By Jordan Blum
Advocate Washington bureau
February 13, 2013
WASHINGTON — Republican members of the Louisiana congressional delegation criticized President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address for using “rhetoric” backing middle-class growth and oil-and-gas production, but allegedly without implementing policies that back it up.
The two Democrats in the state’s congressional delegation — Sen. Mary Landrieu and Rep. Cedric Richmond, of New Orleans — however, praised Obama for touting middle-class growth, natural gas production expansions and an emphasis on improving the nation’s ports and waterways infrastructure.
“It was more reaching across the aisle to see if we can solve our problems of today the best we can,” Richmond said, arguing that too many Republicans shun compromise and appear “stuck on stupid.”
Rep. Charles Boustany, R-Lafayette, agreed with Richmond about being “very happy he (Obama) finally mentioned our ports,” which are vital in Louisiana. He also gave credit to Obama for moving forward with new global trade partnerships in Asia and the European Union.
However, Boustany said it “kind of raised a few eyebrows” when Obama proposed increasing the federal minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $9. Federal “government mandates” are not the answer to economic development, he said.
Overall, Boustany, Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, and other Republicans said they are tired of what they call Obama’s empty words.
“He talked a good bit about energy,” Boustany said. “But he’d done this before, where the rhetoric sounds good … and then his policies don’t support it.”
“We’ve heard it,” Cassidy said. “Over the past four years it’s the same thing.
“His message is different than his actions,” Cassidy added.
Cassidy said it is hypocritical of Obama to address problems with entitlement spending and health care spending but to ignore that his “Obamacare” adds to the problem.
On the hot-button issue of climate change, Rep. John Fleming, R-Minden, said it is “outrageous” that Obama is arguing that 12 of the hottest years on record occurred in the past 15 years.
“We’ve had all of these (natural disaster) events as long as the Earth has been created,” Fleming said.
But Fleming and other Republicans were mostly disappointed that Obama did not focus enough on debt reduction and spending cuts, including the “sequestration” across-the-board cuts going into effect on March 1 unless Congress acts.
Rep. Steve Scalise, R-Jefferson, who now chairs the Republican Study Committee, also went after Obama on federal spending.
“The president, on one hand, called the spending problem in Washington a manufactured crisis,” Scalise said, “while he proposed new federal spending programs.
“The president still doesn’t seem to recognize we have a spending problem,” he said.
In a prepared statement, Sen. David Vitter, R-La., credited Obama with focusing on “creating jobs,” but the compliments stopped there.
“That’s probably because we actually had negative economic growth last quarter with unemployment still around 8 percent,” Vitter stated. “But I think everything he’s talking about is the same-old, same-old — more government programs and ‘investment’ — code word for spending.”
Also in a prepared statement, Landrieu, on the other hand, sincerely praised Obama’s focus on jobs, the economy and natural gas production.
“This (natural gas production) is truly a game changer for our country that is bringing us to the verge of energy independence and has the potential to create millions of good jobs across our country,” Landrieu stated.