Speech divides politicians
BY KAREN SHUEY, Staff Writer
That's how congressional lawmakers who represent Lancaster County described President Barack Obama's State of the Union address Tuesday night.
Local political experts and leaders said the president laid out a hefty agenda in his speech, a plan that does little to encourage both sides to work together.
Republican U.S. Rep. Joe Pitts said Obama failed to set the tone for bipartisanship among the nation's leaders in his address, adding that his comments could have further divided Americans instead of bringing them together.
"It was more like campaign rhetoric than a State of the Union address," he said. "I'm not sure his proposals could even get through a Democrat-controlled Congress."
Political scientist G. Terry Madonna agreed.
"It was clear that Obama was building a case to further marginalize the Republican Party as much as possible," the director of Franklin & Marshall College's Center for Politics and Public Affairs said.
The speech focused heavily on Obama's desire to build the middle class from the inside out as opposed to the top down. The county's legislative delegation split along party lines when it came to most issues.
Democrat U.S. Sen. Bob Casey said in a telephone conference call with reporters that he believed Obama set out a "reasonable" blueprint that members of both parties should be able to embrace.
"When it comes to accusations of partisan politics, I'm tired of people in this town pointing the finger at others," he said.
With a theme of strengthening the middle class, Obama discussed programs to create jobs and proposed spending public money on education, manufacturing, infrastructure and clean energy.
"I think Obama did a great job reaching out to the broad middle of the American people -- not just the middle class," Casey said.
Casey welcomed Obama's emphasis on jobs and the need for investments in the manufacturing sector.
U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey also appreciated the economic iniatives put forth by Obama, but had different ideas about how to achieve those goals.
Becoming less reliant on foreign oil is key to strong economic growth, the Republican said in a statement.
"We could start our energy profile by improving the Keystone Pipeline, creating thousands and thousands of jobs, including many in Pennsylvania, that would go toward the development of that pipeline and helping North American oil to flow," he said.
U.S. Rep. Pat Meehan, meanwhile, wasn't impressed by Obama's vision to reign in spending.
"I fear that the agenda he laid out will just lead to more of the same: more debt, more regulations, more government and fewer jobs," the Republican said in a statement. "I'm also disappointed by Obama's call for higher taxes. Enough is enough. We cannot tax our way out of our fiscal mess."
Although the speech had a deep focus on job creation and the economy, there was no shortage of attention to the controversial social issues that top the president's to-do list.
Obama made a robust case for limiting guns, overhauling immigration and protecting entitlement programs, and he may have done so at the risk of alienating Republicans.
"Based on the language in his speech, he shows an unwillingness to sit down and negotiate on these issues," Pitts said.