January 25, 2012 in City

Inland Northwest lawmakers respond to State of the Union

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Map of this story's location

President Barack Obama was right in calling for more jobs, more energy and fairer taxes during his State of the Union address, members of the Washington and Idaho congressional delegations agreed Tuesday night.

Republicans among them, however, were skeptical that actions would match the words.

“He had a good delivery, as he always does,” Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, said. “But this was clearly a political speech.”

Obama is correct the federal government has too many regulations that strangle business, Risch said. But the president has promised to rein in the bureaucracy and cut regulations before. A previous result highlighted by Obama in the address was the elimination of a rule that required dairy farmers to prove they could contain milk spills. But in the same year federal agencies added tens of thousands of pages of rules, Risch said.

“A lot of lofty rhetoric, but no action,” said Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho.

He disagreed with Obama’s call for tax breaks to help small business and increase jobs: “I personally want to get rid of all tax breaks in favor of a flat tax.”

But he agreed with Obama on banning insider trading for members of Congress and has co-sponsored a bipartisan bill that would do that. In most cases, the rules of the House don’t allow insider trading, he said, but if there are loopholes to close, that would be important for public confidence.

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., said Obama “covered a lot of ground” but the speech wasn’t as focused as in years past.

“What I heard from the president tonight was mostly a defense of his failed policies, and after three years of economic turmoil, that is no longer acceptable to the people of Eastern Washington or the American people,” McMorris Rodgers said. “I would say the president needs to work with us on all the legislation.”

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., said in a prepared statement that she shares Obama’s vision of policies that get people back to work, help families and create a solid foundation for long-term growth. “Too often the conversations here in Congress are dominated by Republicans who are focused above all else on cutting programs families depend on, eliminating supports for the middle class and ending investments in the future of our great nation.”

But Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, wondered how some of Obama’s initiatives were going to be paid for without adding to the deficit. Disagreements aren’t always between Democrats and Republicans, he added.

“There are several projects that have bipartisan support but lack support from the White House,” Crapo said, including the Keystone XL pipeline extension that could have been part of Obama’s “all of the above” strategy for more energy.

Phoebe Zhang, a student in the University of Missouri Journalism School’s Washington, D.C., Reporting Program, contributed to this report.

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