Following are three reactions to President Obama’s State of the Union address from three members of Congress representing the Memphis area.
To some extent, their partisan identifications and ideological leanings dictate the tone of their responses, but there are other factors, as well.
9th District Congressman Steve Cohen, Democrat: “There was a lot in President Obama’s State of the Union tonight that should make Memphians feel good. While the recovery from the Great Recession has not included all that it should have, the President tonight outlined his vision for building ladders of opportunity so that every American who works hard and plays by the rules has a fair shot to succeed. Whether it’s job training programs, college affordability, access to high-quality affordable health coverage, housing and retirement security, or a lifeline for the unemployed, that’s what we need in Memphis.”
“I agree with the President that the minimum wage must be raised so families can earn a living wage and make ends meet. Though with the stroke of a pen he is able to raise it for federal contractors, I will continue working in Congress until the minimum wage is raised for all hardworking Americans. We must also work together to provide economic opportunity and create jobs by passing comprehensive immigration reform and a transportation bill that strengthens our nation’s infrastructure. Improved infrastructure means better access to Memphis, more jobs for our city, and a competitive edge for the Mid-South. I’m going to join the President in Nashville on Thursday, and I look forward to continuing working with him to grow our economy, strengthen the middle class, and give every American a chance to get ahead.”
U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander, Republican: “I would have preferred to hear the president give a real answer to income inequality, and the first real answer is to liberate the free enterprise system from Obama regulations so it can create more good new jobs. The second real answer is to give parents more freedom to choose a better school for their child, and today I introduced legislation to do just that by allowing $2,100 federal scholarships to follow 11 million low-income children to the schools they attend.
“Each state would make the decision about how much school choice to allow, but these scholarships for kids would redirect up to $24 billion in existing federal school funding that right now is often diverted to wealthier schools. 'Scholarships for Kids' would only benefit children from families that fit the federal definition of poverty, which is about one-fifth of all schoolchildren.
“Allowing federal dollars to follow students has been a successful strategy in American higher education for 70 years, and my proposal would allow the same opportunity to attend a better K-12 school that we have allowed in higher education. ‘Scholarships for Kids’ is the most ambitious proposal ever to use federal dollars to expand school choice. If the president wants to address inequality in America, he should do so by helping all children have the same starting line.”
U.S. Senator Bob Corker, Republican: “I go to these events each year out of respect for the office of president, and certainly for the people that I represent, but I’ve come to see these things as they are. I’ve heard a Republican president for the first two years and now a Democratic president. These end up being sort of poll-tested talks that really have nothing much to do with what may or may not happen.
“What I really pay attention to is what someone does, not what they say. I hope over the course of the next year we’ll have the opportunity as a nation to fully address the fiscal issues that are so important to us [and] the trade issues that are so important to us. We’ve got an opportunity now with a little bit of a reprieve economically to really do the serious bread and butter things that our nation needs to do.”
NOTE: As originally posted, a quote made by another member of Congress was inadvertently attributed to Senator Corker. His actual response has been substituted for the incorrect one.