By Leonard Sparks and Maren Wright
WASHINGTON – President Obama presented a picture of financial penance and sacrifice in his address to Congress Tuesday night, but Maryland’s congressional delegation heard the hope in the message for fixing the future.
Obama said the economic crisis gripping the nation is its “day of reckoning” for living in the prodigal moment while procrastinating on the difficult decisions the future requires. Now those decisions must be made, he said.
“While the cost of action will be great, I can assure you that the cost of inaction will be far greater,” Obama said in laying out his intention to revive the credit market, move toward energy independence, reform health care and increase access to education.
“I also know that every American who is sitting here tonight loves this country and wants it to succeed. That must be the starting point for every debate we have in the coming months…That is the foundation on which the American people expect us to build common ground.”
The budget he will submit next week to Congress is a “blueprint for our future” that calls for sacrifices of “worthy priorities for which there are no dollars” and slashing failed programs, from farm subsidies to no-bid defense contracts to Medicare abuses.
“We have been uplifted tonight,” said Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Baltimore, who numbered among the president’s earliest and most ardent supporters. “I think he has lifted the country and if we work together we can get through this.”
Obama didn’t “sugarcoat” the problems, Cummings said, and added that the president’s accomplishments in just over a month have been “simply miraculous.”
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Mechanicsville, who will play a large role in shepherding the budget legislation Obama outlined Tuesday into law, highlighted Obama’s tone.
“I thought it was an inspirational speech,” Hoyer said. “And importantly it was a confidence-building speech, because if there’s anything we have a deficit of right now it’s confidence.”
Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., said he liked Obama’s straight shooting, saying “It’s good to see a president who levels with the American people.”
Cardin said he was optimistic that the nation will succeed in solving its money problems.
“He struck a chord with the American people,” Cardin said, echoing the president’s message: “Don’t expect it to be easy, don’t expect it to happen overnight but we will get there.”
Rep. Donna Edwards, D-Fort Washington, also agreed the president’s tone was spot-on.
“It reminded us again that we can do this,” she said, “not just come through this crisis, but build for the future.”
Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., said, “The president was inspirational and gave us a good must-do list.”
Capital News Service reporters Megan Miller and Lauren C. Williams contributed to this report.