President Barack Obama delivered his third State of the Union address Tuesday night, covering topics such as the economy, education, energy, foreign policy and taxes.
Rep. Richard Hanna, R-Barneveld, who previewed the State of the Union in an interview Tuesday afternoon, pointed to areas where he agreed with the president in a phone interview following the address.
Hanna said he agreed with Obama about the need to rebuild the nation's middle class, but differed on the methods to accomplish that goal. One area Hanna hopes the president will agree to, along with members of Congress on both sides of the aisle, is a long-term bill to fund highway infrastructure projects.
"I think transportation clearly is something we can agree on. The (House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure), as you know I serve on it, we are close to a five-year bill. It will be in the Senate," he said. "I hope this is an opportunity for the president to help us all push it along and finally do what we haven't done in years and that is get a long-term highway bill that allows for long-term planning."
Hanna also found common ground with President Obama on education, saying it can help boost the middle class.
"I agree with him. I think it really is the way to build a solid middle class with good paying jobs," he said. "It speaks exactly to our proposal on (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) that there are indeed high-tech jobs out there -- advanced jobs that pay well -- but the skill set just isn't there and people aren't being trained in that direction. We need to target ourselves towards supplying those companies, those innovators, and help supply them with the labor and the well educated manpower to fill those positions."
Obama also covered energy in his address, calling for investments in clean energy while also supporting the safe development of natural gas.
Hanna believes a national energy plan is needed, but said hydrofracking and drilling for shale gas must be done safely.
"I think the long-term security of this country has, for many years, depended on our having a national energy policy," he said. "I'm for, and it's been said by both sides, all of the above. But in the case of fracking and shale, I think the science is still out and I think it needs to be done safely. I absolutely agree that it's a resource we have to find a way to access, but it needs to be done in a way that people understand and believe is safe."
On the economy, Hanna said some items Obama discussed in his State of the Union were things he mentioned during last year's address.
Hanna said Congress needs to do better to work together this year, and that there are things they can get done to help businesses.
"(Obama) identified some of the same things this year that he identified last year and all that's happened is the year has gone by," he said. "I don't say that's the president's fault. I think he's right that we are not working well together. There are opportunities to do certain things and he identified a few of them. Certainly the tax code is one of them and how you treat companies that outsource versus companies that stay here. I think those are important issues and we need to get on to that business. We absolutely need to send a message to corporations that we are open for business. This is a good place to do it. We know that we have a world to compete with now and we're not on an island any more, as we were for so much of our earlier years."
One final note: Hanna invited Retired Staff Sgt. Michael Sportello to be his guest for the State of the Union Tuesday. According to Hanna's office, Sportello was injured while serving in Iraq from 2003 to 2004.
"To serve one's country is among the most noble and selfless acts available to man," Hanna said in a statement prior to the address. "It is wholly appropriate that members of our Armed Forces experience the address from our Commander in Chief. It's a privilege to have Staff Sergeant Sportello here tonight."