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Local federal politicians respond to President Obama's State of the Union

On Tuesday night, President Barack Obama delivered his 2014 State of the Union address, promising a "year of action."

He touched on a number of topics, including immigration reform, ending the war in Afghanistan, tackling economic disparity, using executive power to increase the minimum wage and asking for help against the gridlock that caused the shutdown of the U.S. government last year.

Afterward, local politicians issued statements weighing in on the address and the topics he set – and didn't set – as part of his legislative agenda for the new year.

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill.

"Improving opportunities for American families requires innovation and action and I plan to work with my colleagues to build on the work we've done in my Defense Appropriations Subcommittee to reverse the devastating cuts to federally funded research and development and grow these programs for years to come.

"... Tonight's speech challenged us in Congress to set aside the partisanship and gridlock that is preventing us from improving the lives of millions of Americans. We must now rise to the occasion."

Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill.

"Congress should put aside pointless partisan political bickering and tackle the toughest challenge our country faces, which is overspending by our federal government. The best way to do this is to embrace the Simpson-Bowles bipartisan commission report, which would cut federal spending by over $4 trillion. That single action is the best way to restore confidence in the American economy."

Rep. Peter Roskam, R-Wheaton

"Tonight the president spoke of how the American ideal of opportunity for all has suffered blows in recent years. He's right: in the last five years, our labor participation rate is down to historic lows, household income is down, upward mobility has stalled and the poverty rate is far too high. Across the board the data shows that people are worse off now than when President Obama took office. Yet the president continues to cling policy prescriptions that are the very reason so many Americans are struggling."

Rep. Tammy Duckworth, D-Schaumburg

"I applaud President Obama for presenting a vision for our country that will aid our recovering economy, create jobs and empower working families. My neighbors, who work so hard, deserve an opportunity to achieve the American Dream and President Obama's proposals to raise the minimum wage, support manufacturing and bolster STEAM education will give them the opportunity to do so.

"... Tonight, I am also pleased to see that there continues to be bipartisan support for immigration reform. Congress must pass comprehensive immigration reform that is practical, fair and humane. We need a long-term plan that will secure our borders and include a responsible path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented individuals who are living in the shadows."

Rep. Bill Foster, D-Aurora

"I was very pleased to see President Obama lay out an agenda to support working families. Everyone deserves a shot at the American dream – to get a good education, a job that supports a family, and a place to call home. Unfortunately, for too many, that dream is becoming harder to achieve. Our country succeeds when our middle class succeeds and it is critical our policies support working families.

"I was pleased to hear the president's call to action. Too many critical issues have fallen by the wayside because Congress has failed to act – unemployment insurance, raising the minimum wage, commonsense gun control laws and comprehensive immigration reform. It's time for Congress to get to work."


Guests of the Illinois legislators:

• Sen. Durbin – Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Joseph Marcinkowski from Batavia

• Sen. Kirk – Washington, Ill. Mayor Gary Manier

• Rep. Roskam – Diane Iser from Hoffman Estates, who lost her insurance coverage due to the Affordable Care Act

• Rep. Duckworth – Schaumburg science teacher Michelle Burke

• Rep. Foster – Maria Torres, an undocumented youth who immigrated to Illinois when she was 15, graduated for college but is ineligible for citizenship

Quotes from President' Obama's State of the Union:

On political inaction:

"The point is, there are millions of Americans outside Washington who are tired of stale political arguments and are moving this country forward. They believe, and I believe, that here in America, our success should depend not on accident of birth but the strength of our work ethic and the scope of our dreams."

On income inequality:

"Today, after four years of economic growth, corporate profits and stock prices have rarely been higher, and those at the top have never done better. But average wages have barely budged. Inequality has deepened. Upward mobility has stalled. The cold, hard fact is that even in the midst of recovery, too many Americans are working more than ever just to get by; let alone get ahead. And too many still aren't working at all."

On immigration reform:

"Independent economists say immigration reform will grow our economy and shrink our deficits by almost $1 trillion in the next two decades. And for good reason: When people come here to fulfill their dreams – to study, invent, contribute to our culture – they make our country a more attractive place for businesses to locate and create jobs for everybody. So let's get immigration reform done this year."

On presidential action:

"Some require congressional action, and I'm eager to work with all of you. But America does not stand still, and neither will I. So wherever and whenever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families, that's what I'm going to do."

On global warming:

"... But the debate is settled. Climate change is a fact. And when our children's children look us in the eye and ask if we did all we could do to leave them a safer, more stable world, with new sources of energy, I want us to be able to say yes, we did."

On repealing Obamacare:

"Now, I do not expect to convince my Republican friends on the merits of this law. But I know that the American people are not interested in refighting old battles. So again, if you have specific plans to cut costs, cover more people, increase choice, tell America what you'd do differently. Let's see if the numbers add up. But let's not have another 40-something votes to repeal a law that's already helping millions of Americans."

Other issues President Obama outlined in the State of the Union:

• Issuing executive order for federal contractors to pay employees at least $10.10 an hour

• Ending the war in Afghanistan

• Undoing federal cuts to research programs

• Reducing gun violence

• Early education funding

• Closing prison of Guantanamo Bay

• Income equality for women

• Restore unemployment insurance

• Closing loopholes that incentivize overseas jobs

• Lower tax rates for businesses that create U.S. jobs

• Strengthening the Earned Income Tax Credit for single workers without children

• Creation of MyRA savings accounts to encourage savings

• Patent law reform

• Infrastructure improvements

• Investment in clean energy

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