Comment Of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) On The President’s State Of The Union Message

Of course, it is a special moment and an emotional one for Marcelle and for me to see Alan Gross in the Gallery with the First Lady.  He is finally home with his family, and after 53 years of a failed policy on Cuba, the President has set us on a more constructive path to work toward normalizing our relationship to benefit both the American and the Cuban peoples.

I wholeheartedly support the President’s call tonight for Congress to end the embargo against Cuba.  It has failed to achieve any of its objectives, and it has been used by the Cuban government as an excuse for a failed economic system and a paternalistic, repressive political system.  The embargo has also been an excuse for other countries to avoid pressing the Cubans to reform.  Ending the embargo will help the Cuban people, who ultimately will bring the changes to that island that they so desperately need and deserve.

For at least two elections the American people have called for change, and the change they want most is an end to the stalemate and bickering in Washington.  They don’t want more brinksmanship and tantrums and government shutdowns.  It’s far different than when I first came to the Senate.  The partisanship in Congress has dramatically escalated in recent years, and the American people want that to change. 

The weeks and months ahead in this new Republican-led Congress will be a test not only of whether they heard that message, but whether they are willing to set aside the hyper-partisanship and are ready to really start working together for the common good.

Unemployment finally is at the lowest rate since 2008, and hiring last year was better than since the end of the Clinton era.  I support the President’s emphasis on helping middle income families.  America’s middle class is at risk of disappearing if we don’t act on making college more affordable.  If we don’t stop rewarding corporations for moving American jobs overseas.  And if we don’t take full advantage the job-creating potential of the revolution in green jobs.

Supporting middle and lower income families doesn’t end with jobs and college costs.  It also means ensuring that workers can make livable wages, and it means reforming the tax code by making it fairer to middle income families and by closing loopholes available only to the very, very wealthy.

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