MERCEDES, RGV – There has been mixed reaction from members of Congress representing the Texas-Mexico border region to President Obama’s State of the Union address.
NPR has both the President’s remarks in full and an audio of the hour-long speech. Click here to listen and read.
U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, said he liked much of what he heard in the State of the Union speech.
“Tonight, I sat in the chamber of the U.S. House of Representatives with an open mind, not listening for Democratic or Republican talking points, but instead listening for Texas values and ideas that will continue to move our state and country forward. I was pleased to hear the President emphasize the creation of opportunities for all Americans and the expansion of the middle class, and I agree with the President that this starts with economic fairness and access to quality, affordable healthcare and education for all Americans,” Cuellar said.
“Ultimately, speeches are just words, and I stand ready and willing to back those words up with action by working with the President, Democrats, and Republicans who will help fight for what Texans need, and the continued growth of our economy.”
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, did not like what he heard. In a news release, Cruz said it’s time to move on beyond the President, even though Obama will be in the White House for two more years. Cruz said it is time to “rekindle” America.
“Tonight, America saw a powerful demonstration that it is time to move on beyond President Barack Obama. Just two months ago we had a national election, in which the American people spoke loud and clear and said the path we’re on isn’t working. The American people said the Obama economy isn’t working, millions are hurting, and we want a different path,” Cruz said.
“Previous presidents have been on the receiving end of crushing electoral losses in midterm elections. And previous presidents, when that has happened, have come with contrition and said to the American people and to the voters ‘I hear you, I hear your message, and we will change paths’.”
Cruz said that in his address, the President “told the American voters not only does he not hear their message, but he intends to do precisely the opposite.” He said the President intends to double down on the “failed policies of the last six years” and intends to have “yet more and more government spending and taxes and debt and all of the policies” that are “hurting” hardworking Americans.
“Tonight, not a word was said about radical Islamic terrorism. Those words did not come out of the President’s mouth. We cannot win a war on radical Islamic terrorism with a President unwilling to even say the words ‘radical Islamic terrorism’,” Cruz said.
“Tonight it was also striking: the President did not mention his illegal and unconstitutional executive amnesty. He issued that in defiance of the voters, in defiance of the Constitution, and in defiance of the law and yet when he stood at the State of the Union, he could not bring himself even to bring it up. It underscores the obligation of Republicans in Congress to honor the promises we made, to honor the promises number one: to stop the train wreck that is Obamacare and number two: to stop the President’s illegal and unconstitutional amnesty.”
Cruz said it is time to move on from President Obama. “It’s time to move beyond him and to focus instead on new and bold leadership to bring back jobs, to bring back economic growth, to bring back opportunity, to rekindle the miracle of America. That’s what I saw tonight. Thank you and God bless you.”
Cruz’s take on the State of the Union was in stark contrast to that U.S. Rep. Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes. In a news release, Hinojosa said he liked much of what was in the address.
“President Obama continues his message of action and his optimistic plan to create jobs, increase economic opportunity for the middle class and the unemployed; secure our borders, support our senior citizens and our veterans, improve education, which includes his proposal that would offer free tuition for two years in a community college for those who qualify, and to ensure Americans have every opportunity to obtain health insurance,” Hinojosa said.
“Thanks to the hard work of the American people and the policies that President Obama has pursued, we have rebuilt our economy on a foundation of what works: middle-class economics. For too long now our middle-class has carried the weight at an unfair disadvantage. The facts are staggering. The typical American family makes less than they did 15 years ago, despite the fact that the cost of goods and services has continued to rise.”
Hinojosa pointed out that Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy has issued report that shows that state and local tax systems in United States are the most unfair to the poor and middle class.
“In my state of Texas, the lowest 20 percent of earners pay more than twice the effective state and local tax rate than the top one percent of earners. The income inequality in our country is the largest it has ever been,” Hinojosa said.
“A recent report from the Center for American Progress shows that the average incomes of the top 20 percent of earners grew by 42.6 percent in inflation-adjusted terms between 1979 and 2012, while during that same period incomes of the bottom 20 percent actually fell by 2.7 percent. We must work to stop this war on our country’s low-income and middle class families. This country is at its best when it is growing from the middle class out.”
Hinojosa also said he supports Obama’s push to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 for all Americans. “How can our country move forward when our workers’ wages remain stagnant causing more and more families to fall into poverty?” Hinojosa asked.
Hinojosa said he also agrees that all veterans deserve “the very best this country has to offer” because they have earned it. “Making sure they receive the benefits they deserve has always been an important priority of mine. That is why I have continued to press for a full service hospital in the Rio Grande Valley. In the last few weeks I, along with some of my colleagues have sent an invitation to the new Veterans Administration Secretary Robert McDonald to come visit our veterans and our region of Deep South Texas. The hardships our veterans and their families have endured to receive comprehensive medical care must not be in vain.”
Hinojosa said that just last week, he, along with four Texas border Congressmen, sent a letter to Obama asking that he include the funding in his 2015 budget for a full service veterans hospital in our region. “We will keep on pressing this matter and we will not give up,” Hinojosa said.
On education, Hinojosa said Obama’s proposal to offer free tuition for students attending community college for two years could have “an indelible effect on the success of many Hispanics in our country.”
Hinojosa cited U.S. Department of Education data which shows that more Hispanics are already enrolled in college than ever before. “Of those enrolled in institutions of higher education, nearly half – 46 percent – attend a public two-year school, according to the U.S. Department of Education, this is the highest share of any race or ethnicity. Hispanic high school drop-out rates have fallen drastically in recent years, and college enrollment rates among 18- to 24-year-old Hispanic high school graduates have been on the rise,” he said.
Hinojosa said it is imperative that Congress focus on the nation’s future.
“Our students must have a way to better themselves so that they can give back to their communities and the local economy. I believe one of the best and quickest ways to achieve that is through education. Our President and I both agree that by providing educational resources, especially in the STEM fields, we can secure a future for our children and our grandchildren and for our nation. We must be competitive in the global economy and keep our own economy strong at the same time,” Hinojosa said.
Regarding the Affordable Care Act, Hinojosa said he is pleased I am that in just one year, the number of uninsured adults has been reduced by 26 percent.
“Close to 8 million people signed up for Marketplace plans, paid their premiums, and accessed quality, affordable coverage. If Republican State lawmakers in Texas would accept the Medicaid Expansion thousands of poor working families would have the opportunity to obtain affordable health care insurance. I believe it is wrong to keep them at a disadvantage,” Hinojosa said.
Hinojosa pointed out that those who are assisting in the Affordable Care Act, including his offices, have managed to sign up many people in Deep South Texas by holding enrollment fairs in English and in Spanish for residents.
Hinojosa also said that millions of seniors are saving billions of dollars on their prescription drugs and more than eight million seniors have saved more than $11.5 billion since 2010 in America.
“President Obama has delivered on his promise to lead our nation back into prosperity. It has been a long and arduous road, but much progress has been made. We remain hopeful that through bipartisan efforts we will continue our path on strengthening our economy and our nation,” Hinojosa added.