After State of the Union, Members Mixed: Roll Call Gets Reaction from Statuary Hall (Video)
Members of the House who flooded Statuary Hall Tuesday night after President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address kept on message, an illustration of an unshifting partisan divide.
During Roll Call’s first-ever video livestream following a presidential address, Editor-in-Chief Christina Bellantoni interviewed six lawmakers to gauge areas of compromise they see with the president. Democrats heaped praise on Obama; Republicans weren’t interested in playing along.
Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., said he liked the president’s address because it lauded accomplishments over the last few years and told Americans to “look: don’t be depressed, don’t be down.” If the question was, Hoyer said, “is America better off than it was five years ago,” the answer was, according to Hoyer, “absolutely yes.”
But, Hoyer said he was encouraged the president acknowledged that “we need to do more,” and because the president said, according to Hoyer, that he was not going to “sit on the sidelines” if Congress wouldn’t work with him.
As for the effect of the speech, Hoyer conceded that State of the Union addresses rarely change lawmakers’ minds. But, he said, the true aim — “in a democracy” — was to change the public’s mind.
(Hoyer also waded into some presidential politics. “I think Martin O’Malley would be an excellent president,” Hoyer said of the Maryland governor. “Hillary Clinton is certainly the odds on favorite of most of the Democrats if she runs. I don’t accept it as a given that she’ll run.”)
Karen Bass, D-Calif., told Bellantoni that the president gave Democrats “a lot to work with.”
“He gave us an entire menu — some things we can do, some things he can do on his own,” Bass said.
She specifically pointed to an immigration overhaul and the minimum wage hike as two areas where Congress and Obama can work together.
Meanwhile, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., gave a common GOP refrain to the speech, complaining it “just didn’t set the right tone.”
“It was one executive order after another,” Ros-Lehtinen told Bellantoni, adding she was glad Obama didn’t spend much time on immigration, for fear of “deflating” GOP enthusiasm for putting bills on the floor this year.
Ros-Lehtinen said a minimum wage hike was “a nice thing to talk about,” but she wouldn’t commit either way on the measure.
“It’s great to say you’re Santa Claus all the time, but that bill is going to come in the mail and it’s going to mean less jobs for Florida,” she said.
The former chairwoman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Ros-Lehtinen said the president’s veto threat on an Iran sanctions bill was misdirected: ”It’s not great to be tough on Congress.”
She added the gains the United States had made with Iran are thanks to tough sanctions, and questioned whether easing up on those sanctions would help. ”Heck no,” she answered. “As Joe Biden would say: ‘malarkey.'”
Watch our interviews with other lawmakers below.
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla.
Rep. Terri A. Sewell, D-Ala.
Rep. Bradley Byrne, R-Ala.