which both Republicans and Democrats set aside their differences, do the hard work, and come together to solve problems. I agree with that bipartisan message. We’re not going to agree on everything, but let’s make progress where we can—like on a bipartisan, robust transportation bill that creates jobs and makes our communities safer. I stand ready to work with my colleagues in Congress, constituents and community leaders like Mayor Kuntz in Owatonna, and local businesses to move our country forward.”
U.S. Rep. John Kline (2nd Congressional District)
“The President discussed a number of critical challenges that need to be addressed, such as strengthening job training assistance, supporting small businesses, fixing a broken education system, and putting more Americans back to work. The U.S. House of Representatives has advanced commonsense, responsible solutions to these and other national priorities. We need willing partners in the White House and Senate who will work with us in good faith to find common ground and move our country forward.
“America’s families should no longer bear the burden of failed policies and a weak economy. Wages are stagnant, unemployment is too high, college costs are skyrocketing, and health care premiums continue to go up. But instead of changing course, the President wants to change the subject. No executive order or unilateral action will help working families if it simply perpetuates the same flawed agenda and failed status quo.
“Executive fiats cannot ensure students have access to a quality education or help job-seekers learn the skills they need to succeed in today’s workforce. The President has rightly called for a year of action – but it must be a year of bipartisan action. No one party has all the answers. The Minnesotans I represent expect us to work together on their behalf. That’s what I will continue to do, and I urge the President to join me.”
U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen (3rd Congressional District)
“Once again, the President gave a good speech. But, we need more than speeches. What we need and what our country needs are policies that create a healthier economy. I am optimistic that through hard work and cooperation, we can come to a consensus on issues like tax reform and increasing exports through trade agreements. I’m also hoping to work with the President on initiatives to combat sex trafficking and protect the thousands of victims of this devastating crime.”
U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum (4th Congressional District)
“Tonight, the President spoke eloquently about the importance of creating opportunity for all Americans. I was encouraged by his vision and I share his dedication to improving the economic prospects of middle, lower and working class families. But as promising as his vision was, it means nothing without action. I will continue to do all that I can in Congress to fulfill the vision for prosperity and opportunity for all Americans, and I urge the President to act where Congress is unable to.”
U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann (6th Congressional District)
“What we heard tonight was what we’ve come to expect from President Obama every year—lofty speeches filled with political promises that have little reality of ever coming true. Eventually the empty rhetoric will catch up to you—and reality is hitting this administration hard.
“The reality is that the median household income has fallen by nearly $4,000 under President Obama’s watch. The average family’s health care premiums have risen by $3,500. 15 million more Americans are on food stamps. And the labor force participation rate is at a 30-year low. After five years in office, it is clear President Obama’s policies aren’t working for the American people and his promises aren’t coming true.
“Sadly, the President is continuing to disregard the Constitution like never before. If a law is politically inconvenient, or he simply disagrees with it, the President believes he can legislate unilaterally without congressional input. This lawlessness is becoming President Obama’s legacy, and not only is it unconstitutional; it reduces faith in his office.”
Bachman is also quoted as saying: “If he wants to move forward with this unilateral activity, he better be prepared for the lawsuit that the United States Congress will bring to him. He may think he’s king, he may declare he’s a king, but that’s not what he is under the constitution.”
Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges
“Tonight’s State of the Union was a strong statement of the agenda that President Obama, Representative Ellison and I share: that we must reduce the growing inequality that hurts our country, and end the gaps that separate communities from each other.
“As much as it was an honor for me to be present, thanks to Representative Ellison’s invitation, I was inspired by the presence of Punch Pizza founder and co-owner John Soranno and kitchen worker Nick Chute, whom the President called out for their success in offering a great product while paying their workers greater than the current minimum wage. It’s another reminder that when we invest in each other’s success, our communities thrive.
“For mayors across America, President Obama is our greatest partner. He knows that given the gridlock in Congress, cities are where we can make progress on the goal of reducing inequality. I thank him for his partnership and look forward to continuing to work with his Administration to advance our common goals.”