The reactions of our three Congressmen to President Bush's seventh -- and final! -- State of the Union address almost make one wonder whether they heard the same speech. At the very least, they targeted different aspects of it.
Sen. Russ Feingold, D-WI, focused on Bush's "attempt to bully Congress" into giving the Executive Branch more powers against terrorists; Rep. Paul Ryan, R-1st District -- who didn't mention war, terrorism or even the word Iraq in his response -- is "pleased the president focused on the economy;" and Sen. Herb Kohl, D-WI, says the president "should heed calls from Congress to responsibly end the war."
The contrast between Feingold and Ryan was stark. Feingold used words like, "unfortunately," "bully," "myopic," "most troubling;" while Ryan's reaction was peppered with "pleased," "encouraged" and "support."
Decide for yourself who heard the speech you heard. All three reactions, complete as received, are after the break:
“In his final state of the union address, President Bush unfortunately continued to advocate positions and policies that have been harmful to our nation. He once again attempted to bully Congress into giving broad powers to the executive branch far beyond what is necessary to protect the country from terrorists. Congress must stand up to these tactics and pass a law that allows our intelligence community to go after al Qaeda and other threats to our national security while protecting the rights and freedoms of law-abiding Americans.
“Perhaps most troubling was the President’s steadfast commitment to an Iraq policy that has led to the deaths of nearly 4,000 American troops, continues to cost this country billions of dollars per month, and fails to make us safer in the global fight against al Qaeda and its affiliates. The president’s policies are keeping nearly 160,000 American troops stuck in Iraq and sapping our ability to address the global terrorist threat presented by al Qaeda.
“As we continue to pay a tremendous price because of the administration’s myopic focus on Iraq, al Qaeda maintains its safe haven in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The recent bombings in Algeria also remind us that the enemy we face is global and that a narrow focus on Iraq is self-defeating. Our next commander-in-chief will face great challenges in this critical region of the world, made more difficult because of the lack of attention the Bush administration has given to it.
“It is important to note that this is the last state of the union this President will give. I look forward to working with whoever takes office as our next President to change course, and begin to undo the damage this Administration will leave behind. We need to reform our broken health care system, and move away from a one-size-fits-all education policy. We need a real commitment to protecting our environment, and to moving away from the flawed trade policies that have led to so many American workers watching their jobs leave this country. I join many Americans in looking forward to addressing these challenges as the country prepares to move beyond the failed policies of this administration.”
“I am pleased the President focused on the economy and the need for bipartisan action to create jobs. While I am encouraged that the stimulus package did not include a congressional wish list of new spending, I am doubtful this package will do much to actually create sustainable job growth. I believe it should have included more immediate tax reform to create more jobs in our country and provide more growth to our nation’s economy.
"Earmark reform is also critical to restoring accountability and fiscal responsibility to the federal budget. While I am pleased that the President is committed to reducing earmark spending, I do not believe the President went far enough. Congress should immediately impose a moratorium on earmarks and reform the spending process to end this pork barrel spending as we know it. The President also needs the Legislative Line Item Veto to stop earmarks like the “Bridge to Nowhere” from becoming law. I, along with Senator Russ Feingold, introduced the Congressional Accountability and Line Item Veto Act to provide this tool to the President to stop wasteful government spending.
"In addition, I support the President’s call to balance the budget by 2012 without raising taxes. As the Ranking Member of the House Budget Committee, I look forward to working with the other side of the aisle to ensure that taxpayers are not overburdened with tax increases and that taxpayer dollars are not spent on wasteful government programs.”
“Tonight, President Bush rightfully commended Congress for working in a bipartisan way to achieve a short-term plan to get our stalling economy back on track and provide timely relief for millions of working families. As part of a larger stimulus package, I believe we should also consider temporary measures to extend unemployment coverage for Americans out of work, address the housing foreclosure crisis, and expand food stamps and home heating assistance for families struggling to make ends meet.
“On Iraq, though there has been a reduction in violence in recent months, little progress – if any – has been made on achieving a long term political solution that puts the responsibility of leadership back into the hands of the Iraqis. The President should heed calls from Congress to responsibly end the war and redeploy our combat troops out of harm’s way.
“I look forward to debating these issues in the Senate, and taking a closer look at the specifics of the President’s plan when he unveils his budget proposal next week.”