Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee, who is spearheading energy legislation efforts for his party, chided the president for pushing an energy bill.
"The president should spend more time focusing on cleaning up and containing the oil spill and less time trying to pass a national energy tax that will drive jobs overseas looking for cheap energy," Alexander said. "After that, Congress can enact legislation to help electrify half our cars and trucks, which is the single best way to reduce our dependence on oil."
But the president's supporters say his speech was effective in that it sought to reassure the American people that the government has a long term plan for restoring the Gulf Coast.
Former vice president and environmentalist Al Gore also applauded Obama's call to action on energy legislation.
"The president is right to focus on stopping the spill and working to limit, to the degree possible, its impact on the Gulf ecosystem," Gore, founder and chairman of environmental group The Alliance for Climate Protection, said in a statement. "But ultimately the only way to prevent this type of tragedy from happening again is to fundamentally change how we power our economy."
He reassured people "he had a battle plan," Donna Brazile, Democratic strategist and ABC News consultant, said on "GMA" today.
"I thought it was a very important speech because we're at a critical moment," Brazile said. "People are now worried about the oil coming ashore, they're worried about their livelihood, they're worried about the long-term economic impact, and I think the president today will also add a little bit more ingredients to what I believe he laid out last night, by saying how much money will be put aside" by BP for Gulf coast residents.
The government and independent scientists estimate that between 35,000 and 60,000 barrels of oil a day are still spewing from the well, a number far worse than previously estimated. BP's attempts to capture all the oil has so far been unsuccessful despite the use of new equipment and technology. BP says it will be able to capture up to 25,000 barrels a day by later this week, up from 15,000 barrels per day that's currently being capped.
On Tuesday, Obama pushed lawmakers to speed up the passage of an energy bill -- although he did not specify what he would want to see in such legislation.
"One of the lessons we've learned from this spill is that we need better regulations better safety standards, and better enforcement when it comes to offshore drilling," the president said. "The tragedy unfolding on our coast is the most painful and powerful reminder yet that the time to embrace a clean energy future is now."
"As we recover from this recession, the transition to clean energy has the potential to grow our economy and create millions of good, middle-class jobs -- but only if we accelerate that transition. Only if we seize the moment," he added. Obama also announced Tuesday that he has nominated Navy Secretary and former Mississippi governor Ray Mabus to head restoration plans.
On the Gulf coast, residents keenly watched the president's address. Some said watching Obama reassure them from the White House gave them hope and a sense that visiting the region first-hand made a difference for the president.
"I think we're seeing a change in how he's handling the situation and I hope for the better," said one Alabama resident.