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US Lawmakers React to Obama Speech


Republicans and Democrats in Congress are reacting to President Barack Obama's speech, in which he warned Americans that the economy faces a "dire day of reckoning," but one the country can recover from.

Democrats reacted enthusiastically to the president's speech, praising both the messages President Obama tried to send to Americans and the oratory skills he employed in his first address to Congress.

In a VOA interview, Representative Neal Abercrombie from Hawaii had this reaction.

"He reaches the world, really," said Abercrombie. "His sense of confidence and his ability to take that sense of confidence and extend it to his listening audience is second [to] or probably commensurate [equal] to that of President [Franklin] Roosevelt."

Jerrold Nadler, a New York Democrat, says President Obama recognized the economic crisis Americans face and laid out steps he has taken and will take to deal with it.

Nadler also reacted to the president's statement that the United States will not employ torture in interrogations of suspected terrorists.

"It's a terrible comment, and it's pathetic, that we are in a situation where he had to say that. At the same [time] I am certainly glad he said that," Nadler said. "We do not torture, and we are going to have to take various measures which I hope that this administration will join with us in Congress to take steps to make sure that no future president no future administration can do some of the things that unfortunately it is all too clear happened during the last administration."

House Republicans largely repeated opposition criticisms of President Obama's economic stimulus plans and assertions that the president and majority Democrats intend to sharply expand government.

Jeff Flake, a Republican from Arizona, told VOA the president is "a great orator", but he had this response to the economic points in President Obama's speech.

"It was an optimistic speech and there were some good lines about fiscal responsibility," said Flake. "Unfortunately there was a lot of indication that we are going to be spending a lot of money, I'm not sure to what effect."

"The president's comments on spending seem to me to be very much at odds with the huge spending bill last week, almost increasing by 80 percent the discretionary spending of the federal government," said Congressman Roy Blunt, the former House Republican whip.

Lawmakers are preparing to receive President Obama's budget which arrives on Capitol Hill, Thursday.

The arrival of a president's budget always sparks partisan political battles about spending priorities.

Democratic Congressman Jim Moran spoke about the president's challenge to Democrats and Republicans to work together.

"He is a president deserving of these times. We are lucky to have him, but there is some real question in my mind as to whether the Congress is going to be deserving of his leadership," said Moran. "We're going to have to get our act together - particularly the Republican party. They need to do something more than just say "no" to everything he proposes."

President Obama's commitment in his speech to cutting wasteful and ineffective government programs brought a positive reaction from fiscally-conservative Democrats [known as the Blue Dogs].

Members of the group praised the president for clear and honest talk about the economy, saying he demonstrated his commitment to long-term fiscal responsibility, transparency in budgeting and cutting the federal deficit.



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