W ashington » Sen. Orrin Hatch said Wednesday that President Barack Obama was out of line to use his State of the Union speech to criticize the Supreme Court while six of its members sat nearby.
"Taking on the Supreme Court like he did, I thought it was kind of rude," said Hatch, a Utah Republican and former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. "It's one thing to say that he differed with the court but another thing to demagogue the issue while the court is sitting there out of respect for his position."
Obama called on Congress to "correct" the court's decision last week that reversed a ban on the ability of corporations to spend money to oppose or support political candidates.
"Last week, the Supreme Court reversed a century of law to open the floodgates for special interests -- including foreign corporations -- to spend without limit in our elections," Obama said during his annual address to Congress. "Well, I don't think American elections should be bankrolled by America's most powerful interests, or worse, by foreign entities."
Associate Justice Samuel Alito, a President George W. Bush appointee sitting in the second row, shook his head as Obama urged Congress to overturn the court's ruling.
Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, said the remark also made him feel uncomfortable.
"It was definitely unprecedented to attack the Supreme Court while they're there," Bishop said, adding the president was contradictory in trying to reach out to those he disagrees with.
"He said, 'I want to change the tone,' and then he attacked Republicans," Bishop said. "[He said], 'I don't want to relitigate the past,' and then he blamed the past administration."
Utah's lone Democrat in Congress, however, focused on the president's call to cap nonsecurity-related federal spending and to launch a blue-ribbon commission to ferret out wasteful government programs.
"It is time that we roll up our sleeves and do what it takes to rein in government spending and balance the budget," Matheson said. "The system is broken, and neither political party is without blame."
Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah, said the president was right to ask for suggestions from his opponents on health care reform efforts, and it's about time Democrats started listening.
"I stood up and applauded when he said we need a bipartisanship solution to health care but what he needed to say if he was really interested in a bipartisan solution is let's start over," Bennett said.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, praised the president for backing nuclear energy and reforming earmarks but argued Obama didn't signal much of a true effort to work with the GOP. "I felt there was a lot of explaining and digging his heels in on some tired policies that obviously aren't working," Chaffetz said.
Hatch added Obama needs to listen more to what Americans really want, which isn't more government running more of their lives.
"I think the American people made it clear they're darn angry about how Washington is doing business," Hatch said.