“He missed the biggest challenges that we have as a country,” Alexander said. “We’re in trouble. We have persistent unemployment.”
Republican Policy Committee Chairman Tom Price (Ga.) gave perhaps the most tempered response to Obama’s address, calling the speech “disappointing.”
“I agreed with 80 percent of what he said, but I disagree with about 80 percent of his actions,” Price added, arguing that Obama’s rhetoric doesn’t match his actions, particularly on health care policy.
Unsurprisingly, Democrats had a markedly different opinion of Obama’s performance, giving the president generally high marks.
“Tonight, the president delivered a strong vision to the American people of an economy that’s built to last, that ensures a thriving middle class, that promotes fairness for working families, and that reignites the American dream,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) said in a statement.
In a statement, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) praised Obama’s performance.
“President Obama offered common-sense solutions that will create jobs and put our country on a path to economic fairness. The policies proposed by the President will narrow the inequality gap in our country while making America a leader in clean energy technology, and continue the revival of our manufacturing sector,” Reid said.
The Senate’s top Democrat also took a shot at his GOP colleagues, saying, “We need Republicans to work with us, and refrain from turning straightforward issues into all-or-nothing battles. I am optimistic that this year, Republicans will turn away from the Tea Party, and listen to the American people instead.”
Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin batted away criticism accusing Obama of simply giving a partisan, political speech. Obama “went out of his way to keep it at an issue level,” the Illinois Democrat said, adding that the president laid out ideas that “a majority of Americans” could support.
House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer also praised the speech, arguing that Obama “asked us to envision the stronger union we can achieve together.”
“The plan he laid out is rooted in the same values of fairness and responsibility that have enabled generations of Americans to climb ladders of opportunity and pass their faith in the American dream on to their children,” the Maryland Democrat added.
Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Emanuel Cleaver said he was particularly happy with Obama’s proposals for high school graduation and foreclosure mitigation, and discounted the address’s political nature.
“Obviously it had some political components to it, but he repeated the theme of cooperation,” the Missouri Democrat said.
House Ways and Means ranking member Sander Levin (Mich.) was particularly pleased with the address.
“I think he was very specific ... on the domestic side, about two-thirds of it is in the jurisdiction of the Ways and Means Committee,” he said.
Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (Mont.) said he was happy with Obama’s call for a speedy resolution to the lingering question of extending a popular payroll tax cut.
“It gave [chances of passage] a little extra boost,” Baucus said.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.