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State of the Union reactions: a mix of praise and skepticism

President Obama's State of the Union speech evoked mixed reactions from groups representing seniors, environmentalists, and small businesses. Some praised his policy proposals but wanted to see more action.

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While a television shows clips from President Barack Obama's State of the Union address, traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange in New York, Thursday.

Seth Wenig/AP

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Reaction to State of the Union addresses typically pours quickly into journalists’ various electronic in-boxes once the speech is over. This year is no exception: virtually every lobby group and interest organization in Washington appears to have something to say about President Obama’s State of the Union talk.

State of the Unions are pivot points for all kinds of issues, after all. Obama is trying to reset Washington’s agenda. That sets lots of lobbyists, activists, and D.C. lawyers scrambling.

Here’s a sampling of reactions from interest groups so far:

Deficit hawks: The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a deficit hawk group, says it is thrilled that Obama talked about debt reduction in the State of the Union (SOTU) address. The group supports his call for a freeze on non-defense discretionary spending, a bipartisan commission on fiscal issues, and reinstatement of congressional statutory pay-as-you-go laws.

“But actions speak louder than words,” said the group’s president, Maya MacGuineas. “In the coming weeks and months, we urge the President to bring together members of both parties and begin taking concrete actions to stabilize the debt once the economy recovers.”

Seniors: The powerful seniors lobby group, American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), is also happy with President Obama – to a point. In his statement, AARP CEO A. Barry Rand praised Obama’s proposal for an automatic IRA to help current workers save for retirement. But Mr. Rand asks Obama “to go further” by renewing a request to help those who depend on Social Security but did not get a cost-of-living raise for 2010.

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