WHEELING - Reaction to President's Barack Obama's State of the Union address among area lawmakers was largely split along party lines, with Democrats praising the speech's focus on reducing income inequality and Republicans dismissing the president's words as recycled "rhetoric."
"Going into tonight's address there were three questions I hoped would be addressed," Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., said. "Can we do more to turn around the economy? Can we do better on health care? Can we do more to stop wasteful spending?
"Unfortunately, I did not hear solutions but rather the same old rhetoric we've heard over the past six years."
Vice President Joe Biden listens as President Barack Obama gives his State of the Union address Tuesday on Capitol Hill in Washington.
Sen. Rob Portman said he shares the lofty goal Obama laid out in the address - making America a place where all can pursue their dreams - but disagrees with most of Obama's ideas on how to get there.
"We have tried the top down approach of more government, more regulations, more spending and record debt, and it hasn't worked," Portman, R-Ohio, said.
Portman did, however, point to Obama's comments on tax reform, job skills training and developing an "all of the above" energy policy as a starting point for a divided Congress to begin cooperating.
"It will take his leadership, and if he provides that, I believe both sides can come together and find common ground," he said.
Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Ohio, said Obama's pronouncement that unemployment is at its lowest rate in five years doesn't tell the whole story.
"It's clear the president is out of ideas on jobs. The president touts that the unemployment rate is down to 6.7 percent, but he fails to understand, or admit, that the unemployment rate has fallen because the labor force participation rate is the lowest it has been since 1978," Johnson said. "Millions of people have simply given up looking for work. In fact, last month more Americans stopped looking for a job than found one. And that's a tragedy."
Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., said he was pleased by the president's focus on reducing income inequality, and his comments on improving broadband Internet access for students as a way to invest in education.
"Much of the president's State of the Union address focused on issues that are at the heart of my nearly 50-year career in public service, issues that are as important today as they were when I first came to West Virginia," Rockefeller said. "We know that the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans take home nearly 20 percent of our nation's total household income-representing a kind of inequality that is truly staggering and does a tremendous disservice to our children and our families. Addressing this inequality is at the heart of the many strides that have been made over the years."
Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, did not issue a statement following Obama's speech, but prior to the address praised the president's announcement that he would issue an executive order raising the minimum wage for federal contractors to $10.10 and called on Congress to raise the minimum wage for all workers to the same amount over a period of three years.
Katie Longo, spokeswoman for Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said Manchin planned to speak to reporters regarding the State of the Union address this afternoon.