Leaders respond to State of the Union

Published 10:46 pm Thursday, January 28, 2010

Just a bit more than one-fourth of the way through his first term in office, President Barack Obama renewed his push for health care reform on Wednesday and called on Congress to pass a new jobs creation bill soon.

During his State of the Union address, the president acknowledged the problems he has had getting the legislature to pass important parts of his agenda, but he called on Democrats and Republicans “to work through our differences; to overcome the numbing weight of our politics.”

Neither Suffolk’s congressman, Rep. Randy Forbes (R-4th), nor Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell were impressed with the plans set forth by the president, however.

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“Once again, we see such a disconnect in the rhetoric that’s coming out of the White House,” Forbes said in an interview on Thursday. “His focus is still on a health care bill that is going to cost five and a half million jobs.”

Even the president’s proposed jobs bill would do little to help employment in the long run, Forbes said, adding that it would create public-sector jobs that are less sustainable than private-sector ones.

Gov. McDonnell gave the Republican response to the president’s speech late Wednesday. He also spoke about the importance of jobs to the American economic recovery.

“Good government policy should spur economic growth and strengthen the private sector’s ability to create new jobs,” he said. “We must enact policies that promote entrepreneurship and innovation, so America can better compete with the world. What government should not do is pile on more taxation, regulation and litigation that kill jobs and hurt the middle class.”

Both Republicans heaped scorn on President Obama’s announcement that he wants a three-year partial freeze on discretionary government spending starting next year.

The proposed spending freeze is an example of the administration’s unpredictability, Forbes said. “They bumped spending by $12 billion last month and now come back and say they’re going to freeze it. It’s such a hollow call.”

Forbes introduced legislation this week that he said would cut “six times as much” from the federal deficit as the president’s proposal in half the time.

McDonnell was somewhat less partisan in his criticism, but he still played down the potential benefits of the president’s plan.

“The federal debt is already over $100,000 per household,” McDonnell said. “This is simply unsustainable. The President’s partial freeze on discretionary spending is a laudable step but a small one. The circumstances of our time demand that we reconsider and restore the proper, limited role of government at every level.”

Soon after the conclusion of the president’s speech, Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) released a statement in which he called for less partisanship between America’s political parties.

“The overriding objective of the president and the Congress over the next year must be to offer the kind of leadership that regains the confidence of the American people in our system, in our deliberative process, and above all in our leaders,” he said.