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Region’s lawmakers split on speech

WASHINGTON – The Inland Northwest congressional delegation was both impressed and rankled by President Barack Obama’s fourth State of the Union address Tuesday night.

Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., said she was pleased by the president’s focus on economic policy and his focus on investing in programs to create manufacturing jobs, which are important to Washington state workers.

“You can’t stay competitive if you shortchange those programs,” Cantwell said.

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., applauded the president’s middle-class focus in his remarks on the economy and his emphasis on job training to make the country’s economy competitive.

“Every economic sector in our state is looking for education and training,” Murray said.

But Idaho Sens. James Risch and Mike Crapo bristled at Obama’s calls for tax reform. Risch said Obama’s claim that his programs would not increase the deficit by “a single dime” was unrealistic.

“It was a rah-rah speech,” Risch said. “It wasn’t a legitimate policy speech.”

Crapo said the measures introduced by Obama would end up hurting the economy.

“Excessive taxing and our massive debt are weakening economic growth today, resulting in fewer job openings, smaller paychecks and more dependence on the federal government,” Crapo said.

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers echoed the call for addressing deficit reduction. She said she agreed with the president’s call for improved energy independence for job creation.

“I hope that that is an area where we can continue to move forward,” McMorris Rodgers said. “I believe that the Keystone project is an important part of that for North American independence, as well as all of the other energy sources.”

Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, has gained prominence as a potential source of compromise in the House on immigration reform, which Obama touted in his speech. Labrador said he’s hopeful a bipartisan deal will get done.

“What I’m concerned about is I think the president and some Democrats want a political victory and not a policy victory,” Labrador said.

Labrador said he thought Republicans had “moved to the center on this issue, and it’s time for the president and his party to move in our direction.”