State's U.S. lawmakers have praise for speech

By Stevie Mathieu, Columbian assistant metro editor

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The three congresswomen representing Southwest Washington highlighted different parts of President Barack Obama's State of the Union address Tuesday night.

U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Camas, homed in on Obama's statements regarding bipartisanship, economic improvements and the nation's deficit.

Obama's "vision and mine don't always align, but where we can find common ground, I look forward to working with him," Herrera Beutler said in a statement following the address. She added that she'll support any of Obama's proposals to increase jobs "as long as they are fiscally responsible and focused on private-sector job growth."

On the deficit, Herrera Beutler said that if Obama is serious about solving the debt crisis, she'll work with him.

"Earlier this year, the president insisted on letting some tax cuts expire, and he got most of what he asked for," she said. "Now it's time to address the other, more serious side of the debt equation -- decades of federal overspending."

Herrera Beutler serves on the House's federal discretionary spending committee.

Obama touched on a wide range of hot topics, including the deficit, climate change, gun violence and cyberattacks. He called for an end to corporate tax loopholes, comprehensive immigration reform that provides more avenues to citizenship, and passage of the Paycheck Fairness Act for women in the workforce.

Several times in his address, Obama mentioned his goal of growing the middle class. He called for a federal minimum wage of $9 an hour, and to make preschool available to all American children.

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., remarked Tuesday night on Obama's middle-class focus, and on his approach to reducing the debt.

"On the tough fiscal battles ahead, the president repeatedly stressed the key principle that will be required for us to make progress: balance," Murray said in a statement. She said she plans to lay out "a pro-growth budget that puts jobs and the middle class first, tackles the debt and deficit responsibly, calls on the wealthy to pay their fair share, works for seniors and families, and lays down a strong foundation for long-term and broad-based economic growth."

Murray serves on the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Murray also stressed the importance of veterans' care as an estimated 34,000 troops return home from Afghanistan this year.

"It is going to be critical that the Pentagon and the (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs) do more to work together to give these brave men and women access to health care, employment opportunities, and the benefits they have earned to help ease their transition back into civilian life," Murray said.

In an emotional part of his address, Obama repeatedly asked Congress to vote on reforms to prevent gun violence, including increased background checks for prospective gun owners and limits on high-capacity ammunition.

He also said that if Congress fails to tackle climate change, then he'll take executive action to curtail its effects.

U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., said Tuesday night that she was encouraged by Obama's "market-based solutions to avert the growing impacts of climate change on our communities. And, we must continue innovation to support clean energy job growth that moves America closer to energy independence."

Cantwell said Obama correctly focused his address on the middle class and growing the economy.

"President Obama is right to prioritize investments in manufacturing jobs and workforce skills that will keep America competitive in a global economy," Cantwell said in a statement. "I've seen the power of our trade economy across Washington state, whether it's manufacturing grain silos in Spokane, growing cherries in Yakima, shipping grain from the Port of Vancouver or developing software in Seattle."

Obama also asked that the nation's aging infrastructure -- including its 70,000 "structurally deficient bridges around the country" -- be improved to attract more business to the nation.

Stevie Mathieu: 360-735-4523 or www.facebook.com/reportermathieu or www.twitter.com/col_politics or stevie.mathieu@columbian.com