WASHINGTON — Maine’s members of Congress say they hope President Obama’s call Tuesday night for bipartisan compromise can go from rhetoric to reality.

Democratic Rep. Chellie Pingree, who represents Maine’s 1st Congressional District, said in a phone interview that Obama delivered a forceful speech that focused on improving the economy and strengthening the country’s manufacturing sector and educational system.

Pingree supported Obama’s call for “equity in taxes, making sure everyone pays their fair share. I thought he was just really clear on what the American public wants him to do.”

Republican Sen. Susan Collins said she is “hopeful that the president’s promise tonight to seek bipartisan consensus on the important issues is more than election year rhetoric.”

In December, Collins was the only Republican senator who voted for a payroll tax cut extension proposed by Senate Democrats, to be paid for with a surcharge on millionaires’ income taxes.

In his speech, Obama again raised the issue of raising taxes on wealthy Americans.

Collins said in a prepared statement that one path to bipartisan compromise could be a jobs package she crafted late last year with Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri. The proposal includes more spending for transportation infrastructure and reduced federal regulations and taxes on small businesses. It would be paid for by cutting subsidies to major oil companies and raising taxes on millionaires and billionaires, with a “carve out” for small business owners.

“Americans want the president and Congress to work together to offer solutions,” Collins said.

Democratic Rep. Mike Michaud, who represents Maine’s 2nd District, lauded Obama’s focus on helping American manufacturers and enforcing trade laws.

The president could help the manufacturing sector by ordering the Department of Defense to buy American-made athletic shoes, Michaud said in a phone interview. That would boost New Balance, the only major manufacturer that still makes athletic shoes in America – at plants in Skowhegan, Norridgewock and Norway, he added.

Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe said that while Obama outlined the country’s economic and job-creation challenges, “what is regrettable is that these are issues we should have already addressed on a bipartisan basis long ago.”

Snowe said in a statement: “The question is, will the president now go beyond words and apply leadership to truly corral the best ideas from both sides of the aisle to advance our nation, rather than advancing any one political agenda.”

Hours before Obama’s speech, the U.S. House began the day’s proceedings with a Maine flavor. The chaplain of the Maine Warden Service, Elizabeth Kate Braestrup, gave the opening prayer at noon in the House chambers, at the invitation of Michaud.

MaineToday Media Washington Bureau Chief Jonathan Riskind can be contacted at 791-6280 or at:
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