Bronx Congressmen React to President Obama’s Feisty State of the Union Address

President Barack ObamaIn what was his next to last speech as President of The United States, President Barack Hussein Obama gave a rousing speech advocating for equality for all.

For the first time ever the protection of transgender Americans was called for in the State of The Union Address. Obama said: “As Americans, we respect human dignity, even when we’re threatened, which is why I’ve prohibited torture, and worked to make sure our use of new technology like drones is properly constrained,” Obama said. “That’s why we defend free speech, and advocate for political prisoners, and condemn the persecution of women, or religious minorities, or people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. We do these things not only because they’re right, but because they make us safer.”

He strongly stated the need for a minimum wage which would bring all Americans above the poverty level and challenged members of Congress who were against a minimum wage to try to live on $15,000 per year. He said: “If you truly believe you could work full-time and support a family on less than $15,000 a year, go try it. If not, vote to give millions of the hardest-working people in America a raise.”

At the heart of his message is a plan to raise taxes on wealthy Americans’ investments and financial institutions in order to use that money to foot the bill for free community college tuition, new tax credits for child care and two-worker households. He stressed the need to address climate change which is having a major negative impact throughout the world. In fact 2014 was the warmest year ever recorded.

BidenSocial media was buzzing last night with comments, opinions, and pictures of the address. Many of these were comedic quips but it showed that Americans were clearly paying attention last night to the speech and tuning in. Also paying attention were local Bronx officials. Congressman Jose Serrano, Joe Crowley, and Eliot Engel shared their opinion, as well as their favorite parts, from President Obama’s State of the Union Address.

Congressman Jose Serrano:

Congressman Jose Serrano, 15th Congressional District

“Tonight, President Obama laid out his vision to continue moving forward and build on the progress we have made as a nation. I fully agree with the President that we need to seize the moment, and build on it by investing in our continued economic progress and providing all Americans with more economic opportunities.

“I couldn’t agree more with his message about the importance of strengthening the middle class and providing people with more opportunities to move into the middle class. As the President outlined, we do this by cutting taxes and expanding tax credits for the middle class, reforming our business tax code, raising the minimum wage, and keeping good paying jobs in America.

“We also need continue promoting housing and college accessibility, and protect the progress we have made in expanding access to affordable health care. I was particularly pleased to hear President Obama talking about importance of supporting women in the workforce, a topic we have ignored for too long.

“To continue growing our economy and ensure America remains competitive, I agree with the President that we need to reform our business tax code, invest in our infrastructure and promote innovation.

“In the foreign policy arena, I fully support President Obama’s policy towards Cuba and his call on Congress to help him continue updating our failed policy towards the island. We also need to strengthen our national security, instead of putting it at risk, as Republicans are doing by putting forth an extreme anti-immigrant Homeland Security Bill that threatens to partially shut down our government in an effort to prevent the President from implementing Executive Action on immigration.

“In fact, I was glad to hear President urging Republicans to stop putting American families’ security at risk by continuing to pick fights on the issue of immigration and explicitly say that he will veto any legislation of this kind.

“In recent months, the President Obama has demonstrated his willingness to take bold action and to get things done to continue moving forward. Tonight, the President renewed his commitment to continue fighting for a stronger America that works for all, not just a few. I have no doubt that he will continue putting forth and supporting brave policy initiatives throughout the next year based on the priorities he outlined in his speech. Republicans need to put politics aside and join Democrats at the table to pass legislation and implement policies in the interest of the American people.

Congressman Joe Crowley:

Congressman Joseph Crowley, 14th Congressional District

“Tonight, President Obama laid out a clear path to grow our economy, strengthen our middle class, and expand economic opportunity to help every American succeed. Now, Congress must get to work and partner with the President to achieve real results that will have a meaningful impact on American families.

“While we are seeing positive gains in our economy, including 58 consecutive months of private sector job growth and the lowest budget deficit since President Obama took office, much more needs to be done to ensure these improvements are benefiting all Americans, at every level on the economic scale. We must focus on efforts that will help create jobs and bigger paychecks for American workers – such as increasing investments in manufacturing and improving our nation’s infrastructure. And I welcome the President’s plan to create a simpler, fairer tax code that helps ease the burden on middle-class families.

“As the President emphasized, the time has come for us to modernize our workplaces to better reflect and support the needs of hard-working American families. The President’s plan to encourage paid sick leave and paid family and medical leave for workers, as well as his focus on affordable child care, mirrors House Democrats’ economic agenda to improve the financial stability of America’s working families.

“We must ensure economic success for all Americans, throughout their lives, and so I agree with the President that we must help make saving for retirement not just a priority, but a possibility for all Americans. Every American deserves retirement security, and that’s why I will be introducing legislation in the coming days to implement the President’s groundbreaking ‘MyRA’ savings account plan to give every American the opportunity to build a nest egg.

“Tonight, President Obama challenged Congress to join him in taking action on the most pressing challenges we face as a nation. I urge my colleagues on the other side of the aisle to join with House Democrats and to do just that: take action on legislation that creates jobs, boosts paychecks, and strengthens our economy. Let’s put American families first.”

Congressman Eliot Engel:

NYS Congressman Eliot Engel

NYS Congressman Eliot Engel

“As I sat in the House Chamber listening to President Obama’s State of the Union Address I was pleased to hear so many initiatives that, if enacted, would help grow the middle class, improve the economy, and strengthen our homeland security.

“As the hard data continues to show, our economy is growing once again. Unemployment is down, businesses are hiring, and the stock market is hitting record highs. But even as the very wealthy make more and more, the vast majority of Americans have seen flat wages for more than a decade. Expanded credits for childcare, an increase in the minimum wage, and paid sick leave and maternity leave will strengthen our middle class and help the economy grow and flourish. These steps together will let working households carry their paychecks further.

“In terms of higher education, as costs continue to soar our students who choose to pursue an advanced degree are being saddled with crushing debt. I applaud President Obama for his forward-thinking proposal for free community college. In an increasingly competitive international economy, an investment in education is an investment in our country’s continued success globally. Additionally, on a more personal note, I grew up in a working class family and attended the City University of New York (CUNY) when it was tuition-free. I know how beneficial those savings were, and I do not know whether I could have achieved my professional goals without that cost-free opportunity to attend college. I would like today’s students to benefit from the same access to education which was available to me.

“I heartily endorse the President’s proclamation tonight that we are as free from the grip of foreign oil as we’ve been in almost 30 years. We are number one in oil and gas, number one in wind power, and every three weeks we bring online as much solar power as we did in all of 2008. As a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, its Subcommittee on Energy and Power, and as co-Chair of the Oil and National Security Caucus, I have long worked to break our addiction to foreign oil and to create new clean energy jobs.

“I was pleased to hear the President emphasize the importance of developing renewable energy technologies to replace energy sources that cause global warming. Our innovators have the ability to create jobs by setting the world on a low-emissions path, and our government has an obligation to encourage them.

“The President talked tonight about ‘a better politics.’ It is now up to the 114th Congress to take up these proposals, find real solutions for our broken immigration system, grow our economy and our infrastructure, educate our workforce, and provide support to hard working families. I call on my colleagues from both sides of the aisle to come together, end the gridlock in Washington, and pass legislation that will work for every American.”