REACTION: State of the Union

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., issued the following statement after President Obama’s State of the Union address:

“My hope is that Congress uses this moment of reflection to renew our commitment to creating opportunity for all, while protecting and upholding American values.

“Congress must to do more to help working families in Oregon and across the country get ahead by tackling the tough, fundamental issues that are critical to the health of our economy.

“Education has always been the key to unlocking opportunity in America, and Congress must put on a full-court press to lower the cost of college and lift high school graduation rates. I am especially proud to have led the fight to get real traction on this front last year, including making the American Opportunity Tax Credit permanent and giving high schools and teachers new resources to ensure more students earn their diplomas. The president is absolutely right to call for reducing student debt and investing in higher education.

“In creating opportunity and boosting our economy, it’s long past time for a fair and modern tax code that gives everyone a chance to get ahead while allowing us to compete globally. Last year Congress delivered legislation that provides greater economic certainty to working families and small businesses alike, and now our focus must remain on larger reform. Congress must also continue working to strengthen Medicare, especially for those with complex, chronic conditions that are difficult to treat.

“I also agree with the president that opening new markets and exporting American products represents an enormous opportunity to grow jobs and raise middle-class wages. Trade done right must maximize those opportunities for Oregon and the United States.

“Upholding our values also means keeping our nation safe, but never sacrificing our hard-won freedoms. It means making smart choices to attack climate change head-on and expand clean energy. It means doing much more to protect our communities from gun violence, while respecting responsible gun owners. It means hunting down terrorists, but continuing to welcome immigrants and refugees from violent oppression and terror to our shores.”

Congressman Kurt Schrader (OR-05) released the following statement in response to President Obama’s final State of the Union address on Tuesday night, Jan. 12. Schrader entered office in 2009, when Obama was sworn in for his first term as President.

“Our country is in a much stronger position than it was 7 years ago. We’ve added over 14 million private sector jobs since 2008 and in the last two years have experienced the strongest private sector job growth since 1997 to 1999. Unemployment has dropped from 10 to 5 percent. Millions of Americans how have health care. These achievements should be celebrated, but work still remains.”

“Trade is the next big economic boost for Oregon and I was encouraged that the President put a strong emphasis on increasing U.S. trade. This is of particular importance to me as Oregon is the 7th largest export state and much of our agricultural community is heavily dependent on trade.”

“However, our country still faces stiff obstacles and, in a partisan environment, those obstacles have proven difficult to overcome. Our economic recovery is fragile and small businesses are encumbered by onerous regulations that cut into their bottom lines and limit their growth. We need to focus on expanding innovation and make it easier for entrepreneurs to get their businesses off the ground to create good-paying jobs.”

“Our debt and deficit are unsustainable and both Congress and the Administration have ignored the long-term consequences of our spending. We just passed a huge, unpaid-for, special interest tax break and $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill before the holidays, thinking only of short-term benefits and not of our children and grandchildren who will be the ones shouldering this massive debt.”

“True progress has been made since I was elected to Congress including the passage of the Affordable Care Act, overhauling No Child Left Behind, correcting a decades-old issue with Medicare reimbursement rates so seniors can actually see their doctors, and passing a long-term transportation bill for the first time in ten years. But the President was correct in pointing out we have more to do. Now is not the time for Congress to slow down – we should seek to make this year as productive, if not more so, than last year and push forward commonsense, bipartisan solutions to America’s greatest challenges.”

Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley issued the following statement after President Obama’s final State of the Union speech:

“Tonight President Obama reminded us of what we can and should be: a country of political and economic opportunity for all.

“I share the President’s vision for growing our middle class, and protecting our planet. The American dream is built on expanding opportunity for the next generation. This means guaranteeing all students access to higher education without crushing debt, innovating with new savings opportunities to create a more secure retirement future for all working Americans, and building a political and financial system that responds to the needs of the many rather than the few.

“America must also continue to display global leadership in taking on the climate change challenge. It’s critical not only to protect our planet for generations to come, but to create jobs and economic growth as a worldwide leader in renewable energy.

“I was honored to have Jim Obergefell, the lead plaintiff in the landmark Supreme Court case that extended marriage equality to all 50 states, as my guest at the State of the Union tonight. As the President said, this ruling on marriage equality embodies our great, unique strengths as a nation, and it was a tremendous moment of progress.

“But the fight for full equality for the LGBT community is not complete. Last year, I introduced the Equality Act because it’s incomprehensibly wrong that in many states a couple can marry in the morning and be evicted from their apartment or kicked out of a restaurant in the afternoon. The time has come to right that wrong. Congress must act and pass the Equality Act to ensure that all LGBT Americans have full rights in every aspect of their lives, and to make our democracy better for all.

“I look forward to working with the President and my colleagues on these critical issues and moving our country forward.”

National Sheriffs’ Association and Major County Sheriffs’ Association released the following statement in response to President Obama’s address to Congress:

“While we were pleased San Bernardino County Sheriff John McMahon and other law enforcement and first responder officials were guests at this evening’s State of the Union address, we are concerned that President Obama did not address challenges desperately needing his attention to improve public safety and support law enforcement personnel.

“The President didn’t offer specific improvement to the mental health care challenges in our nation’s jails. In the wake of de-institutionalization of the mentally ill, the number of people suffering serious mental illness in jails and prisons is now 10 times the number receiving treatment in state psychiatric hospitals.

“The President and Congress must reexamine Medicaid eligibility rules that deprive low-income, mentally ill individuals of desperately needed psychiatric care and condemn them to a dangerous pattern of recidivism. At the very least, the President and Congress should implement a pilot program that would continue Medicaid benefits for inmates so that, upon release, they can seamlessly continue to receive psychiatric aftercare and psychotropic medications.

“Additionally, the President failed to address the Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s unclear Priority Enforcement Program that leaves sheriffs and communities vulnerable to dangerous criminal aliens released back to the streets. President Obama and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) need to define where probable cause exists to arrest an illegal immigrant for a violation of law.

“The President should have announced a plan for DHS to share information more effectively with state and local law enforcement and to broaden the eligibility categories for deportation. At the same time, Congress and the President owe it to local taxpayers to increase the reimbursement for state and local agencies that house criminal aliens on behalf of the federal government.

“Lastly, the President should have rescinded his executive order that seized needed excess military equipment from more than a dozen communities and left them less prepared to help citizens hurt by natural disasters, terrorist attacks, and active shooter situations.

“The President has one year left to strengthen law enforcement capabilities and address the concerns of America’s sheriffs. Unfortunately, he didn’t do so tonight.”

About NSA

The National Sheriffs’ Association (NSA) is one of the largest associations of law enforcement professionals in the United States, representing more than 3,000 elected sheriffs across the nation, and a total membership of more than 20,000.

NSA is a nonprofit organization dedicated to raising the level of professionalism among sheriffs, their deputies, and others in the field of criminal justice and public safety. Throughout its seventy-five year history, NSA has served as an information clearinghouse for sheriffs, deputies, chiefs of police, other law enforcement professionals, state governments and the federal government.