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NH Democrats applaud refocusing

New Hampshire Democrats in Congress applauded President Obama's refocus on the middle class last night, while Republican Sen. Judd Gregg said "bipartisan ground" exists on issues such as help for small business and reform of financial regulation.

The elected officials issued statements or spoke shortly after Obama gave his State of the Union address. Only one of the three Democrats, Second District Congressman Paul Hodes, mentioned health care. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and First District Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter applauded the focus on the middle class.

"This past year, President Obama and Congress successfully stabilized the overall financial system and prevented us from entering a depression. But we continue to face the harsh economic reality that middle-class families and small businesses are still feeling the adverse effects of a recession, and we need to put their interests first," Shaheen said.

In his address, Obama mentioned the name of Gregg, whose effort to create a bipartisan task force on deficit reduction was blocked in the Senate on Tuesday. Obama said he will create the task force by executive order.

"I refuse to pass this problem on to another generation of Americans," Obama said.

Gregg said many of the areas mentioned by Obama -- from ways to support small businesses and create jobs, to energy and financial regulatory reform -- "have bipartisan ground where we can work together."

He also agreed that Congress should put aside political posturing.

"After a year of pushing reckless fiscal policies, the President now has offered to freeze some discretionary spending. This is a very small rhetorical step in the right direction," Gregg said. He said further action is needed to address uncontrollable costs of entitlement programs.

Hodes said health care reform will help small business to start hiring again.

"Health care reform is a jobs bill. It's necessary to rebuild and strengthen our economy and help the middle class," Hodes said.

Michael St. Germain, owner of Concord Camera, was in the chamber, a guest of Hodes.

He was pleased to hear Obama's focus on middle America. "Middle-class America is the one that's hurting the most. It needs help, and it needs leadership," he said. St. Germain believes he could add another two people to his payroll of five if the Congress adopts Obama's program of credit and tax breaks for small business.

Shea-Porter said the financial crisis hit hard in 2008, and people are waiting for their lives to improve.

"I'm pleased that the president is intently focusing on the middle class and their struggles in this economy," she said. "It is our responsibility in Congress and it is the president's responsibility to help our nation recover."