WASHINGTON – Republicans say they want to hear less about everything they've been hearing for the past two years when President Barack Obama gives his State of the Union address.
Less spending and less of a government hand in trying to solve America's problems, GOP lawmakers said on the talks shows Sunday, two days ahead of Obama's speech.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said that seniors and those close to retirement age should be protected from spending cuts to entitlement programs. But for others, specifically those in their mid-50s, everything is on the table.
The Virginia Republican, in an appearance Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” said that Republicans will live up to their pledge to cut $100 billion from federal spending in an effort to tackle the deficit. Among the cuts will be $500 million in spending that goes toward presidential elections. “Every dollar should be on the table,” he said.
Reducing the federal debt is crucial, said Cantor.
"The president needs to pivot," said Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. "He obviously saw what happened in the November election and is trying to go on a different direction."
In his own preview, Obama told supporters in a video released Saturday that he will focus on economic issues, particularly jobs, as the economic recovery creeps along and unemployment hovers above 9 percent. His references to investing in educating workers and in research and technology set off alarms for Republicans.
"Any time they want to spend, they call it investment, so I think you will hear the president talk about investing a lot Tuesday night," McConnell said. "We'll take a look at his recommendations. We always do. But this is not a time to be looking at pumping up government spending in very many areas."
Cantor said Obama should focus less on Washington-based initiatives and more on policies that allow individuals to make their own decisions.
"We want America to be competitive, but then he talks about investing," Cantor said. "When we hear `invest' from anyone in Washington, to me that means more spending. ... The investment needs to occur in the private sector."
Cantor said the Republican push to cut spending — he repeated the GOP pledge to find $100 billion in budget reductions — would mean that all programs would be subject to review, including defense programs.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said he looks forward to Obama's message on spending as well as his efforts to pass free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea as a different route to creating jobs in the U.S.
"I think there's going to be a number of areas that we can at least find common ground on," McCain said.
The second-ranking Senate Democrat, Dick Durbin of Illinois, warned against being "so laser-focused on the deficit that we ignore the obvious" such as education and competitiveness.
As part of the call for civility in political discourse that followed the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., some lawmakers have sought to cross the aisle — literally — and sit with members of the opposing party during the address. Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, said he will be calling his colleagues in search of a seat mate.
"When I was in high school, I always waited too long before the prom to ask for a date, so I haven't done that yet," Lieberman said. "This is symbolic, but it sends a good message. We've really got to do more of this."
McConnell and Durbin spoke on "Fox News Sunday" while Cantor appeared on NBC's "Meet the Press." McCain spoke on CBS' "Face the Nation and Lieberman on ABC's "This Week."
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