WASHINGTON – President Bush’s call Tuesday night to break America’s dependence on foreign energy sources won bipartisan praise in Maryland’s congressional delegation, but the state’s Democrats were less pleased with the things he omitted — workers, the poor and recent lobbying scandals.
In his annual State of the Union address, Bush said America was “addicted” to oil from “unstable” regions of the world. To break the addiction, America needs technology — zero-emissions coal plants, better automobile batteries and vehicle fuels made from ethanol derived from wood and other sources.
Bush said he would increase federal spending on clean energy research by 22 percent, something that Largo Democratic Rep. Albert Wynn said is vital.
“The nation’s energy security is at stake and it is time for Congress and the administration to take immediate steps to encourage alternative sources for energy,” Wynn said earlier.
Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Mechanicsville, echoed that.
“I was very pleased at the parts of his speech about obtaining energy independence because it’s critical for the nation’s security,” Hoyer said.
Their Republican colleague, Roscoe Bartlett of Frederick, agreed, but said the president’s initiative may not be enough.
“I was very pleased that he addressed energy, but I’m not sure that his proposal was adequate,” Bartlett said. “We need to marshal the citizens. Unless we have a project on the level of the man on the moon or the Manhattan Project, we’re in for a long ride.”
Both Democrat Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Kensington and Republican Rep. Wayne Gilchrest of Kennedyville said Bush’s emphasis on technology investment is good for Maryland, which has a strong biotechnology industry.
“If we reduce fossil fuels,” Gilchrest added, “we can cut 30 percent of the (pollution) problem in the Chesapeake Bay.”
But Van Hollen said Bush should have discussed the recent lobbying scandals on Capitol Hill.
“I do believe that he glanced very glibly over the whole issue of lobbying and corruption. It’s costing Americans billions of dollars,” Van Hollen said.
And Hoyer said Bush, in all his talk about economic competitiveness, failed to mention a word about the nation’s extraordinary trade deficit, which is now $64.2 billion, according the U.S. Census Bureau.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Baltimore, criticized Bush for putting too much emphasis on overseas assistance.
“He talked a lot about Iraq, but he didn’t talk enough about the problems in this country,” Cummings said. “We’ve given extensive tax cuts to the richest of the rich and there is no money left to help the poor people of this country. There were no surprises there.”
Bush called for the temporary tax cuts worth $880 billion to be made permanent, saying, “If we do nothing, American families will face a massive tax increase they do not expect and will not welcome.”
Sen. Paul Sarbanes, D-Maryland, who will leave office next year, agreed, saying Bush is just pushing the nation’s financial problems off for another day. “The president recommits himself to these tax cuts, which have driven the country completely into debt and saddles it with the next generation and is not coming to grip with reality.”
Bush’s speech did little to address worker concerns, several Maryland Democrats said, and one mentioned the recent announcement by Ford that it will lay off 30,000 workers. “Jobs are important,” said Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Cockeysville. “The amount of jobs while he is in office, compared to the past, are not what they need to be. Our jobs are the gasoline that run our country.”
Capital News Service reporters Turner Brinton, Jon Fogg, Jared Hopkins, Tom Howell Jr. and Kara Wedekind contributed to this report. – 30 – CNS-1-31-06