Nebraska Leaders React to President's State of the Union Address - KHGI-TV/KWNB-TV/KHGI-CD-Grand Island, Kearney, Hastings

Nebraska Leaders React to President's State of the Union Address

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President Barack Obama addressed the nation in his annual State of the Union speech on Tuesday night.

Obama started his speech touting the accomplishments of the past year. He spoke of the nation's lowest unemployment rate over the past five years, the rebounding housing market, the addition of manufacturing jobs and the nation's reduced dependence on foreign oil.

The president then went on to speak about moving the nation forward, specifically by making Washington work better by having parties that work together. However, Obama also said he wouldn't be afraid to take steps without legislation when possible.

He spoke of working to close loopholes and change tax code in an effort to get more businesses to create jobs here instead of abroad, continuing with the transition away from oil in energy production, continuing the conversation for immigration reform, and pushing forward the work on education reform -- from early childhood through college.

Obama also announced in his address plans to raise the minimum wage for workers carrying out new federal contracts to $10.10 through an executive order. He urged Congress to follow his lead and pass a bill that would do the same for millions more.

Nebraska's congressional leaders had plenty to say following the president's speech.

U.S. Sen. Mike Johanns said, "President Obama talked a lot about creating jobs and expanding the middle class - goals shared by both parties - but actions speak louder than words. The same big-government philosophy of the last five years won't get us where we need to be. Big brother doesn't create jobs; it creates red tape and debt. We saw it with the so-called stimulus and we've seen it with Obamacare."

He went on to say that the focus needs to be on lowering taxes, decreasing regulations, promoting trade and reducing the deficit.

U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer shared her agreement with the president's sentiments that more needs to be done to strengthen middle class families, but like Johanns believes the changes need to be made in the private sector.

"We can immediately get to work on a number of bipartisan initiatives," said Fischer. "These include repealing the medical device tax, passing comprehensive tax reform, protecting the privacy of American citizens, promoting free trade, and addressing the reams of red tape holding back entrepreneurs and innovators."

Rep. Adrian Smith shared his disappointment with the president's address Tuesday night.

"Tonight's speech was an opportunity for President Obama to change course and begin working with members of both parties on an agenda to put America on a better path," said Smith. "I am disappointed the president continues to stand by the same tired, government-heavy policies, such as his disastrous health care law, which clearly are failing the American people."

Smith added his disapproval of the president's plan to bypass Congress to increase the minimum wage for federal contract workers. He says Obama should "respect, rather than undermine, the checks and balances established by the founders of our nation in the Constitution."

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