WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama’s speech on Tuesday night promoting initiatives for the middle class cheered Nevada Democrats but frustrated Republicans who charged they were just more of the same from big government.
“I would like to see this bipartisanship he talks about continually,” freshman Nevada GOP Rep. Cresent Hardy said. “Let’s see him initiate it for a change.”
At his first State of the Union speech, Hardy took issue with the president’s threats so early in the session to veto bills that seek to alter policies on immigration, health care, Wall Street reform and sanctions on Iran.
“Is he going to listen to our side? And the nation’s side? There was a pretty good mandate in this last election on the direction people want to go,” Hardy added.
Hardy acknowledged a gulf between his pro-entrepreneurial philosophy and that of Obama. For instance he dismissed the president’s calls for free community college and more liberal employee paid sick leave as examples of “top-down politics” that don’t take into account the burden that may be created for struggling states and businesses.
“We have good policies in place — the GI Bill,” Hardy said. “If you want a free education, go serve your country for a couple of years and take that route.”
Hardy did see one area of potential agreement between Republicans and Obama, on more liberal trade promotion. The problem there is that congressional Democrats tend to be suspicious of trade deals they say might harm U.S. workers or the environment.
Trade “is one area I hope (Obama’s) party can come forward on,” Hardy said. “It’s an important issue. We’ve had unbalanced trade for so long.”
Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., said Obama “failed to offer a legitimate road map for job creation or for turning the economy around.
“The Silver State has seen its share of difficulties over the past years and continuing down the same path only serves as an impediment to our needed comeback,” Heller said.
Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., was heartened by the speech and the proposals that Obama put forward.
“I think it was an attempt for him to show he wasn’t backing down,” Titus said. “He really took it to the mat for the middle class, which I think is great.”
Titus said Obama proposals to help veterans and improve infrastructure are areas where agreement might be possible. But if nothing else, the speech could serve to show a contrast between Democrats and Republicans going into the next elections.
“And if I were some of those Republicans running for office, I would be pretty hesitant to take a ‘no’ position on some of these things that make sense,” she said
Nevada Democrat Sen. Harry Reid said Obama highlighted issues critical to families and America’s middle class.
“President Obama is right to call on Congress to ensure that all hard working Americans share in our growing economy,” the Senate minority leader said in a news release. “The middle class must have the tools to succeed and that starts with giving middle-class American families a tax cut. The President’s middle-class tax cut proposal would put $500 back in the pockets of thousands of families in Nevada and throughout the country.”
Contact Steve Tetreault at email@example.com or 202-783-1760. Find him on Twitter: @STetreaultDC.