"Tonight, President Obama had to show the American people that he has learned from 2009, and that the coming year would be less about Democrat priorities and more about turning this economy around. I think the President succeeded in articulating his new focus on the economy, but I was disappointed that he didn't say more to instill confidence and certainty in the marketplace and assure Americans that real recovery is on its way. He needed to unequivocally show potential job creators that he will work to promote growth and oppose new, burdensome taxes that raise the cost of health care, energy, and investment capitol. Unfortunately, he didn't accomplish that. I strongly support tax policies that will help ease the burden on middle-class families, those caring for the elderly, and those saving for retirement, but these ideas alone cannot return America to prosperity.
"I'm also wary that his aggressive new posturing against the financial industry will undermine any chance he has of working with banks, lenders, and investors to get credit flowing to the consumers and small businesses that need it. Too often, those in power underestimate how economically savvy their constituents are; I know my constituents understand well that punitive tax policies, permanent bailouts, and unchecked government intrusion in the financial markets aren't the kind of policies that create jobs.
"I also especially appreciate that he sought to renew America's commitment to scientific research and development. These advanced research programs underway at places like Argonne National Lab are the key to our long-term economic competitiveness. I also hope he is serious about pushing for more carbon-free nuclear plants.
"I applaud the President for taking a long-overdue step to control spending, albeit a small one. We cannot tackle any of the critical issues before us if we don't get spending under control. I just hope he can follow through with even tougher measures. Simply freezing spending at the same rates that gave us a record $1.5 trillion dollar deficit last year is not enough. Time and again, we've seen his good intentions -- on everything from spending to transparency -- simply vanish when Democrat leaders in Congress begin drafting legislation. The President needs to make good on his promises tonight, and demand that his own House and Senate leaders stop borrowing and spending like there's no tomorrow. The last thing our economy needs is more of the same double-digit budget increases and deficit spending on the backs of our children and grandchildren.
"I was extremely pleased to hear the President address something very dear to me -- education. I serve on the Education and Labor Committee, and I agree with the President that we need to get to work on reauthorizing the nation's elementary and secondary education laws. I especially appreciate his focus on raising standards, inspiring excellence in math and science, and turning around underperforming schools. These are goals we share and I look forward to working with him to give our children the best education possible. I should add that I think that the President is jumping the gun in asking Congress to spend even more money on Race to the Top. That grant program was dropped into the stimulus with no Congressional oversight, and educators everywhere are demanding more local input.
"On health care, it's clear that the election in Massachusetts was a message from the American people that they do not want a health care bill that dramatically increases spending, slashes Medicare, and drives families into a government-run system that few believe will lower costs or improve the quality of care. But the President made clear that he will continue to make this bill a priority -- in whatever form he can get it. The President needs to stop pushing for the health care he wants and start pushing for the health reforms the American people are demanding. I hope he will come back to the table this time to work with Republicans on a bill that truly lowers costs, improves accessibility, and enhances the quality of care. This should start with covering preexisting conditions, enacting meaningful malpractice reform, and allowing small businesses to band together in association health plans.
"Finally, I had been very hopeful that the President would use this opportunity to chart a new path on homeland security that places the safety and security of American citizens above campaign promises. Unfortunately, it's clear the Administration has no intention to reverse course on closing Guantanamo Bay and bringing enemy combatants onto American soil and into civilian courtrooms. The President has yet to explain how closing GITMO and relocating the world's most dangerous terrorists to federal prison in some community in Illinois or New York will make 300 million Americans safer. And trying some of these enemy combatants in civilian courts while others are held indefinitely or shipped to unstable regions of the world carries with it a host of legal and security concerns that could be exploited by those whose goal is death and destruction to America and all things American. This was a lost opportunity, especially after the Christmas Day bombing attempt, to assure the American people and our enemies abroad that we treat terrorism as an act of war, and we will do everything it takes to keep our citizens safe."