By Pamela Gentry, Senior Political Analyst
Jan. 28, 2010 – President Barack Obama delivered his first State of the Union address to the American people Wednesday and highlighted his priorities in 2010: jobs, jobs and jobs. But he also called upon his colleagues and critics to get busy with a legislative agenda that will deliver health care reform, financial reform, renewable clean energy and increased funding for education.
The speech was one of the longest the president has given since taking office –lasting more than an hour. I counted interruptions for applause more than 60 times. Black lawmakers were quick to react to the president’s call to action, and while most applauded his agenda, he got mixed reviews on his proposal for a three-year budget freeze:
House Majority Whip Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.)
”President Obama struck the hopeful themes tonight that resonated in his campaign. The American people want security restored. Over the past decade, middle class families have seen their financial security eroded through job losses and declining wages, plummeting retirement accounts and skyrocketing health care costs, declining home values and rising costs of tuition. They are demanding our help, and this Administration and Democratic Congress are answering their call. Our unified goals are jobs, more jobs, and even more jobs.
“President Obama has laid out an agenda that will turn the despair of the first dismal decade of the 21st century into an era of restored prosperity for both the middle class and our country. The Congress supports his vision to build wealth in the middle class, create new home-grown, American owned economies in our country, and rebuild relationships abroad. We have taken bold steps and laid a foundation toward accomplishing these goals during 2009, and with this renewed commitment, I believe we will make greater strides toward realizing more stability and security in the near future.”
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) Chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus
“His bold decision to stay the course on issues such as comprehensive immigration reform, energy independence and education reform is exactly the kind of ambition we need during these trying times.
“As the President stated tonight the most paramount of these issues is jobs. So, we must address this issue head on. With unemployment at record levels – particularly in communities of color, we must put in place concrete solutions that will help generate sustainable job creation. The utilization of small, minority and women-owned businesses will be critical to overall job growth – and the President’s proposals reflect that fact.
“I agree with President Obama that we must address the deficit that he inherited, but I disagree over how we should do it. Instead of freezing non-defense discretionary spending, we need to focus on bloated unnecessary Pentagon spending and cost savings for ending the wars which have already cost us over $1 Trillion.
“Many of my colleagues and I are concerned about the impact of this freeze on jobs and the economy. At this critical time we should be doing more direct government investment to create more job opportunities.”
Rep. John Lewis, (D-Ga.)
“He said we have to be more than concerned about the next election. We have to look out for the next generation. This is not the time for campaigning and rhetoric; it is time to get down to the business of governing. I was glad that he had strong words for the Senate, which has not been able to move on good opportunities to bring the kind of change Americans are seeking. The House has done its part by responding to many of the people’s needs with legislative action. We are hoping the Senate can finish the job.
“President Obama issued a mandate on jobs, education, the middle class, small business, war and nuclear disarmament, fiscal responsibility, as well as health care. He affirmed that members of Congress must come together and get the work of the people done. And I believe his words and his proposals give us a platform to unify and begin to work on and pass some of the legislative ideas the President presented tonight.”