When it came to the president's State of the Union speech Tuesday, liberal lawmakers applauded the president's progressive policy outline, while Republicans in Congress were looking for more details.
GOP members said the president's calls for enhanced cybersecurity, avoidance of billions in automatic budget cuts at the Department of Defense, and a stronger economy are hard to disagree with, but they have little faith that the president, who they say has been absent from Capitol Hill, will be able to accomplish such a broad list in four years. After all, they say, the devil is in the details.
"The president certainly outlined a very ambitious agenda, but I am unclear how he proposes to pay for all of it given our $16.4 trillion debt," says Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins. "I personally think an investment in infrastructure does make a lot of sense and would help to improve jobs and grow our economy, but the president's speech was very light on details for even a program like that."
At the onset of his speech, Obama told Congress that none of his proposals would add to the ballooning federal deficit.
"It's not a bigger government we need, but a smarter government that sets priorities and invests in broad-based growth," Obama said.
Independent Maine Sen. Angus King said that he thought the president's tone was welcoming and bipartisan, but even he worried some of Obama's proposals would come with a high price tag.
"He talked about the importance of preschool education. I am all for it, but that is expensive, and he said at the beginning everything is paid for," King says. "I am not quite clear where the money is coming from to add a grade to school."
Democrats in Congress praised the president's address, many saying it was the best of his tenure.
"I think that was his best and most stirring speech. He really laid out, both thematically and specifically, what he believed in and talked about what would help the middle class," says New York Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer.
Schumer said Obama's mention of affordable college education, immigration reform, and gun control showed the president is not going to back down in his second term.
"He didn't shy away from the things he believed in," Schumer says.
Fellow New York Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand echoed Schumer's sentiments in a separate interview, applauding the president for not retrenching on gun-control initiatives, a promise he made to families of Newtown, Conn., in the wake of a shooting that killed 20 first graders.
Obama reiterated his support for universal background checks and limits on high-capacity magazines Tuesday by sharing personal stories of gun victims in the audience.
"He personalized gun control," Gillibrand says. "It was his closing principle of what defines us as Americans."
Yet, despite the perception that the State of the Union could unite the divided government, some felt the president's speech was "flowery" rather than unifying.
Republican Texas Sen. Ted Cruz said that the president made it clear that he would rather make immigration a political chess piece than find a solution to the problem.
"President Obama's conduct on this issue demonstrates he is not interested in bipartisan reform," Cruz says. "Instead, his behavior suggests what he is looking for is a political issue. His objective is not to get a bill passed, but to have an issue to campaign on in 2014 and 2016."