Let's work together

THE "State of the Union" speeches can help drum up support for policy changes or can be mere words lost in the political rhetoric.

President Barack Obama's address last week seemed to be more of the latter, not offering any great promises or cooperation or even policy ideas everyone can truly get behind.

During the address, Obama talked about how Americans want better politics, "where we talk issues and values and principles and facts rather than 'gotcha' moments or trivial gaffes or fake controversies that have nothing to do with people's daily lives."

Sounds doable enough for Washington, right?

Unfortunately, it will require both sides of the aisle to find commonalities rather than constantly drawing lines in the sand and just talking at one another.

Obama said when it comes to issues such as infrastructure and basic research, there's bipartisan support in Congress, but "where we too often run onto the rocks is how to pay for these investments."

A week earlier, the White House rolled out a new bond proposal to incentivize public/private partnerships that support transportation infrastructure projects.

Congress will need to address the funding component of the highway bill by May, and the Highway Trust Fund is expected to fall below sustainable funding levels this spring.

Obama also noted that "passions still fly on immigration" reform between Republicans and Democrats, but he believes it's still possible to "shape a law that upholds our tradition as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants."

Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R., Va.), who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, said there was willingness in the last Congress to reform immigration laws, but Obama's executive actions added a "layer of distrust to the debate."

Approving the Keystone Pipeline has been a headline issue for Republicans, but Obama said Congress' sights should be set "higher than a single oil pipeline." He said, 21st-century businesses need 21st-century infrastructure: modern ports, stronger bridges, faster trains and the fastest internet.

"Let's pass a bipartisan infrastructure plan that could create more than 30 times as many jobs per year and make this country stronger for decades to come," Obama said.

However, a member of his own party, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D., N.D.), criticized the lack of support for the pipeline, saying: "Will the Administration approve the Keystone pipeline — an important part of our energy infrastructure — so we can finally move on and talk about the larger energy plan for our country?"

Wade Cowan, president of the American Soybean Assn., said Obama's messages on trade, infrastructure improvements and increasing rural broadband access are "no-brainers" for farmers to support. "These are bipartisan issues around which we believe all parties can coalesce and find consensus," Cowan said.

American Farm Bureau Federation president Bob Stallman said Obama's speech held a glimmer of hope that the President and the Republican Congress might still work together.

"His words were reassuring, yet recent history has been anything but. So many good things can be accomplished, so once again, we ask leaders of both parties: Please work together," Stallman said.

We can all echo that message to Congress and the President: Please work together!

Volume:87 Issue:04

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