WASHINGTON – Maryland’s Democrat-dominated delegation praised President Obama’s State of the Union address for taking on controversial issues, including gays in the military, and not giving up on health care.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Baltimore, said he thought the speech was “outstanding,” and that the rhetoric echoed the themes of Obama’s campaign.
“The president did what he did on the campaign, which was to enunciate a clear vision to the American people and to Congress. The president made it clear to not leave health care behind, and that it’s urgent not to forget the issue of jobs.”
Obama called for a leaner American government, more credit opportunities for small businesses, a new jobs program, financial reforms, and an end to the kind of win-at-all-costs partisanship that’s imperiled health care reform.
“Rather than fight the same tired battles that have dominated Washington for decades, it’s time for something new,” Obama said. “Let’s invest in our people without leaving them a mountain of debt. Let’s meet our responsibility to the citizens who sent us here. Let’s try common sense.”
The national debt stands at more than $12 trillion, and the federal budget deficit is projected to be about $1.3 trillion, a slight decline from the current fiscal year. Obama said his administration will freeze government spending beginning in 2011, a delay to allow the economy to continue to improve.
Obama acknowledged the problems in the economy and joblessness, and even accepted that his own popularity and credibility have suffered among Americans. Yet, despite all that, and because of the country’s spirit, decency and strength, he said, “I have never been more hopeful about America’s future than I am tonight.”
Gov. Martin O’Malley, who was in Washington for the speech, just had to close a $2 billion budget gap. His State of the State address is scheduled for Tuesday.
“There’s so much economic pain in our state,” O’Malley said. “I believe that the president communicated to the American people that we are all still in pain here.”
Doing nothing is not an option, he said, and the governor said he was pleased Obama accepted responsibility for putting things right.
Sen. Ben Cardin of Baltimore was struck particularly by his not giving up on health care and taking on controversial problems.
“I thought the president showed real strength in taking on the real issues,” Cardin said. “He is going to be the agent for change.”
Obama renewed his call for health care reform saying it will save $1 trillion over the next 20 years. It’s been debated to near death, he said.
“I take my share of the blame for not explaining it more clearly to the American people,” he said. “As temperatures cool, I want everyone to take another look at the plan we’ve proposed…Do not walk away from reform. Not now. Not when we are so close.”
Those health care and jobs reforms were the right message, said Rep. Donna Edwards, D-Fort Washington.
“It was a home run,” she said. “I think the president really laid out where we were, where we are, and where we need to go.”
Obama’s call for bipartisan ship was one message that struck Rep. John Sarbanes, D-Towson, who said, “governing is a serious business and we need to put our differences aside and get jobs created.”
America, he said, has the potential to be the world leader in clean energy, technology and education.
“He had a positive and optimistic tone in America’s leaders and called on every American to exercise leadership in their own communities.”
“I thought it was very positive. It brought hope,” said Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Cockeysville. “We need to work together.”
In that cross-party spirit, the state’s lone Republican, Rep. Roscoe Bartlett of Frederick conceded that Obama “gave a great speech, he always gives a good speech,” but the partisan rancor didn’t start on his side of the aisle.
There was no bipartisanship in the debate on health care reform, Bartlett said, and Democrats still don’t understand the anti-health-care-reform message sent by Republican Scott Brown’s election to the Senate from Massachusetts — a seat held by Democrats for decades.
“Let’s hope that there is a change.”
Capital News Service staff members Morgan Gibson, Andrew Katz, Graham Moomaw and Diana Nguyen contributed to this report.