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Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) issued perhaps the most bipartisan statement of the evening, opting to focus on the economic challenges facing the nation rather than attacking Obama.
“I believe the President is sincere in his desire to strengthen our economy, and that is why I am looking forward to him joining Republicans in our efforts to end the Democrats’ job-destroying spending spree,” McCarthy said.
Rep. Jeff Flake, the House’s chief anti-earmark crusader, applauded Obama’s pledge to veto bills with earmarks. “I was surprised that he actually said he would veto,” the Arizona Republican said. “That’s a hard commitment to make. That’s what he’s got to do. I hope he does it.”
But Flake was disappointed with what Obama said on spending overall. “The rest of it was not so good,” he said.
House Democrats, meanwhile, largely hailed Obama’s speech, praising his emphasis on research and development and economic recovery.
“The President outlined a Sputnik-type commitment to the entrepreneurial spirit of the American people, through which we can lead the world in innovation, secure energy independence and create clean energy jobs, and strengthen small businesses. That plan can build a broad-based prosperity that will ensure economic security for our children,” Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said.
“Democrats are ready to win that future by creating jobs, strengthening the middle class, and reducing the deficit and we will work with civility, with everyone who is committed to maintaining America’s leadership,” the California Democrat added.
Similarly, Assistant Leader James Clyburn (D-S.C.) praised Obama.
“Facing the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, President Obama came to office and launched a major recovery effort. Two years later as he reported tonight, the stock market is back, corporate profits are up and the economy is growing again. Now it’s time to build on that progress by working together to spur job creation,” he said.
“I hope my Republican colleagues will join us in this effort. There are many areas on which we share common ground, the question is whether we will meet there to make a difference,” Clyburn added.
Rep. Raúl Grijalva, a co-chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said that Obama left him reassured that the president would not stand for cuts to Social Security but that he was concerned that Medicare and Medicaid were still potentially on the chopping block.
“I still think there’s a lot of unknowns in this speech,” the Arizona Democrat said. “It was a good speech, but the unknowns are many as to where the cuts are going to be in domestic spending, how deep are they going to be. And the freeze over the next five years on domestic spending is gong to have an effect.”
Budget ranking member Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) took a jab at his Republican colleagues. “When Republicans put forward ideas that help create jobs, reduce the deficit, and strengthen the middle class, they will find willing partners — but when they try to turn back the clock and put special interests back in charge, they will find a vocal opposition,” he said.