Republicans find plenty to criticize after State of the Union speech

Published 12:10 am Thursday, January 14, 2016

President Barack Obama didn’t change any Republican minds with his final State of the Union address on Tuesday.

Within hours after Obama’s Tuesday speech, most of Rowan County’s representatives in Congress offered their opinions on the address, some in more words than others. U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., waited a longer than others to chime in with his thoughts on the speech. On Wednesday afternoon, Burr offered his opinion in a short Facebook post — “My mother always said if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”

Rowan’s other Republican members of Congress disagreed with specific talking points in the State of the Union address or emphasized opinions of Obama’s past decisions. At one point in his speech, for example, Obama called on Congress to vote in favor of military force against the Islamic State — ISIS. In an online, video response, Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., called the president’s suggestion counterproductive in America’s mission to destroy ISIS.

Tillis said Obama needs to formulate a comprehensive strategy to “completely defeat” ISIS and “secure our homeland.”

Another point in Obama’s speech stressed the importance of slashing the backlog of veterans’ cases at VA hospitals. It was the only part in the speech Tillis agreed with in his recorded statement.

Rowan’s Republican U.S. House members issued significantly harsher criticism of the State of the Union address than North Carolina’s Senators. Rep. Richard Hudson, R-8, said Obama’s speech laid out a vision that “benefits his legacy instead of the American people.” Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-5, called the speech “more of the same empty words.” Neither delved into specific parts of the speech they disagreed with.

Hudson said he was disappointed Obama didn’t address American’s Iraqi and Syrian refugee program and called the president “out of touch” on potential problems associated with incoming refugees.

“Most importantly, he’s out of touch with the American people, who want their leaders to work together to keep us all safe,” Hudson said in a prepared statement.

Foxx, in part, also focused on national security in a response to Obama’s State of the Union address. Foxx didn’t, however, mention specific portions of the speech she disagreed with.

“President Obama has never adequately focused on what really matters in this country — keeping America safe and defending our cherished freedoms,” Foxx said in a prepared statement.

Following party affiliation, Rep. Alma Adams, D-12, focused only on positive aspects associated with Obama’s speech and his term as president.

“Since President Obama took office, our nation has recovered from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression,” Adams said in a prepared statement. “Nationally, unemployment is down, with North Carolina’s unemployment rate dropping a total of 5.6 percentage points.”

She also highlighted the Affordable Care Act, saying more than 407,000 previously uninsured North Carolinians now have health insurance. Obama acknowledged the deep partisan divide over the Affordable Care Act in his speech, which got laughter from both sides of the aisle.

“I’m guessing we won’t agree on health care anytime soon,” Obama said in his Tuesday State of the Union address.

Despite the quip, working across party lines was an important point addressed in the State of the Union Address and echoed by Rowan’s members of Congress.

“We have diverse thoughts and we represent diverse populations,” Adams said. “However, in order for communities to proposer for future generations, we must work together.”

Eliminating partisan gridlock seemed to be one of the few bipartisan issues in Obama’s speech.

“The reality is the American people are sick and tired of gridlock in Washington,” Tillis said in his recorded statement. “The president has a choice to make. He can finally engage with Congress to work to find common ground or the president can continue to sidestep congress and the American people by implementing executive actions that divide rather than unite.”

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246