Dingell On Obama's State Of The Union Address

Date: Jan. 27, 2010
Location: Washington, DC

Congressman John D. Dingell (D-MI15) had the following comments on President Barack Obama's State of the Union speech this evening:

"I want to thank Speaker Nancy Pelosi for inviting me to take part in the escort party of the President of the United States into the House Chamber tonight. It was a great honor, and I was privileged to walk in with the President," said Dingell.

On Health Care:
"We must have health care reform and it must be bold. I must remind folks that the future success of our economy and reforming our health care system are directly related. The Massachusetts election might have knocked us a bit off balance; however, our resolve should be stronger than ever to achieve comprehensive reform. Our bill will save 1,800 families in Michigan's 15th district from bankruptcy. I think President Obama put us back on the right track this evening, but now I call on the President to make this a sustained effort. Another great speech is not enough. Only the President can provide the leadership now needed to get this done. This is not a time to give into fear. I urge our leadership to muster up the courage to face one of the very real threats to economic viability of our nation - our nation's broken health care system. Reform is neither easy nor cheap, but the cost of inaction is far greater -- in terms of lives lost, quality of life, and dollars. Make no mistake, if we don't reduce costs we face certain economic disaster. The president said it best, "premiums will continue to rise; businesses will continue to drop coverage and more families will deal with insurance company abuses if we don't act.' The time for action is now."

On Jobs and the Economy:
"As the previous Administration was giving tax cuts to the wealthy, our economy was bleeding jobs. President Obama and the Democratic Congress have slowed this bleeding. Without the passage of the Recovery Act, my home state of Michigan could have faced 30 percent unemployment.

"While two million jobs have been produced through the end of 2009, it is clear that the Recovery Act has sparked the beginning of a long and necessary period of job creation. That said, we need to do more, particularly in Michigan which has struggled with double-digit employment long before the rest of the nation. I think the President has a wonderful vision for job creation and the future of this nation, including 21st century projects like high-speed rail and renewable energy projects. We in Michigan have wonderful potential in these areas. It's time to get them off the drawing table and get them on the ground. We've got talented and capable workers ready to work, let's provide them with the shovels they need to dig themselves out of unemployment.

"I was very pleased to hear the President's remarks about the need to continue our efforts to create green jobs. Look no further than Ven Tower in Monroe County, Sakti3 automotive in Washtenaw County and General Electric in Wayne County. Real businesses that create real jobs have come to the State of Michigan and the 15th District. Green jobs aren't just a sound bite, they're here now and they will help Michigan and the country as we recover from the Bush recession. The President's commitment to additional federal investment in clean energy will continue to produce good jobs in Michigan, help our nation reduce our dependence on foreign oil, enhancing our national security, and betters our environment."

"The President's commitment to job creation is clear, as we heard tonight in his speech. What is also clear is that small businesses, which have historically driven past economic recoveries and create 60 to 80 percent of new jobs, will not hire new workers without access to sorely needed credit. The President has successfully averted a depression, but now we must open up the flow of capital back to our small businesses and entrepreneurs to facilitate a full, robust recovery. That's why my Michigan colleagues, Sander Levin and Gary Peters, and I will soon introduce legislation to make it easier for small and medium-sized manufacturers to get commercial loans. This legislation makes Federal funds available to states for them to help manufacturers alleviate cash flow and collateral problems, which would otherwise prohibit their securing loans from private sources."

On Freezing Discretionary Spending:
"I like what the President had to say tonight, however, the devil is always in the details. I share the President's concern about leaving massive deficits to future generations of Americans. I also worry about the Americans here today looking for help after months of unemployment, millions of foreclosures and millions of Americans with no health insurance. I applaud the concept of reducing our deficit through reduced spending in certain areas and the President is right to get us talking about it, but I will have to see more on this proposal before I get behind it."

On Education:
"I applaud the President for proposing a 6.2 percent increase in education funding. We need to make sure we are providing quality education and training for our children as well as transitioning workers who are looking for new opportunities. The President's commitment to make America's schools better is long overdue. We have to keep up with those nations that have invested in their children and are now seeing the benefits of it. In particular, I applaud the President's plan to cap individual loan payments at 10 percent of the individual's income and to making the federal government the direct lender for federal student loans. We have to stop this vicious cycle of creating bankruptcies before college graduates even flip the tassel on their caps."

On Financial Reform:
"I support President Obama's call for financial regulatory reform. The dangerously irresponsible risk-taking of avaricious scoundrels on Wall Street nearly ruined this country's economy and must be halted. Moreover, I stand behind President Obama in his call to levy a fee on big banks to help recoup taxpayer funds spent to prop them up. I also believe corporate bonuses for TARP-recipient companies should be taxed at an exorbitant rate and those proceeds used to fund federal initiatives to help Main Street recover from the current recession.

"The President recently announced an initiative to address the problem of financial institutions that are "too big to fail.' This is a commendable effort, although I strongly believe financial institutions never should have been allowed to become so big in the first place. I have introduced legislation that compels all organizations within the Executive branch to cooperate in ensuring the systemic health of the U.S. economy. My bill, the Financial Services Industry Stability Act of 2010, also empowers the Executive branch to break up financial institutions deemed "too big too fail.' I believe this concept should be included in any final financial regulatory reform bill passed by both the House and Senate and call on the President for his support in this matter."

On Campaign Finance:
"The Supreme Court's reckless decision in Citizens United vs. FEC undid a century of campaign finance laws in one fell swoop. One of the unfortunate consequences of the decision is the loophole it created for foreign money - via state ownership of multilateral corporations, for example - to be spent on American elections. Allowing China, Russia, or even Iran to directly influence our elections threatens America's sovereignty. I have joined Congressman Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) in introducing the Prohibiting Foreign Influence in American Elections Act, legislation that would keep foreign cash out of American elections. The Congress must heed President Obama's call and pass legislation now that will prohibit foreign firms and foreign state actors from meddling in American elections."

On Iraq/Afghanistan:
"After a year in office, we have seen that President Obama is a thoughtful leader on foreign policy matters. Instead of rushing his decisions on Afghanistan, he listened to his team of military and civilian experts and launched a sound plan for a military and civilian surge that will assist Afghanistan in its fight against extremism. In the transition of our military from Iraq to Afghanistan, we in Congress must provide our troops and Foreign Service officers with the tools they need to stay safe, assist both nations in building their governments' capacities, and eventually turn security over to each nations' security forces."

On Don't Ask, Don't Tell:
"I am pleased the President has chosen to address the military's Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy tonight. As a cosponsor of legislation to repeal Don't Ask, and a bill that would protect our GLBT military members who wish to testify before Congress on this subject, I fully support President Obama's call to change this detrimental policy. Not only does it waste millions in training and recruiting dollars each year -- money that could be spent elsewhere -- it also violates the fundamental rights of our military men and women who put their lives on the line to serve our country."