Missoulian: Baucus, Tester, Rehberg give mixed reviews of Obama State of the Union address

HELENA – Montana’s three-man congressional delegation gave President Barack Obama’s first State of the Union address a mixed review.

Most effusive in praise was Democratic Sen. Max Baucus, who presided over much of the protracted Senate negotiations on health care reform over the last six months.

“The President is certainly right about our need for health care reform,” Baucus said in a statement after the president’s Wednesday night speech. “Premiums will keep going up and Montana businesses and families will keep paying the price unless we do something. Just like the President, I’m confident we are going to pass this bill and finally reform our system.”

But much of Obama’s speech focused on the economy, not health care, which has monopolized headlines for weeks.

Fellow Democratic Sen. Jon Tester seemed more wary about Obama’s ability to make changes, although he said he supported the direction the president signaled he wanted to go.

“The jury’s still out on the president’s plans for the coming year,” Tester said in a statement. “We can agree on the same goal – that our entire focus right now must be on creating jobs, cutting our national debt and making America safer.”

Tester said he supported federal programs that created jobs, provided they didn’t cost the nation any more money and “worked for rural America.”

Tester also said that when it came to fixing the economy, lawmakers must do what they have yet proved unable to do on overhauling the nation’s health care system: work across party lines.

“Congress has to put partisan politics aside and work together,” he said.

Baucus also praised the president’s sentiments about jobs, saying “I think the President has got the right ideas and I’m looking forward to working with him to make sure his ideas work for Montana.”

Said Baucus: “Montana families and seniors need help making ends meet. It’s time to renew our commitment to creating millions of good paying jobs.”

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