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Local Lawmakers React To State Of The Union

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President Barack Obama delivering the State of the Union address on Capitol Hill Wednesday night. 
(AP Photo/Saul Loeb, Pool)
President Barack Obama delivering the State of the Union address on Capitol Hill Wednesday night. 

The region's lawmakers' reactions to President Obama's State of the Union address predictably fell along party lines.

While it's not all new, the president is laying out an ambitious agenda for this year that will need Republican support to pass. He wants to expand educational opportunities, roll back tax breaks for oil companies, and hike taxes on the wealthiest Americans.

As is to be expected, the region's Republicans were upset that Obama announced new areas where he plans to bypass Congress.

Republicans control the House, but President Obama says he isn't looking for their approval for items such as increasing scrutiny of mortgage companies, spurring clean energy development on public lands and even taking steps that he says will spur economic growth. 

That didn't sit well with Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Va.). 

"Well I think that it's certainly questionable about his authority to do many of the things that he proposes to do," Wittman said. "I think he ought to be reaching out to Congress to look at those areas of common ground."

And Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.) said the president's agenda is lofty but not substantive.

"It's a president that loves to come in and kind of state generalities but doesn't give you any specifics," Forbes says. 

But Democrats, such as Maryland Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D), say the president is asking the Republicans to get on board with his plan while also showing force.

"He laid out his agenda for this fourth year and said,  'Look, I d rather work with you Congress to get some of these things done, but if you're going to sit on your hands, I'm going to take whatever actions I can on my own authority."

While critics said the president used the speech as reelection ploy, Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) denies the charge. 

"It really was not the beginning of any kind of campaign based upon running against the Congress," he says. "This was reaching out asking the Congress to cooperate on his initiatives."

As for getting the economy moving, lawmakers in both parties say they welcome the president's call to make regulations easier on business, but Republicans say they're still waiting for specifics. 

Just a few months remain until this year's elections gets into full swing. The two parties still have unfinished business from last year, such as extending a payroll tax cut for millions of families. Besides that bill, analysts aren't expecting much legislative action for the remainder of this year.

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