A bipartisan moment?
President Barack Obama, who delivered his State of the Union address Tuesday night, was a different speaker from the unbending President Obama of a year ago.
It was also a different House chamber than the one in which Obama gave his speech last year. Republicans now control the lower chamber. And that appears to have made him more pragmatic.
Also, in a symbolic move toward civility, many members of Congress sat with those from the opposing party. That helped change the atmosphere. There was little of the frequent partisan cheering and booing that has marked recent State of the Union addresses, and often delayed them.
Still, as Obama noted, “What comes of this moment will be determined not by whether we can sit together tonight, but whether we can work together tomorrow.”
To that end, the president put forth a number of broad proposals — with few specifics — clearly aimed at winning GOP support.
✔ He argued for cutting the corporate tax rates.
✔ He proposed simplifying the tax code for all Americans.
✔ He said he was eager to work with members of both parties to “deal once and for all with the issue of illegal immigration and to secure our borders.”
✔ He expressed interest in medical malpractice law reform.
✔ He declared it was time for all colleges and universities to open their campuses to military recruiters and ROTC.
✔He proposed a freeze on discretionary federal spending for five years, and said he’s willing to consider more proposals for spending cuts from Republicans.
✔ He vowed to veto any bill that includes earmarks.
✔ He said his team would submit a plan in the next few months to significantly reorganize and consolidate government agencies.
However, Obama didn’t capitulate to Republicans on everything. There were plenty of things they won’t like.
✔ Although he signed legislation late last year extending the Bush tax cuts for two years, he said there should be no permanent extension of cuts for the wealthiest Americans.
✔ He called for more federal efforts to encourage clean energy. In doing so, he said we need solar, wind and biofuels, but also natural gas, clean coal and nuclear — resources important to this region.
✔ To pay for clean energy, he asked Congress to “eliminate the billions of dollars of tax breaks we now give to oil companies.”
✔ He made it clear he is willing to work with Congress to fix provisions in last year’s health care law, but won’t accept repeal of it.
The president’s efforts at bipartisanship didn’t win acceptance in all corners. Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, who delivered the tea party response, spent most of her time deploring Obama’s actions of the past two years. She demanded repeal of the health care law and a reduction in federal regulations on businesses.
Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, who delivered the official GOP response, was more amicable, but still faulted Obama for the huge federal deficit, for the health care law and for failing to propose deep enough cuts in federal spending.
Even so, the president opened the door for Republicans to work with him on a number of issues. We hope the president and leaders of both parties use this bipartisan moment to work together on critical problems facing this nation — recognizing they will still disagree on many issues — and refrain from making party success in the next election their only objectives.