Northwest Republicans and Democrats applauded President Barack Obama’s emphasis on jobs, particularly on creating them in small businesses, but wondered about the details of other proposals in the State of the Union speech.
Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., said she liked Obama’s focus on small business, particularly a plan to take $30 billion repaid by major commercial banks and set it aside for small and medium-sized community banks to make business loans: “We’ve been hearing how hard it is for (small businesses) to get credit.”
Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, agreed the federal government should help smaller banks to make business loans, but not with money repaid to the Troubled Asset Relief Program. That was supposed to go into the national treasury and reduce the debt, he said, not become a “slush fund.”
Risch and fellow Idaho Republican Sen. Mike Crapo were more enthusiastic about Obama’s suggestion of a capital gains tax break for small businesses. Crapo would like even more cuts in the capital gains tax, but “any step in the right direction is appreciated.”
Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., said she was glad to hear the president’s emphasis on helping families, small businesses and smaller community banks: “Getting credit into the hands of those on Main Street is the best way to get our economy moving.”
Members of both parties liked his emphasis on exports, an area of the economy that Washington in particular has emphasized for decades, Cantwell said.
But Democrats and Republicans were split on Obama’s call to resume work on health care reform, urging them to pass his proposals or come up with better ones.
It’s the right strategy, Murray said, because getting health care costs under control is a key to improving the economy. Democrats haven’t given up on health care reform and the speech showed “he didn’t give up on it either,” Cantwell said.
But Risch said he was shocked that Obama’s attitude on health care just seems to be “carry on,” despite the loss of a Senate seat in Massachusetts. “I thought he’d get it after that. He doesn’t get it.”
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., said she was surprised that Obama was taking a “stay the course” approach on health care and other struggling proposals.
“I would’ve liked to hear him say we’re going to start over,” McMorris Rodgers said. “But even just having open negotiations would be a step in the right direction.”
Rep. Walt Minnick, D-Idaho, said he doubts that a single comprehensive health care package can pass and said Congress should put together a package of ideas that have broad agreement, such as insurance reform, more competition across state lines and some level of tort reform. He said it would be a good place to start on what he thought was the most important message of the speech: the need to grow up and start acting in a bipartisan manner.
“If we can’t learn how to work together … these problems cannot be solved,” Minnick said.