WASHINGTON – President Obama delivered his 2015 State of the Union address on Tuesday. Following are some responses from Asian Pacific American members of Congress:
Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii): “In his State of the Union address tonight, the president made it clear he is on the side of the middle class, and I’m proud to stand with him on the side of working families. I will support the president’s efforts that strengthen our economy and grow the middle class.
“I’m reminded tonight of a homeless high school student I met in Hawaii named Victoria, who has not let her homelessness define her and always has hoped for a better life. Because of opportunities and encouragement from her principal and community, Victoria is now in college on a full scholarship at the University of Hawaii and I know she will succeed at whatever she puts her mind to.
“The president’s forward thinking initiative to fund two years of community college will be a game changer for families I’ve met in Hawaii and across the country. We must make investing in our keiki and our future a top priority — from expanding pre-K to making college more affordable. The president and I are fighting to level the playing field for people like Victoria. We’re on their side.
“I also stand with the President against any efforts to dismantle critical Wall Street reforms and environmental protections. In our island state, we are particularly aware of how important it is to protect our land, water, and other natural resources in the face of our changing climate.
“Tonight the president laid out how we must invest in our middle-class families, which means investing in our infrastructure. In Hawaii, investing in our roads, ports, public transit systems and airports will not only be good for commerce but also create jobs and strengthen communities.
“I look forward to working with the administration and engaging in many spirited debates with my colleagues to achieve an agenda that works for Hawaii and is on the right side of American middle class and working families, homeowners, and students.”
Rep. Mark Takano (D-Riverside): “Tonight, we heard from President Obama on the state of our union and his vision for the next year. During his speech, the president laid out a bold plan, one that focuses on the ideals of our great nation — including fairness for working and middle-class families and our immigrant communities.
“By focusing his economic proposals on the middle class, President Obama has made it clear that no longer should the wealthiest in our nation be granted special tax benefits simply because of the size of their pocketbooks. The president also made a strong defense of his executive action on immigration, which has benefited millions of people, such as my State of the Union guest Italia Garcia, who is a local DREAM activist.
“Italia and her family, like many others, are not a drain on our nation. They enhance this great country through their hard work and dedication. They are as American as anyone else and any attempt to undermine the president’s action without passing comprehensive immigration reform would separate these families and hurt our economy.
“While President Obama is facing a Republican-controlled Congress for the first time in his presidency, I am confident that he and the Republicans can find common ground on the issues that matter most to the American people — the economy, immigration reform, education, fixing our VA, and national security.
“Finding and acting on these issues will undoubtedly help the American people regain their faith in our system, and I look forward to working together throughout this year.”
Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Sacramento): “Over the past six years, our nation has taken great strides forward. We have grown our economy, and have seen the longest stretch of job creation in our country’s history. This progress is important, but there is much more work to be done. In his State of the Union address this evening, President Obama laid out his plan to build on this momentum, invest in our country and our workforce, and ensure that every American family is part of our nation’s comeback.
“I share the president’s belief that to truly move our country forward, we must enact policies that work for working families. We must continue to create jobs. We must make home ownership more accessible and affordable. We must make paychecks go farther by increasing the national minimum wage, enacting family-friendly policies including paid sick days and paid family leave, and ensuring fair and equal pay for women, 40 percent of whom are the primary breadwinners in their families. These policies help ensure working families have the tools they need to be successful in the home and the workplace.
“We also must ensure we are preparing all Americans to enter the workforce and earn higher wages. I support the president’s community college proposal. By making two years of community college free for responsible students, we can help set these students up for a lifetime of success, while ensuring we have a 21st-century workforce prepared for the careers of today and tomorrow. But this is not enough. We must make sure all children have the foundation of success, by enacting universal pre-K. Investing in education for all Americans sets our country on a path to success for years to come.
“To truly move this nation forward, we must ensure our policies allow innovation to foster and creativity to take hold. The ability to dream of and develop the next great idea is an indelible part of the American dream. I applaud the president’s initiative to expand affordable, high-speed broadband to more communities across the nation. This initiative will spur competition and ensure all Americans have the opportunity to engage in the digital economy.
“I was also thrilled to hear the president reiterate his support for net neutrality. An open and free Internet is the lifeblood of innovation. I have authored legislation to protect net neutrality by banning Internet fast lanes, and I look forward to working closely with the president and my colleagues in Congress to protect the Internet and allow innovation to foster and grow.
“This evening the president laid out a path forward for our country that builds on the positive growth we have seen over the past several years. Now, Congress must take action to turn this path into legislation, and the legislation into law. I look forward to working with the president, his administration, and my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to expand economic opportunity for all Americans.”
Rep. Judy Chu (D-Pasadena): “The president made a clear argument last night that our economy and country have weathered the Great Recession and are on the mend. But, while unemployment has dropped, many Americans have simply given up looking for jobs altogether. Which is why if we want to create new jobs, we can’t just make promises, we need to make investments.
“I fully support his proposal for free community college. As a teacher for two decades, I’ve seen first-hand that an education is the single best way to get on the path to higher wages. Guaranteeing 14 years of free schooling for all who want it will remove the expensive roadblock that has kept millions off that path. A higher education should not just be for the privileged, which is why I support the president’s plan to give opportunity to all by raising taxes on the wealthiest few.
“Improving access to education is just one way to help the middle class. The president’s plan to guarantee paid sick and family leave will stop penalizing workers for having a family and finally bring us up to the standard met by the rest of the developed world.
“These are smart proposals that build on the middle-class-focused policies my colleagues and I have pursued, as opposed to the failed trickle down economics that help only a handful at the expense of the rest. I encourage my Republican colleagues to stop proposing legislation that appeals to a few and instead act on legislation that will benefit all. The American people did not elect a Congress that would take votes intended for vetoes.”
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii): “Rather than focus on words tonight, we should focus on what is ahead for our nation.
“The president also addressed the importance of defending our nation’s safety and security. We must stay vigilant and work with our allies around the globe to combat terrorism wherever it exists. As we face critical situations around the world it will be more important than ever for President Obama to work with Congress on a plan that defines achievable goals to protect our national security without engaging in another unending conflict.
“But in order to address our most pressing challenges, it will be imperative for us to find ways to work together. As we start this new term, I’ll continue fighting to put people ahead of politics, and to make government work for the people of Sacramento County. That’s why I’m a leader of the No Labels’ Problem Solvers, a group of members of Congress from both parties who are working across the aisle to build trust and find common ground. We cannot move forward separately, only together.
“It was an honor to have Susan Oliver as my guest tonight. Her strength in the face of tragedy is inspiring. Susan lost her husband Danny last year, when he was killed in the line of duty serving as a Sacramento County sheriff’s deputy. Their story is a reminder of the sacrifices our law enforcement make every day to keep us safe. We must work to rebuild trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve and I’m glad the president’s message on this issue was one on unity and not division.”