Local congressmen had conflicting reactions to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday night.
While Democrats favored Obama’s ambitious plans of providing tax credits to help with families’ childcare costs and free community college for students, GOP critics said the president seemed “combative” and unwilling to compromise on many things.
Tuesday’s State of the Union address was Obama’s first in front of a Republican-controlled Senate and House. The divided government has raised questions on whether his proposals will get very far.
Obama also called for paid sick leave for federal workers and new tax credits for dual-working households. He also proposed a tax hike on the wealthy and tax breaks for the middle class.
After the speech, U.S. Rep. Bill Foster, D-Naperville, said he agreed with Obama’s push for free community college tuition, citing the original 1944 G.I. bill, which was created to help veterans readjust after the end of World War II by providing money for education and job training.
“Look at the facts of the situation. When people analyze the original GI bill, you see the investment in education with people coming back home from World War II,” Foster said. “Over time, you saw higher salaries. They paid more taxes. It’s a [wise investment].”
Critics, including U.S. Rep Adam Kinzinger, R-Channahon, said Obama’s tone seemed more combative toward Republicans than he’s seen in past State of the Union addresses, perhaps because in the past he had faced future elections.
“He seemed very combative tonight,” Kinzinger said. “I didn’t sense a lot of: ‘Hey, you guys won the election; let’s see how we can work together.’”
Kinzinger disagreed with Obama’s assessment that the “shadow of crisis” has passed in the national economy. The economy has certainly improved, but the crisis has not passed, he said.
“The middle class is still suffering, and it has more under this president than any other,” Kinzinger said.
U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski, D-Western Springs, said he hopes the next two years are productive. He called for bipartisanship in passing comprehensive tax reform. Lipinksi said he was “happy to hear” of Obama’s push for more funding for infrastructure and transportation projects.
But Lipinkski said he was equally concerned about Obama’s push to renew fast-track trade authority, which allows Obama to sidestep Congress in many ways in negotiating trade agreements.