News Local/State

Durbin, Shimkus React To Obama’s SOTU Address

President Obama delivers his State of the Union Address Tuesday.

President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015, in Washington. Vice President Joe Biden and House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, listen in the background. (AP Photo/Mandel Ngan, Pool)

Reactions came quickly from both sides of the aisle after Tuesday night’s State of the Union speech. 

Democratic Senator Dick Durbin applauded President Obama’s challenge to Congress to pass specific economic proposals made during Tuesday’s address.

The Illinois Senator says threats from Republicans to reject much of what the President laid out could hurt their own political future. 

He said ideas like two free years of community college, paid sick leave, and quality child care are hard to vote against.  

Durbin also raised questions about GOP priorities in the new Congress. He points to the Keystone XL pipeline, and efforts to roll back some parts of the health care law. 

Instead, he said Congress should address shortfalls in the Highway Trust Fund. 

Durbin supports a hike in the federal gas tax to boost the fund, which has needed help from Congress because revenue from those taxes haven’t kept up with spending. Some Democrats and many Republicans say they won’t support any new gas tax.

“It ends up building highways and bridges, and supporting mass transit around this country," he said.  "It’s a symbol – an unfortunate political symbol that the Senate Republicans chose.  The House Republicans repealing a major section of the Affordable Care Act.  They really started out not in a very conciliatory way.   I hope we can get beyond this, but those bills will just have to be debated and voted on.”

On the Republican side, U.S. Senator Mark Kirk sought ways to reach across the political aisle.

“Illinois is right to want a bridge-builder in the Senate, and I approach every day with that goal in mind," he said, in a statement.  “Through new ways to save for college and keeping kids off gang-ridden streets and in school, we can make real progress that directly benefits Illinois families.

Congressman John Shimkus of Collinsville said Obama offered no real specifics, only generalities, in his economic plans. 

He opposes Obama’s propopal to offer free community college to many students, saying it only redistributes money that families are already saving for college by hiking taxes on 529 college savings accounts.

“I love the community college system," he said.  "Illinois has got one of the best.  It’s a low cost, alternative, tax-supported.  And it’s very doable.  But to take money from citizens who have saved for this college education to pay for others is just wrong.”

Shimkus said Obama’s speech also relied on ‘cap and trade’ rules that would hurt reliability on the U.S. electric grid.  But he does see some potential for common ground with the President on advances in medical and pharmaceutical technology. 

Republican Congressman Rodney Davis of Taylorville said Obama put forth ideas without a plan or support of Congress to execute them.  He released a statement Tuesday.

"I support many of the same goals discussed in tonight’s speech like growing the economy, increasing opportunities for the middle class, investing in transportation and improving technical education but differ on how we accomplish these goals," Davis said.

President Obama called for raising the federal minimum wage in Tuesday's speech.

But Republican Congressman Aaron Schock of Peoria, talking with MSNBC, said the best way to boost income is to instead pass new free trade agreements and tax reform.

“Incomes will rise, and the economy will grow, and that’s how people move up the economic ladder, not just artificially raising the cost of labor," he said.

Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger of Channahon said President Obama offered nothing new with his proposals.

"We heard him ignore the fact that we have a divided government and once again continue to push for spending money we don't have on big government that doesn't work," he said, in a statement.  "I hope that the next two years are productive and we can govern as the Americans have asked, seeking common ground."