WASHINGTON — New Mexico’s congressional delegation gave mostly strong reviews of President Obama’s State of the Union speech Tuesday night, and Democrats were receptive to his proposal to raise the federal minimum wage.
Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., said Obama was smart to focus on “the economy and the middle class,” as well as the looming budget sequestration that could result in deep federal budget cuts in New Mexico and the loss of thousands of jobs.
“I think there are people (who) are starting to be comfortable with that idea (of sequestration), and we can’t accept that,” Heinrich said. “It’s our job to pull together and find a better solution. I’m hoping we can come up with a balanced alternative.”
Heinrich also said he welcomed Obama’s proposal to raise the minimum wage to $9 per hour.
“The figure I’ve been throwing out there is $8.50, but I have no problem having that conversation,” Heinrich said. “I want to look at the overall numbers. Nine dollars is definitely reasonable, and I’m glad we’re having that conversation.”
Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., said he was encouraged by Obama’s call for additional job training and rebuilding the American manufacturing base.
“I really like where he talked about good paying jobs and training Americans to fill them,” Udall said, adding that he also is receptive to a minimum wage increase.
“I want to take a look at his proposal,” Udall said. “I support the idea of raising the minimum wage. I’d like to see what schedule he’s doing it on — how quickly he’s trying to do it.”
Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, D-N.M., said she was glad to hear the president address gun violence. Tijeras Mayor Gloria Chavez, who has lost two cousins, a brother and another family member to gun violence, attended the speech as Lujan Grisham’s special guest.
“I think it’s important to show that New Mexicans are affected in unique ways, and we have unique leaders on gun violence,” she said, adding that she also appreciated Obama’s comments on avoiding sequestration and raising the minimum wage. She said she supports his call for an increase to $9 per hour.
“I think that is bold and brave, and I think it is important in this economy,” Lujan Grisham said.
Rep. Steve Pearce, R-N.M., did not attend the speech in Washington. Instead, he was in Roswell for a public hearing on the Environmental Protection Agency’s listing of the lesser prairie chicken. But Pearce issued a statement from New Mexico, noting Obama’s call for more job creation. It did not address the minimum wage issue.
“I call on the President to address the needs we can all agree on: jobs, debt, and freedom to prosper,” Pearce said. “People are tired of political posturing and political deals. They want solutions: solutions to the debt and deficit, solutions to the inflation that comes from the Federal Reserve’s printing of money, solutions to our continued joblessness.”
Rep. Ben Ray Luján, D-N.M., said he appreciated Obama’s focus on bringing jobs back to the United States and rebuilding the nation’s manufacturing and innovation capabilities. He also said he’s “open” to raising the minimum wage.
“We’ll take a close look at what the president put on the table,” Lujan said. “I don’t have a specific position on the dollar amount right now…but I’m sure it wasn’t an arbitrary number from the president. I just want to look at some of the details behind it.”