Utah's Republicans in Congress hailed President Bush's State of the Union address Tuesday as his greatest speech ever - saying he sounded a clear clarion call for Americans to rally behind troops in the Persian Gulf war.
Utah's two Democrats - Reps. Wayne Owens and Bill Orton - praised it too, but less. They also lamented that Bush had few solid details about new domestic programs and goals he announced.All the members praised such Bush proposals as studying cutting taxes on capital gains (Owens and Orton were even among only a handful of Democrats who applauded that part of Bush's speech), seeking more monetary support of the war by allies and calling for banking reform.
But the delegation split on whether to support Bush's proposals for campaign reform and for turning over least $15 billion of federal programs to the states. Following is some of their reaction:
- GENERAL REACTION: Sen. Jake Garn, R-Utah, said, "I think it's the best speech that President Bush has ever given . . .. No doubt he meant every word he said, and I think that was evidenced by the response of Congress to many of his statements about the Persian Gulf."
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said, "I think it was a speech with a lot of heart, a lot of poise. He covered a lot of our domestic problems . . .. It was the best speech George Bush has given."
Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Utah, said, "It was a great speech . . .. I was also really thrilled with what he said about the war effort. Talk about uniting America - did you see the reaction of the crowd at that point? I've never seen such a gut-level feeling from both Democrats and Republicans."
Owens said, "It's a time you would expect the president to use unifying phrases and calls . . .. It was moving." But he said Bush's explanation of domestic issues lacked "the same force and feel."
Orton said, "This speech is not going to change the minds of those people who think we are wrong (in the Persian Gulf) . . . but I think he has shown and the Congress has shown that in this action we are united, and that we are involved in a just cause."
Orton also lamented that while Bush called for the nation to work on many domestic issues such as bank reform, "He didn't give any specifics."
- TURNING $15 BILLION OF FEDERAL PROGRAMS OVER TO STATES WITH FULL FUNDING: Hatch said, "I think it is a terrific thing. There's no question that's what we need to do. The states do a better job. Government closer to the people is better government, will save money in the long run and people will be helped better."
But Owens said, "I'm dubious about that (proposal) . . .. If he proposes a $15 billion package and it passes, then we give the money for one year. Then we may remove the money and leave the obligation. It could create serious problems for local governments."
Hansen said of the proposal, "I think that's one of the most dramatic things I've heard. Coming out of the state legislature and a city council, I guess I have to feel that the government closest to the people does a much better job."
- SEEKING ALLIES TO PAY WAR COSTS: Garn said, "These people like Japan and Germany who have constitutions that do not allow them to deploy forces, they can certainly send money. Although I'm pleased with what's happened the last couple of weeks, it's not enough."
Owens said, "I think those who benefit the most, whose economies are stronger than ours and those who are making such huge profits from increased prices . . . they should pay our out-of-pocket costs."
Orton agreed and warned of a possible war tax down the line otherwise. "It really depends on what's going on. If it's a short war with most of it being paid by the allied forces, then I think we can assimilate it into the overall budget.
"But if it becomes a huge war - a billion dollars a day for months and months and months - we can't pay for it that way. That'll destroy the economy, and I think we've got to look at a war tax. I don't think there's any option."
- BANNING CAMPAIGN DONATIONS FROM POLITICAL ACTION COMMITTEES OF SPECIAL INTERESTS: Garn said, "We tried that last year - so he had a responsive chord among Republicans. The Republican plan in the Senate did away with PACs . . . Democrats don't want to do away with PACs. They give a lot of speeches about how they would like to. But if you look at the record, you see they don't."
Owens said, "I have my own proposal . . .. A third of campaign funds would come from PACs, a third from public financing and a third from prime contributions in the state."
- FORMING A BIPARTISAN STUDY OF CUTS IN THE CAPITAL GAINS TAX: Orton said, "I would be more than happy to volunteer to serve on the president's study. I am one of the few tax experts in the Congress, and possibly the only tax attorney."