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Obama Reaches Out, Ryan Doesn't, Himes Says

U.S. Rep. Jim Himes , who represents most of Fairfield County , sat with two Democrats at Tuesday’s politically mixed State of the Union speech, but says President Obama “extended a hand” to Republicans.

“I represent a swing district, a moderate district,” Himes said in an interview after the speech Tuesday night. “What he was saying spoke to me. If I was an extremist from either side, I would be less excited by what he said.”

Himes had harsher words for the Republican response delivered by Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan.

“[Obama’s] speech was very forward-looking and really was a hand across the aisle,” Himes said. “I think the President extended a hand and the Paul Ryan speech can be seen as slapping it down.”

Education-minded Fairfield County residents should be particularly interested in Obama’s talk about innovation, the congressman said.

“I thought the President used a very apt metaphor to talk about the investment that needs to go into economic growth. He said ‘gutting our investments in innovation and education is like lightening an overloaded airplane by removing its engine.’ ”

Also of interest to some in Fairfield County, Himes said, may be the President’s comments about the tax cuts the lame duck Congress extended to some of the country’s wealthiest citizens.

“[Obama] made a point that a pretty much all economists and most non-members of Congress agree on — we do need to cut, we can’t afford to make permanent the Bush tax cuts.”

The mixed seating where Republicans and Democrats sat together “had a symbolic effect,” said Himes, who sat with U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz from Pennsylvania and Richard Neal of Massachusetts.

“It did not show a divided chamber where you’re asking yourself who’s applauding,” he said. “It was more about which lines got more applause and which lines got less.”

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