Bush's upbeat assessment rejected by North Coast DemocratsWASHINGTON, D.C. - The North Coast's Democratic congressmen were lukewarm in their reaction to President Bush's State of the Union address.

U.S. Rep. Brian Baird, who represents Pacific County, called Bush's references to economic growth as "hollow."

And the Astoria area's Congressman, U.S. Rep. David Wu, complained that the president's upbeat approach disguises the reality of the job market here.

"All Oregonians hope for an improved economy that creates new high-paying jobs," said Wu. "But I am deeply concerned that the president has let his hopes and expectations for future economic growth blind him to the current plight of the thousands of Oregonians who are out of work today.

"I am disappointed that the president did not call for an immediate extension of unemployment benefits, and I will continue to fight in Congress to extend unemployment benefits until every out of work Oregonian can find a job.

"For unemployed Oregonians, it is these benefits that keep their kids in college and prevent the loss of a home, a car or vital health care.

"Too many Oregonians know the heartbreak of a jobless economic recovery. To create new, high-paying jobs we need more investment in Main Street small businesses, not just in Wall Street corporations.

"I have sponsored legislation to give small businesses incentives to invest and grow, and the president needs to do more to ensure that all Americans can prosper together, not just corporations and their shareholders.

"Second, we all need to work together to provide access to the best education system possible for all Americans, because the key to economic success begins with education. The president needs to keep his promise to truly leave no child behind by providing the resources that America needs to have the best public school system in the world.

"Also, we must make college affordability a national priority. Recent tuition increases have put college out of reach for too many Oregon families. I'll be working on the House Education Committee to make college more affordable and attainable."

Baird conceded that it is fair to say - as Bush maintained - that the state of the union is strong. But the region faces real challenges.

"We need a plan to bring jobs back to our cities and towns, restore pride and stability in our manufacturing sector and ensure that Americans have access to affordable, reliable health care when they need it," he said.

"We are challenged to combat the growing number of unemployed Americans. Recent stock market gains have done little to ease the pain of those who are looking, but cannot find a job. The erosion of our manufacturing sector has been particularly difficult to overcome, especially in areas of Southwest Washington, where communities have long relied on family-wage manufacturing jobs as the backbone of the local economy.

"We must look beyond the recent hollow economic growth brought on by low interest rates and increased consumer and government debt to create a plan for solid economic development and job growth."

He said the nation needs to invest directly in roads, bridges and schools. "Unfortunately, investment in infrastructure and job creation has not been a priority of the Bush administration or the House leadership," he said. "Even with the stagnant economy an increasing number of Americans without basic health coverage, the president and House leadership have failed to align their agenda to meet these needs. In fact, what little has been done has often taken us in the wrong direction."

Health provided a major focus of the president's speech. But Baird maintains Bush has a skewed perception. Lawmakers rushed through bills without appropriate comment, he said.

"The Medicare prescription drug bill that was ushered through the Congress in late November was a failed attempt to provide meaningful prescription drug coverage for America's seniors.

"This legislation, the largest change to the single-most important health care program in our nation's history was pushed through Congress with just over 24 hours to review the 680 page document. This alone is disturbing, but when coupled with the Energy, Defense Authorization and Intelligence bills, this congress has voted to authorize $1 trillion in spending with just over 40 hours combined to consider those bills.

"Just 40 hours to consider thousands of pages of legislation, authorizing $1 trillion in taxpayer funds. This is fundamentally wrong - the American people deserve better and I will urge the Speaker and House leadership to undo this troubling pattern and restore the practice of honest debate to the House of Representatives."

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