While there were many issues President Barack Obama talked about during last night’s State of the Union address, two in particular, the economy and gun control, were of interest of members of Congress representing upstate New York.
Syracuse area Cong. Dan Maffei says that Washington needs to take bold action to revitalize the country's still-struggling economy. While the Democrat praised the president's proposals to spend money on things like education and infrastructure, Maffei said he wished the speech had included more details. Maffei says the president presented a good approach to both helping the economy and cutting the deficit.
“We can't spend our way out of the problem any more than we can cut our way out of the problem. But the balanced approach the president outlined is the right one, I think,” said Maffei.
Republican Cong. Richard Hanna, who represents portions of central New York and the Southern Tier, said there are economic issues his party can agree with the president on. Hanna also said the president's speech included a lot of proposals that are going to cost a lot of money.
“We don't need more government and we don't need a more expensive government, we need a smarter government," said Hanna. "People can disagree on that, but people have to remember that abut 70 percent of the jobs that are created are small business, and about 70 percent of what energizes the economy is consumer spending.”
Perhaps the most memorable moment of the State of the Union was when President Obama spoke about gun control because family members of gun violence victims were attending the speech in the House of Representatives. Obama passionately called for a vote on gun control, stating that the victims deserved it. While his remarks were greeted with emotion and applause, it remains a very controversial issue.
Maffei said he appreciates the views of his constituents on both sides of the issue.
“I don't want this to become a partisan issue because I really do believe there is a consensus in my district behind common sense measures to reduce gun violence," said Maffei. The president was right to recognize this trauma we faced as a nation and our need to do something."
Hanna, a gun owner, is concerned about 2nd Amendment rights, like many in his district. But, he says he thinks Republicans and Democrats can agree on things like background checks.
“I'm waiting to hear the thoughtful ways to keep guns out of the hands of the wrong people. I think that there are opportunities and I think the president has hit a couple,” said Hanna.
While members of different political parties, both Hanna and Maffei has similar thoughts on the tone of the speech. Hanna said the president was conciliatory than during his Inauguration speech. And Maffei said he was pleased that the members of Congress who were present for the speech were more bipartisan in their reactions than in some past years.