WASHINGTON — The morning after President Barack Obama’s State of the Union speech to a joint session of Congress, a group of Democrat and Republican lawmakers assembled by Politico had one major thing on their minds: How to avoid across-the-board federal spending cuts.
“The president summed it up last night — let’s do it,” said Rep. Sandy Levin, D-Mich.
Overall, reviews of the president’s speech remained on partisan lines, but a few Republicans had positive comments for the address.
Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., found the Obama’s speech less confrontational compared to his inaugural address.
“I think, by and large, the tone last night was different,” Thune said.
Massive spending cuts set for March 1, known as the sequester, drove much of the conversation on Wednesday morning at the Newseum. Republicans and Democrats agreed they would like to see a replacement or a delay to the sequester, but doubt it will occur before the deadline.
“I’m concerned we are going to go past March 1 before our Republican colleagues get serious about dealing with this issue,” said Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md.
“It will have very damaging effects,” said House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer. “It will continue to destabilize our economy and will undermine the confidence of the American people.”
Rep. James Lankford, R-Okla., said he wants to resolve the deficit problem and not “punt [the sequester] for another month and pretend this is better.”
Despite the overwhelming support for some sort of sequester delay or replacement, one Republican believed going past the March 1 deadline would be in the country’s best interest.
Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., voted for the sequester in 2011 and believes the cuts still don’t go far enough.
“I viewed that [$1.2 trillion] spending reduction too small,” Pompeo said. “I wish we had done more”
When the president called for massive immigration reform during his speech, the full chamber erupted into applause. Wednesday morning, optimism remained but some Republicans claimed controlling the border had to be the priority.
“You’ve got to secure the border before you can even have a serious conversation about how you address the issue about the folks who are here,” Pompeo said.
Still with the 2012 election results still fresh in their minds, many believe immigration reform should and can happen this year.
“Immigration reform is one of the things that we can get done,” said Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-Calif. “I think everyone saw the writing on the wall that this is the time to get it done.”
The congressmen also offered their opinions on the upcoming confirmation vote of Chuck Hagel for Defense Secretary.
Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., said this confirmation is especially important. Given the likely sequestration and the past two wars, Blunt said he believes the new Pentagon chief will have the greatest influence on the military since the Reagan administration.
Other congressmen at the event, which was moderated Politico’s Mike Allen, Manu Raju and Jake Sherman, included Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, and Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash.