TN Responses to Obama’s 7th State of the Union Address

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President Barack Obama highlighted improvements in the nation’s economic outlook — such as a lower unemployment rate, improved college graduation rate, improved wages, greater energy independence and a high rate of Americans having health insurance — in his seventh State of the Union address Tuesday night.

Obama spoke of the need for bipartisanship and to work together. However, he also threatened to veto any legislation that he viewed as steps backwards in his work to fix the country’s problems, such as with immigration or health care.

He called for Congress to pass laws related to mandatory sick leave, improved tax credits for child care, raising the minimum wage, closing “the trust fund loophole,” closing the wage gap between male and female employees, and other policies that will make a “meaningful difference” in the every day lives of American families.

The president also touted his plan to offer free community college to the nation’s students, loosely based on Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam’s “Tennessee Promise” plan and Rahm Emanuel’s “Chicago Star Scholarship” program. His plan — estimated to cost $60 billion over 10 years — would require both community colleges and students to meet various benchmarks in order to qualify for the program.

On the foreign policy front, Obama cautioned against approaching every issue with a military response, instead urging for a focus on combining military strength with diplomacy. At the same time, he said he “reserves the right to act unilaterally” to take on any terrorist threats to the U.S., and requested an authorization to use military force in the Middle East to face the threat of ISIS.

Here are responses to the president’s remarks from Tennessee politicians made available Tuesday evening:

Statement from U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.:

U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today released the following statement after President Obama’s annual State of the Union address:

“Unfortunately, much of what I heard from President Obama tonight are partisan proposals that don’t have any chance of becoming law – and that he intends to pursue despite the message the American people sent him in November by electing a Republican Congress.

“We need to hear more about proposals that Congress might actually work on with the president: to expand free trade so we can sell more Tennessee products overseas, simplify student aid forms so more community college students can take advantage of Tennessee Promise, preventing cyberattacks and fixing No Child Left Behind.

“I’d like to hear talk more about 21st-century cures, helping to get treatments, medical devices and medicines through the U.S. Food and Drug administration more rapidly, which would help virtually all Americans. This is something that both Republicans in Congress and the president believe is important.

“There are plenty of opportunities – if the president really wants to – to work with the Republican majority to get things done that the American people want done.”

Video of the remarks can be found HERE.

Statement from U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn.:

U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) today released the following statement in advance of President Obama’s State of the Union address.

“While I know it is the tradition for presidents to address the nation in this way, I always pay closer attention to actions after these types of speeches are delivered,” said Corker. “Tennesseans are ready for both the Congress and the White House to govern responsibly and finally focus on growing our economy, repairing our fiscal house and strengthening our nation’s role in the world. It is my hope the president will recognize that the only way to solve some of the big issues we face and create a stronger, more prosperous nation for future generations is to roll up his sleeves, provide leadership and work with this new Congress. If he does that, I think we can begin to deliver real, long-lasting results for hardworking American families.”

Statement from U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn. 01: 

This evening, Rep. Phil Roe, M.D. (R-TN) released the following statement after President Obama’s State of the Union Address:

Good evening.

Tonight we heard many of President Obama’s priorities for the next year in his State of the Union address. I was pleased to hear the president express interest in working with Congress, but unfortunately, his rhetoric has rarely matched reality.

Before the last election, President Obama said that his policies were on the ballot. Well, In November, the American people spoke loud and clear about the president’s failed policies at the polls. Since then, President Obama has not only failed to make a sincere effort to work with Republicans in Congress, he has openly indicated his willingness to go around Congress and the Constitution to achieve his goals. Make no mistake: I’m ready to work with anyone – including President Obama –to get things done for the country, but how can we work with someone like this? The first step to getting our country back on track is to stop the policies that are harming our country. When you’re stuck in a hole, you don’t keep digging. You find a way to climb out and make a plan for a new start.

Some of the priorities laid out in the speech are goals that all Americans support. We should make sure that every able-bodied worker has a good-paying job that can support their family; we should improve our country’s education system; we should cut wasteful spending and we should make home ownership attainable to responsible, hard-working Americans. But even on goals upon which we agree, the president has an over-reliance on government as the solution.

It will be difficult to move forward until the president admits some truths that most East Tennesseans see clearly: Obamacare is not working; immigration reform should happen through changes to law passed by Congress – not executive action; and under no circumstance should we reward anyone who comes to this country illegally with citizenship.

Over the past six years the world has become a more dangerous place and the president’s policies of pacification are only emboldening those who wish to do us harm. ISIS, Iran, North Korea, Cuba and Russia have all undertaken serious transgressions against Americans and global stability without fear of repercussion. The president talked about his foreign policy tonight, but once again we see no strategic plan to strengthen our military and to achieve lasting peace.

We should fiercely protect the Constitutional rights – all Constitutional rights – of American citizens and fight to preserve the American dream. America is the greatest country on the fact of the Earth, and I am determined to keep it that way. We live in a country that democratic nations strive to replicate and that evil oppressors wish to silence. We won’t be silenced. We’ll continue to be the beacon of democracy for the rest of the world. We’ll lead. That’s what America is all about.

The reality is, to achieve anything that improves America in a meaningful way; President Obama has no choice but to work with the Republican-led Congress. And it’s time to get busy.

Thank you for allowing me the great honor of representing you in Congress. As I’ve said before, my door is always open. God bless you; God bless your families and God bless the United States of America.


Statement from U.S. Rep. John Duncan, R-Tenn. 02:

Congressman John J. Duncan, Jr. (R-Tenn.) offers his response Tuesday to the State of the Union Address:

“President Obama always has many things in his State of the Union that almost everyone supports, but of course the devil is in the details.”

“I have always strongly supported tax cuts for the middle class and making education more affordable, but raising the capital gains tax and redistributing income to pay for more government programs could hurt the overall economy. The president’s ‘free’ health care is an example of a too-good-to-be-true plan that now has many Americans paying 50 percent more for their health insurance.”

“I certainly don’t favor proposals that increase taxes overall. Many more jobs are created and the economy becomes stronger when as much money as possible is left in the private sector.”

“I was, however, very pleased to see the president give such a prominent role to my constituent Chelsey Davis, a Jefferson City native who lives in Knoxville and attends Pellissippi State Community College, and astronaut Scott Kelly, who is a graduate of the University of Tennessee.”

Statement from U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn. 03:

Tonight, after President Obama delivered the State of the Union address, Rep. Fleischmann released the following video and statement.

To watch the video, click here.

Text of Rep. Chuck Fleischmann’s Remarks:

Tonight, the President addressed the nation in the State of the Union to deliver his vision for the upcoming year.  Unfortunately, rather than focusing on areas where the President and Congress can work together to move the country forward, he presented a set of ideas he knows will have no chance in the new Congress.  His proposals are burdensome, unproductive, and most importantly, costly. President Obama’s proposed tax hikes will only hurt our economy and the American people. Rather than proposing revenue neutral tax reform, the President decided to focus on a redistributive tax increase. We need a fairer, flatter, simpler tax code that keeps money in the hands of the middle class and empowers job creators to grow and strengthen our economy.

Tonight, the President again detailed his proposal for free community college. While his imitation of Tennessee’s successful Tennessee Promise is flattering, he misses a key element – our state created this program without raising taxes. The President’s program is paid for by a massive tax increase on hardworking Americans, at a time when the American people cannot afford it. I hope the President will learn that our education system should not be hindered by national bureaucracies and expensive federal decisions.

President Obama’s visions are costly and ineffective, and I, therefore, earnestly ask the President to refocus his proposals in order to prioritize the American people and our economy. The President has the opportunity to work with the new Congress to create good-paying jobs and build a healthy, thriving economy. Over the next two years, I will work to empower the American people, and I hope President Obama will join me in this fight to strengthen our nation.

Statement from U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-Tenn. 04:

Congressman Scott DesJarlais, M.D. (TN-04) released the following statement in response to President Obama’s State of the Union address:

“President Obama’s remarks fail to take into account current political and economic realities. The American people widely repudiated this president’s approach last November and sent a clear message they expect him to work with Congress in reining in federal spending and holding Washington accountable. Unfortunately, the president seemed to indicate he plans on pursuing his far left agenda despite what the American people desire and despite what the Constitution allows. I think many Tennesseans were left with the impression President Obama cares more about the legacy of his presidency than the legacy of our country. For example, under the White House’s leadership we have seen our national debt rise to more than $18 trillion. Yet rather than acknowledge this fiscal reality, the president chose to disingenuously suggest we have the financial capacity to create new government programs costing tens of billions of dollars. Empty promises and grandiose rhetoric may appeal to his core group of supporters, but it is certainly not an honest assessment of the state of the union.”

Statement from U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn. 05:

U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper (TN-5) attended President Obama’s State of the Union address and issued the following statement:

“President Obama gave an uplifting speech, and I’m proud he mentioned Tennessee as a model for the country. America is creating jobs at the fastest pace since the turn of the century, our gas prices are plummeting, and we’ve beaten a recession. But so much work remains, and Congress must begin behaving in ways that give hardworking Americans a chance to succeed.”

Statement from U.S. Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn. 06:

Tonight, Congressman Diane Black (R-TN-06) issued a video response to President Obama’s State of the Union address. In her response, Black denounced the President’s immigration overreach and proposed tax hikes, and highlighted Republican-led legislative initiatives in the new Congress. A transcript of her remarks is below, or click here to watch the video.

 Good evening.

Tonight, President Obama gave his State of the Union address outlining an agenda for what he has often called “the fourth quarter” of his Presidency. That’s an analogy that we in the Volunteer State understand well. We know that sometimes, the fourth quarter of the game can deliver a winning play, and sometimes you fumble the ball.

Of course the fourth quarter is also a time that, when all else fails, you try for the Hail Mary – and that appears to be this Administration’s tactic.

Whether it is the President’s unconstitutional executive action on immigration, his “free” community college proposal that simply shifts the cost to hardworking taxpayers, or his $320 billion proposed tax hike on families and businesses, the Obama White House is taking an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach while they try to run out the clock on the last years of a disastrous Presidency.

And while Washington’s bottom line gets bigger, Tennessee families have been left to pay the price for this Administration’s failures.

The President tried to put a positive spin on our economic situation in tonight’s address, but if he parked Air Force One long enough to talk to families in my district he would see what we already know: Our labor force participation rate is at the lowest levels since the Jimmy Carter Presidency while the latest jobs report shows that hourly wages have actually declined.

We can do better. That is why, in this fourth quarter, our new American Congress is going on offense with solutions to empower you, not Washington.

Today, we have new leadership in the U.S. Senate and the largest House Republican majority since 1928. Now, we’re going to use it by sending meaningful legislation to the President’s desk and finally forcing him to accept or reject our common sense ideas.

We’ll keep working to retool our rulemaking process with legislation like the REINS Act – ensuring that major government regulations receive a vote in Congress before they are passed along to you.

My colleagues and I on the House Budget Committee will once again offer a responsible, timely budget that brings our books to balance. And our Ways and Means Committee will continue working to reform our broken tax code.

We’ll go after the worst parts of Obamacare, like the arbitrary tax on medical devices – our top foreign export in Tennessee. And, if I have anything to say about it, we’ll keep fighting to repeal this law in its entirety too.

In the fourth quarter, our Republican majority in Washington will work its will. We will look for opportunities to find common ground, but we also won’t let veto threats and political posturing from a lame-duck White House stop us from pursuing a bold, conservative agenda.

And we will listen to the people who sent us here, because, at the end of the day, the best ideas to solve our nation’s problems won’t come from Washington bureaucrats and special interest groups – they will come from people like you.

Thank you for listening and for allowing me the great honor of serving you. Good night, and God Bless.

Statement from U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn. 07: 

Congressman Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) issued the following statement in response to President Obama’s address to the nation on the State of the Union.

“President Obama’s proposal to increase taxes is not a serious solution to the challenges facing our nation. The President’s plan is misleading because it hurts many seniors who aren’t wealthy, but depend on capital gains,” Blackburn said. “President Obama has increased our debt by $7.6 trillion over 6 years. Last year the federal government collected a record amount of $3 trillion dollars in revenue. Now he wants even more money to expand his dysfunctional government. The American people are tired of it. I have not talked to one person who thinks that more money should be sent to DC for the bloated, over grown, overreaching federal government to waste.

“Let me tell you something – we don’t have a revenue problem. We have a spending problem. Sending more money to bureaucrats in Washington is not going to solve the underlying problems. We need to work on real solutions like my proposal to cut just one penny out of every dollar from discretionary spending. By cutting one percent in discretionary spending, we could save taxpayers an estimated $4 billion in just one year.

“The President also talks about his initiatives to protect personal data online and yet today we learned from the Associated Press that data firms may be tracking people as they use Depending on technology, they may be able to determine age, income, zip code, and whether you smoke or are pregnant. These findings raise new privacy and cyber security concerns. If President Obama can’t protect data on then why should we trust him to lead us on other cyber and privacy issues?”

Congressman Blackburn hosted retired Command Sergeant Major Sidney Brown as her guest for the State of the Union. Command Sgt. Maj. Brown served two tours in Vietnam and is a member of the Triple Nickel-555th Parachute Infantry Association. Following his retirement from the Army, Brown served as County Commissioner in Clarksville. He has lectured at Austin Peay State University regarding the history of the Buffalo Soldiers in the United States Army. Brown was also appointed by Governor Don Sundquist to serve on the Tennessee State Veterans Nursing Home Board and the Tennessee Coin Commission.

“Whether it was serving two tours in Vietnam or his work with local, state, and federal officials to get the VA Nursing Home in Montgomery County, Command Sgt. Maj. Brown has dedicated his life to our nation’s military,” said Blackburn. “We are so grateful for his service on behalf of the United States Army and the Clarksville Community. I am truly humbled to have him as my guest for tonight’s State of the Union Address.”

VIDEO: It’s Time We Get the Nation’s Fiscal House in Order

VIDEO: Blackburn Says Administration Can’t be Trusted to Protect Personal Data

Statement from U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn. 09:

Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09) tonight issued the following statement in response to President Obama’s State of the Union speech:

“Tonight, President Obama laid out his vision to keep our country safe from terror, give the middle class better access to higher education, expand job opportunities, and improve economic fairness for all. It is a good plan for the American public and a good plan for Memphis. While those at the very top have reaped the benefits of a growing economy, the rest of our country has not. Income inequality has grown to nearly obscene levels and it is time to finally give the middle class a break.”

“The President’s plan will give Americans struggling to make ends meet a tax cut and secure paid sick leave for working parents. I was also very pleased that President Obama announced a new medical research program and an effort to increase access to higher education and make college more affordable, goals that I have spent my career working to realize and have helped achieve with Tennessee’s HOPE Lottery Scholarship. I hope that the Republicans who now control Congress realize that the right path forward is supporting middle class families, not just protecting the wealthiest among us, and I look forward to working with them to pass the plan that President Obama highlighted tonight.”

Rep. Cohen also released the following statement specifically regarding the president’s “highlighting” of the “misguided Tennessee Promise program” in the State of the Union:

Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09) today made the following statement regarding the invitation of Pellissippi State Community College student Chelsey Davis to sit with First Lady Michelle Obama at tonight’s State of the Union Address:

“I share the President’s goals of making college more affordable and ensuring educational opportunity for all, and Ms. Davis is a powerful example of how community colleges can help students realize a better life. But she is an outlier of the Tennessee community college system, not the norm. Ms. Davis’ achievements, while impressive, were not aided by Governor Haslam’s Promise program as that program does not begin until this fall. She more likely than not received assistance through the HOPE scholarship while at Pellissippi State and will receive a HOPE scholarship if and when she enrolls in a four-year college. By raiding HOPE funding from which all of its funds are derived and preventing any future growth, the no-standards, non-existent Tennessee Promise program actually hurts low- and middle-income HOPE students who have shown they can achieve and directs their earned scholarship funding to more affluent, non-achieving students. By highlighting the Tennessee Promise, a yet-to-be-established $14 million ‘last dollar’ scholarship program rather than the ten-year $250 million Tennessee Education HOPE Lottery program, the emphasis is being placed on the hole and not the donut.”

Many aspects of President Obama’s community college proposal are in fact similar to the Tennessee HOPE Education Lottery scholarship program that Congressman Cohen, as a Tennessee State Senator, led the 2-decade fight to create. The Tennessee Education Lottery has provided more than $3 billion in education funding to Tennessee students. By requiring students to maintain a reasonable minimum grade point average (GPA) and achieve high standards in order to continue toreceive assistance, the President’s plan is more closely aligned with the HOPE Education Lottery scholarship program that rewards high school performance than Governor Haslam’s Tennessee Promise program, which is a “last dollar” scholarship program that actually reduces the scholarship funding available to new students under the HOPE program.

The Governor’s Tennessee Promise program will not begin assisting students until this fall, and many of those who have succeeded at the state’s community colleges—including Chelsey Davis—have done so because of existing programs such as federal Pell Grants and Tennessee HOPE Scholarship. The average cost of attending community college in Tennessee is $3,787 per year, and the HOPE Scholarship provided $4,000 to high-achieving students prior to being reduced to help fund the Governor’s plan. The Tennessee HOPE Education Lottery Scholarship program “ASPIRE” grants provide students from families that earn less than $36,000 per year $750 per semester to attend community colleges, which was reduced to $250 per semester by Tennessee Promise. Federal Pell Grants also provide up to $5,645 for the most recent school year.

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