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Northwest lawmakers react to Obama speech

Members of Congress from both parties in Idaho and Washington gave President Obama high marks for a speech that called for shared sacrifice and cooperation to lift the nation out of its economic problems. None are quite ready, though, to name something they’d be willing to give up in Obama’s call to “sacrifice some worthy priorities for which there are no dollars.” Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., said she’d give Obama an A for a speech that was motivational and inspirational at a time when the country needs both. While he mentioned many topics, he was right to focus in on health care, education and energy, she added. “There’s going to be tough decisions when we say, ‘We can’t have it all,’” she said. Murray, who has a senior spot on the Senate Appropriations Committee, wants to see what tough decisions Obama makes in his upcoming budget proposal: “I’m sure there will be parts that I like and parts that I don’t.” Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, also gave Obama “a high score” for a speech he said was articulate and dealt with fiscal policy. “I think he clearly identified the issues…and approached them in the right spirit,” Crapo said. Whether he’ll agree with Obama’s spending priorities will depend on the details. “I agree with going through the budget line by line,” he said. But it may also make sense to order an across-the-board cut in all programs so that everyone shares in the sacrifice, he added. Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, agreed: “Everybody is going to have to give something up.” The freshman senator said he’d give Obama a B-plus for rallying the country with a message of “we are Americans and we can get through this.” He also agreed with Obama’s call to wind down the country’s involvement in Iraq. “I applaud him on that, and I agree with him on that,” Risch said. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., thought Obama did a good job of asking everyone to contribute and work together, and liked the overall theme of “Americans aren’t quitters.” She agreed with his call to increase renewable energy and jobs in energy technology, and the call for Democrats and Republicans to work together. “I think there will be (more bipartisanship) on individual bills,” she said. “We have to work together.” Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., applauded Obama for “laying out an ambitious agenda” in what she called an excellent speech. It focused more on the economy than foreign policy and the military, as previous speeches by President Bush did, because that’s just where the country is right now, she added. She agreed that the people and Congress need to tighten their belts, but she wasn’t yet ready to say what priorities she’d give up. She applauded him for the statement but “I wondered what worthy priorities the president was thinking he’d sacrifice when he made that statement.” Rep. Walt Minnick, D-Idaho, who was attending his first speech to a joint session of Congress summed up the scene in a single word: “Crowded.” But Minnick said he agreed with Obama that it was time to work together: “These times are too tough and there is too much to be done to linger over the points where we differ.”
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