Walz, Franken go ahead with Obama

Published 8:00 am Thursday, January 27, 2011

By Sarah Stultz, staff writer

U.S. House Rep. Tim Walz and U.S. Sen. Al Franken said they supported President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday night, which called for bipartisan cooperation and unity to revitalize the economy.

In front of a Congress sobered by the assassination attempt against one of its own members — Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz. — Obama asked lawmakers to “move forward together or not at all.”

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Lawmakers of each party were dispersed around the chambers of the U.S. House of Representatives as they listened to the president, instead of being seated by party as in times past.

Walz, D-Mankato, who had invited state Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, to attend the address, sat in the middle of Republican congressmen from Florida and Virginia. The seatting was arranged to be bipartisan.

He described this as being “symbolic and also profound.”

“Overall, I think it was a much better visual for the American public to see,” Walz said. “The differences are healthy until it becomes obstructionism and you don’t get anything done.”

Though differences were still evident for the members of Congress, Walz said he hoped this civility would continue.

Walz noted he agreed on many of the specifics Obama gave in his speech including investing in infrastructure, job creation and cutting the deficit.

Obama unveiled an agenda including a burst of spending on education, research, technology and transportation to make the nation more competitive, alongside pledges, in the strongest terms of his presidency, to cut the deficit and smack down spending deemed wasteful to America.

His proposals also included cutting the corporate tax, providing wireless services for almost the whole nation, consolidating government agencies and freezing most discretionary federal spending for the next five years.

Walz said he thinks Minnesota is in the position to be at the forefront of many of these proposals.

Franken, D-Minneapolis, issued the following statement via e-mail Tuesday night:

“Creating jobs and improving the economy has to be our top priority, and I’m glad we heard that from the president tonight. I’ve spent the past few weeks traveling around Minnesota talking with workers, small business owners and educators. And from East Grand Forks and Alexandria to Rochester and Duluth, everyone reinforced that investing in education, job training and innovation is essential to our economic future and creating long-term prosperity.

“We must address some very serious issues in the year to come, among them the federal budget and reform of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, and bipartisan cooperation is going to be key to getting anything done. I hope that the tone the president set tonight continues throughout the 112th Congress.”

— The Associated Press contributed to this story.