By Jon H. Harsch

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

WASHINGTON, Jan. 25 – Like so many of her Senate and House colleagues, Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., sat with a Republican to listen to President Obama's State of the Union address Tuesday evening. And along with so many others, Stabenow and her committee's soon-to-be Ranking Member Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., at many points joined in bipartisan applause for Obama's remarks. But as Obama said near the start of his hour long speech, “What comes of this moment will be determined not by whether we can sit together tonight, but whether we can work together tomorrow.”

In his speech, one of the first issues Obama raised as a subject for urgent bipartisan cooperation was “especially clean energy technology – an investment that will strengthen our security, protect our planet, and create countless new jobs for our people.” He said “With more research and incentives, we can break our dependence on oil with biofuels, and become the first country to have 1 million electric vehicles on the road by 2015.”

To help fund the switch to renewable energy, he said “I’m asking Congress to eliminate the billions in taxpayer dollars we currently give to oil companies. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but they’re doing just fine on their own. So instead of subsidizing yesterday’s energy, let’s invest in tomorrow’s.”

Following the speech, Senate Energy Committee Chair Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., commented that “I am encouraged by the President’s continuing commitment to clean energy. Congress has a real opportunity to work together on bipartisan legislation to achieve his goals. I look forward to working with my colleagues and the President on this.”

Sen. Mike Johanns, R-Neb., maintained the evening's bipartisan spirit, commenting that “I applaud the President for giving another fine speech and encouraging optimism for our country.” Johanns, a former Secretary of Agriculture, said he welcomed the president's call for “greater bipartisanship and a more cordial political environment” and said that “Our country faces no problem we can't solve together, and I look forward to working toward those solutions in the future.”

But Johanns also called on the president to follow up his lofty words with action, saying “This is not the first time we've heard talk about job creation, fostering a healthy environment for businesses and economic growth, or a tribute to trade and agriculture.”

Johanns concluded with a warning: “As our debt continues to swell, as our economy continues to stagnate, as tens of millions of Americans continue to search for jobs, and after trillions of tax dollars have already been squandered in the name of 'investment,' I cannot express how disappointing it is to hear the President's intention to continue on this unsustainable course. . . Continuing to spend money we don't have only digs us into a deeper hole.”

Also concerned about spending, Stabenow she was happy to hear that Obama “will continue to seek bipartisan action to address the budget deficit in a responsible way.” She added that “I will continue to work with the President and my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to keep our focus on jobs, expanding opportunities for small businesses, advanced manufacturing, and agriculture. Our top priority needs to be a focus on jobs for everyone who wants and needs to work and creating opportunities for every family and every business to succeed and prosper.”

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