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Monday, October 14, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Northwest Democrats applaud, Republicans pan State of Union speech

McMorris Rodgers (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
McMorris Rodgers (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

Northwest Democrats echoed President Barack Obama’s call to look to the nation’s future and put politics aside when possible, while the region’s Republicans were critical of his possible legacy after this last year in office.

Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., said Obama was correct when he noted in the State of the Union that not everyone has recovered equally from the recession, but his proposals to expand education that can prepare workers for new technology and innovation are important steps to address those inequities and transition into the future.

“We cannot forget where a lot of people are in this economy,” said Cantwell, adding that Washington, like the nation, has an uneven economy even though it is a leader in technology, energy and space travel.

She was also happy that in talking about the nation’s energy policy, Obama suggested increasing royalties for fossil fuels like coal to cover the “true cost of extraction” and tie it to transportation. Washington is a state that could see increased shipments of coal, which could crowd the rails and create problems for farmers and other shippers, she said.

When talking about national security and threats from other countries, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., said she was surprised the president didn’t mention the two boats and 10 sailors seized Tuesday by Iran, or a recent terrorist bombing in Turkey.

“We need to be honest about the threats that face this country,” McMorris Rodgers said. To Obama’s challenge to Congress to approve a military response to the Islamic State, she countered: “Before we authorize anything, we need to know what the strategy is.”

To his call for political reform, McMorris Rodgers countered the biggest reform the president could undertake would be to treat Congress as an equal branch of government so “citizens can have confidence their elected representatives are decision makers.”

Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, also wants to see a “winning strategy” against the Islamic State and disputed Obama’s contention that Americans were safer. It’s in greater danger, Risch said in a statement, because of “a very bad nuclear agreement with Iran.”

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., said Obama made clear that the highest priority is keeping families and the country safe. His plans for economic security – raising the minimum wage, allowing workers to earn paid sick days and helping students get education with less debt – are things that could happen with a bipartisan effort that matched last year’s work on the budget and education reform, she said in a statement.

Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, countered that Congress should instead pursue “bold conservative ideas to help families who have seen job loss and stagnant income during the Obama presidency.” In a statement, he said those should include a simplified tax code, reformed welfare system and “patient-centered health care.”

This was Obama’s last State of the Union speech, and Cantwell said she thought it had the feeling of “these are my parting thoughts” She said he showed some humility when listing things he didn’t get done and saying that Franklin Roosevelt or Abraham Lincoln might have done better.

McMorris Rodgers, who gave the Republican response to Obama’s 2014 speech, said the 2016 version “sounded very similar to what I’ve heard in the past.” This year the country has a choice whether to elect a candidate to continue his legacy or change course, she said.

Risch called it a “reiteration” of many bad policies: “I look forward to turning the page in 374 days.”

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