Predictably, reaction to Obama address splits along party lines

President Barack Obama played a lot of notes in his State of the Union address Wednesday and how they sounded varied depending on one’s seat in Congress.

Democratic members of the state’s congressional delegation enjoyed what they heard, applauding the president for his focus on creating jobs, push for health care reform and pledge for budget austerity.

“I’m always impressed with the president’s ability to give the right speech at the right time. This speech laid out the right agenda for this country,” said U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Wash.

Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., called it a “great speech” delivered at a “very critical time for this country.”

And Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., said Obama’s address “set a tone that ‘Yes this is hard but we are a country that does not give up.’ ”

But the speech disappointed Republican legislators with its pile of promises and lack of details on erasing the federal deficit.

“I thought the main message from him is his desire to stay the course” he set out on in 2009, said Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., who represents Spokane and much of Eastern Washington.

“He outlined a number of new spending programs at a time when spending is out of control. I wanted to hear more how he was going to get spending under control,” she said.

Not everything Obama said frustrated Republicans.

Rep. Dave Reichert, D-Wash., said he was “really encouraged” by the president’s mention of trade agreements with Korea, Colombia and Panama – all of which have been stalled in the House.

“I hope that the rhetoric of the speech is transformed into action in the coming weeks and months,” he said.

On other initiatives laid out Wednesday, Cantwell and Larsen welcomed Obama’s plan to use some of the bailout money repaid by large banks to help bolster the ability of community banks to make loans to local businesses.

Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Wash., praised the president for seeking more aggressive regulation of large financial institutions.

The push for promoting clean energy jobs made it “a perfect speech for Washington state where we are creating those jobs,” he said.

Not everything sounded good to Democrats.

Obama’s support of new offshore oil drilling and nuclear power plants made Cantwell wince.

“I didn’t jump up on the offshore oil. There were some things that were not Washington’s cup of tea,” she said.

And the president’s urging of legislators to stop “treating every day like Election Day” and work together did get noticed though it’s not likely to alter the chemistry of the process.

“One party always offers to be bipartisan, but it takes two to get it done,” Murray said.

On his call for bipartisanship, McMorris Rodgers said: “I thought it was weak.”

Larsen said it’d be a shame if the message gets ignored by Congress.

“We’ve got to stop placing blame and get on with the work the people elected us to do,” he said.

Reporter Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@heraldnet.com

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