McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

State House

January 29, 2014

Cole, others express disappointment in State of the Union address

Ada — President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address showed that he is more interested in fighting Congress than working with it, U.S. Rep. Tom Cole said Tuesday.

“To get things done in divided government, the president must set goals that unite Democrats and Republicans,” the Moore Republican said in a written statement. “But the message in tonight’s speech is a disappointment.”

Obama’s address, which focused primarily on domestic issues, revived several old ideas that did not gain much momentum last year. Among other proposals, the president called on Congress to take another shot at overhauling the nation’s immigration system, increase the federal minimum wage and expand access to early childhood education programs.

The speech also included Obama’s proposals to boost the economy by raising the minimum wage for federal contractors and making it easier for low-income workers to earmark money for retirement. The president’s only new legislative proposal called for expanding income tax credit for workers who do not have children.

Obama’s vow to bypass Congress if necessary to achieve some of his goals rankled members of Oklahoma’s congressional delegation.

“During much of President Obama’s time in Congress, he has refused to work with Congress to consider anything other than his own vision,” Cole said. “We are a nation of laws, and each branch of government serves as a check on the other. Whether the president likes it or not, he cannot act without Congress and remain true to the Constitution.”

Rep. James Lankford, R-Oklahoma City, said Obama’s speech relied on political rhetoric instead of offering constructive solutions to the nation’s problems.

“The State of the Union did not answer the real questions the American people want to know: why have their wages continued to drag and economic growth seemed so slow,” Lankford said. “People want jobs and opportunity, not federal mandates, government programs and rhetoric.”

Rep. Markwayne Mullin, R-Westville, said Obama’s willingness to bypass Congress showed that the president’s bipartisan talking points were just talk.

“Threatening ultimatums for if and when Congress doesn’t act contradicts our founding principles,” Mullin said. ”Forcing an executive agenda, without constructive conversation, creates a divided nation. Let’s sit down with our nation’s best interests in mind and come to bipartisan solutions that put America back in business.”

Other lawmakers said Obama should have focused on other issues, such as foreign policy or government spending.

Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Cheyenne, said the president should have made reducing the federal budget deficit his top priority.

“The president must realize the federal government has a spending problem, and he must work with Congress to make significant cuts to help address the U.S. debt crisis,” Lucas said.

Obama touched only briefly on foreign policy issues during his speech, and he repeated his opposition to a new round of economic sanctions against Iran while the U.S. and other countries are conducting nuclear negotiations with that country. He contended that additional sanctions could jeopardize the outcome of nuclear talks with Iran.

U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe complained that Obama did not devote enough time to national security or foreign policy.

“I was troubled that President Obama failed to adequately address the national security crisis currently before us,” the Tulsa Republican said in a written statement. “In his first four years, he cut $487 billion out of our military and is pursuing more cuts now through sequestration.”

 He is disarming America by starving our military.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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