Bush Riles Democrats with Tax Cuts, Tough Talk on Iraq

By Jeff Johnson | July 7, 2008 | 8:29 PM EDT

Capitol Hill (CNSNews.com) - Democrats in Congress had little good to say about President Bush's State of the Union address Tuesday night. Republicans praised the speech, for the most part, but there were some surprise reactions from both sides of the political aisle.

Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) sarcastically said that the speech offered more than she expected.

"When I went in, I thought that what he was proposing was guns and caviar. Now I realize it's guns, caviar and champagne with a war on top of it," DeGette said. "I'm very concerned how he's going to pay for everything, and I also didn't hear anything new about why we should have a unilateral attack against Iraq."

Rep. Rob Andrews, a New Jersey Democrat, criticized the president's call to accelerate implementation of the tax cuts passed in 2001 to spur the economy now.

"This is trickle-down, the sequel," Andrews said. "It didn't work the first time and it's not going to work this time."

Sen. Jim Jeffords (I-Vt.) called the address a "war speech."

"I was glad to hear that in some of the areas where we've been working with him, like health care, that he's going to try to do some things," Jeffords said. "But when he got to the end of his speech and it was a war speech, I don't think there's anything, after listening to him, but that they've got their minds set on war and they're going to go to war. That's very sad."

Jeffords criticized the lack of focus on education in the speech. He called the current state of education in America "the biggest catastrophe this nation has right now."

But Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho) praised Bush for the diversity of the speech, covering issues from the economy to health care to the threat posed by Iraq.

"Putting all of those things in the context in which he put them, I thought, was extremely well done," Craig said. "That's bold leadership of the kind we've not seen in presidents before."

Craig said the speech was, "one of the strongest State of the Union's I've ever heard delivered since I've been here."

Rep. Jerrold Nadler has been one of the president's strongest critics based on what Nadler perceives as an attack on civil liberties resulting from the new law enforcement powers granted in response to the 9/11 attacks. But Nadler did find a bright spot in Bush's speech.

"He surprised me by saying that they want to spend a lot of money for drug treatment and for people with AIDS in Africa, which is a really refreshing change," Nadler said.

But the New York Democrat also found plenty in the address to criticize.

"What I didn't like was his reiteration of all of the policies we've heard him say over the last few months that we know are very harmful," Nadler argued.

Nadler was very critical of the president's plan to eliminate double taxation on dividends paid to stockholders. But Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.) said eliminating any double taxation "just makes sense."

"Anything you tax, you're establishing a position that the government doesn't want that to happen. When you double tax it, you're really showing folks that you don't want that to happen," Shimkus said. "So, if you don't want dividends paid to shareholders, continue to double tax it. It's a ludicrous provision."

The dividend tax cut was not the only tax proposal of which Nadler disapproved.

"He said he gave us a big tax cut two years ago to spur the economy. It obviously hasn't spurred the economy," Nadler claimed. "Having learned nothing from that, he wants to triple the deficit by giving us another big tax cut."

But Florida Republican Rep. Dave Weldon had a very different view on Bush's plan to give taxpayers back more of their money faster.

"I thought he made a compelling case of why we need to accelerate the tax cuts rather than wait another seven years for families with children to get the full tax credit," Weldon said. "We should try to get the tax credit to them now. I was very pleased with a lot of the things he said."

Weldon said he was particularly pleased to hear Bush's commitment to ban all forms of human cloning and to outlaw partial birth abortion.

Arizona Republican Rep. J.D. Hayworth believes the president delivered a "sobering but stirring" challenge to the American people.

"It seems to me we have two missions ahead," Hayworth concluded. "Number one, to survive and number two, to thrive."

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