Oregon delegation reacts to State of the Union

Walden takes issue with Obama's plans; Wyden, Merkley supportive

Oregon delegation reacts

WASHINGTON - The reaction from Oregon's congressional delegation to President Obama's State of the Union address Tuesday night was much as one would expect: Critical response from Republican Greg Walden, supportive from the state's two Senate Democrats

"The president gave the kind of speech you would expect him to give tonight,," said Walden, "but it's troubling that he wants to use his pen to get around laws he doesn't like through executive order, when he should be working with Congress to change the laws if he wants them not to be enforced."

The congressman added, "I did have an opportunity to meet with the president prior to the speech about the drought that we face; the threat to our farms, and families, and forests; and the need to find solutions from an emergency standpoint as we head into what could be a terrible water year and a terrible fire year."

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said, "President Obama laid out a vision for growing the economy, strengthening our education systems and making sure that every hard-working American has the opportunity to succeed, and I share those goals."

"I strongly agree on the need to increase the federal minimum wage so that Americans working hard can support their families and make ends meet," the senator said.

"Congress must also move beyond political brinksmanship to help unemployed workers and create jobs by rebuilding the nation's infrastructure, strengthening American manufacturing and overhauling the broken tax code," Wyden said. "It's also time to look at Medicare reforms that strengthen and protect the Medicare guarantee, improve care and hold down costs."

"The president clearly understands that our nation has to act now to address climate change, which is why it is so crucial to support clean energy and shrink our carbon footprint," Wyden added. "Ultimately, though, only Congress has the tools to take on the full scope of this global problem."

"Finally, it is clear jobs are Americans' top priority, and for rural Oregon, that means jobs in the woods," the senator said. "I am looking forward to working with the president to create more jobs in the forests through recreation, increasing the timber harvest on federal lands and by conserving our country's special natural places."

Sen. Jeff Merkley said Obama "is right to pinpoint the success of our middle class as the defining issue of our time."

"Our economy and our families will never reach their full potential if growth only comes from the top down, and not from the middle out," Merkley said. "What our country needs most is a middle class agenda that prioritizes good jobs now and expanded opportunity for the next generation."

"We should start by taking two immediate steps that would boost our economy and give a hand up to hardworking families who are struggling: extending emergency unemployment insurance and raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour," the senator said.

"I applaud the president for taking the first step in this direction today by directing all federal contractors to pay their workers a wage of at least $10.10. Now Congress must act to extend fairness and opportunity to millions more families."

"Ultimately, it doesn't take rocket science to understand what makes a strong middle class: good, living-wage jobs; quality, affordable education; secure retirement; and a political and financial system that responds to the needs of the many rather than the few," Merkley said. "Now is the time to revitalize our commitment to the middle class and focus on the pillars that will help both individual families and our broader economy succeed."

Here's the reaction from Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore.:

"Tonight, the president laid out his plan of action for a stronger America. I appreciated the President's emphasis on the need for jobs critical to Oregon's Fourth Congressional District. As he mentioned, this can come from investments in America's infrastructure, including ports, highways and transit systems.

"I am pleased the president has joined my efforts to reign in patent troll litigation. These frivolous lawsuits are bleeding billions of dollars from America's innovators every year. The House has acted; now the Senate must follow through to do its part to protect business owners.

"Like the president, I strongly agree that it's time for Congress to renew unemployment insurance. This is a critical issue for the 25,000 Oregonians who have already lost their benefits, and the estimated additional 50,000 who stand to lose their benefits by the end of the year. These Oregonians are still struggling to make ends meet in a job market where there are five applicants for every one job opening.

"The president is right to call for action on climate change. Tonight, he laid down a strong marker on this multi-generational challenge. Right now I am working on a strong legislative proposal to reverse what I believe is the greatest environmental challenge of our time.

"While I appreciate much of the president's message, I am strongly opposed to his proposal to push for yet another job-killing trade deal. Fast-track authority and the Trans-Pacific Partnership would be another blow to the middle class. During my in Congress, I have opposed every free trade agreement, including NAFTA, because despite promises to the contrary, they ultimately lead to more jobs being shipped overseas."

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