WASHINGTON — The Arkansas delegation wants President Barack Obama to offer some new thoughts on jobs, the economy and the federal debt when he delivers his State of the Union Address Tuesday evening.
"I’d like some specifics about how he would solve some of the problems we face," said Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., on Monday. "The major thing is jobs and the economy and how we revitalize that and the other is debt reduction."
The speech, before a joint session of Congress, begins at 9 p.m. EST and will be carried live on national television. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio will deliver a Republican response afterward.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Monday that Obama would outline his plan to create jobs and grow the middle class.
"The core emphasis that he has always placed in these big speeches remains the same and will remain the same, which is the need to make the economy work for the middle class, because the middle class is the engine that drives this country forward," Carney said.
All the members of the Arkansas delegation plan to attend the address. Some have also invited guests, who will be seated in the public gallery that overlooks the House chamber.
Boozman has invited Dan Shewmaker of Bentonville, who serves on the board of directors for NorthWest Arkansas Community College.
Rep. Steve Womack, R-Rogers, has invited Mike Malone of Fayetteville. Malone is president and CEO at Northwest Arkansas Council.
Womack wants the president to discuss the federal deficit in his address — a topic that he ignored during his Inaugural Address, said Womack spokeswoman Claire Burghoff.
Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., also wants to hear about the debt and deficit as well as Obama’s plan for improving the economy, said spokeswoman Lucy Speed.
"Congressman Crawford hopes President Obama will talk about a plan for addressing our nation’s enormous national debt," said Justin Gibbs, a spokesman for Rep. Rick Crawford, R-Jonesboro.
Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Dardanelle, wants to hear more about international issues from Obama — particularly a path forward in Afghanistan, Egypt and Syria, according to spokeswoman Caroline Rabbitt.
Cotton also wants the president to address sequestration and his proposals to protect the military automatic spending cuts set to begin in March, she said.
Rep. Tim Griffin, R-Little Rock, said he wants an open and honest dialogue about the national debt and the future of Medicare and Social Security.
"Instead of more criticism of the Supreme Court or more praise for the Soviet’s Sputnik mission, President Obama should use his State of the Union address to tell the American people the truth about the dire financial situation our country faces," Griffin said.
Griffin and Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., have sent a letter to Obama urging him to do just that.
Carney said the president will deliver "a very clear call for the need to take action to help our economy grow and help it create jobs."
And, he will call on Congress to take action now to avoid the automatic across-the-board spending cuts that would harm the economy, Carney said.
"Congress ought to do that to give itself the time and space necessary to move forward on a broader budgetary process that produces balanced deficit reform that completely eliminates the sequester for good," Carney said.