Tags: Barack Obama | ISIS/Islamic State | John McCain | SOTU 2015 | State of the Union | Boehner | Tea Party

GOP Slams Obama's SOTU Speech as Divisive, Confrontational

By    |   Tuesday, 20 January 2015 11:54 PM

Republicans Tuesday charged President Barack Obama with putting forth a highly divisive State of the Union speech that offered no new proposals and included a plan to raise $320 billion in new taxes that had no chance of passing Congress.

"He's just being confrontational," Jenny Beth Martin, co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots, told Newsmax, focusing on Obama's tax plan. "He knows that's not going to pass either chamber of Congress.

"In putting these policies forward, the president has shown that he has no interest in seeking common ground for the good of the country," she said. "He continues to divide the country, as he has done for the past six years."

House Speaker John Boehner said that "the State of the Union is a chance to start anew, but all the president offered tonight is more taxes, more government, and more of the same approach that has failed middle-class families.

"These aren’t just the wrong policies, they’re the wrong priorities: growing Washington’s bureaucracy instead of America’s economy," he said.

Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham slammed Obama's national security agenda as "an unfortunate demonstration of how strategically listless his administration now is."

McCain, of Arizona, is chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Graham, who represents South Carolina, sits on the panel.

"The president’s pronouncement of a 'smarter kind of American leadership' must be puzzling to any American who has watched the news in the past six years," the senators said. "The Middle East is in tumult, and a wave of terrorist threats is gathering new momentum.

"Russia has dismembered a sovereign European state. China’s assertiveness continues to rattle American allies in Asia. Taliban attacks are increasing as the president continues his calendar-based withdrawal from Afghanistan.

"American leadership is clearly not 'smarter' under President Obama," they said. "It is dangerously absent."

Addressing a Republican-controlled Congress for the first time in his presidency, Obama urged legislators to raise taxes on the wealthy to help the middle class and to build on the nation's recent economic growth.

The president had been touting elements of his speech around the country for the past two weeks.

"It's now up to us to choose who we want to be over the next 15 years, and for decades to come," Obama said. "The verdict is clear: middle class economics works. Expanding opportunity works. And these policies will continue to work, as long as politics don't get in the way."

While he promised to veto any legislation that would seek to roll back several efforts — including Obamacare and the immigration orders he announced in November — the president also called on Congress to give him new authorization to use military force against the Islamic State (ISIS).

The terrorist group has seized huge swaths of land in Iraq and Syria and has beheaded four Westerners, including two American journalists, and threatened Tuesday to kill two Japanese hostages unless it receives a $200 million ransom within 72 hours.

The United States has air-bombed Islamic State militants since September, under powers granted in legislation adopted after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

"This effort will take time. It will require focus," the president said. "But we will succeed.
"In Iraq and Syria, American leadership, including our military power, is stopping [ISIS'] advance.

"Instead of getting dragged into another ground war in the Middle East, we are leading a broad coalition, including Arab nations, to degrade and ultimately destroy this terrorist group," Obama said.

The Republican response was given by Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst, a lieutenant colonel in the Army National Guard who has served in Iraq and was elected in November.

She called on Obama to work with Congress to support GOP objectives that include streamlining the tax code, create jobs, cut government spending, and combat worldwide terrorism.

"Americans have been hurting, but when we demanded solutions, too often Washington responded with the same stale mindset that led to failed policies like Obamacare," Ernst said. "It’s a mindset that gave us political talking points, not serious solutions.

"There’s a lot we can achieve if we work together," Ernst added. "The president has already expressed some support for these kinds of ideas. We’re calling on him now to cooperate to pass them."

Florida Rep. Curt Clawson, who was also elected to Congress in November, gave the tea party's response. He was selected by the Tea Party Express and was endorsed by Martin's organization.

He delivered part of the response in Spanish, saying to Hispanic viewers, "the law must be followed," but that "you are all welcome with us," the Los Angeles Times reports.

In returning to English, Clawson said: "As we respect our immigration laws, we’ve also got to be fair to the more than 10 million Americans currently struggling to find good jobs. … To do this, we need to secure our borders first."

Boehner praised Ernst's 10-minute rebuttal, adding that "finding common ground is what the American people sent us here to do, but you wouldn’t know it from the president’s speech tonight.

"While veto threats and unserious proposals may make for good political theater, they will not distract this new American Congress from our focus on the people's priorities," he said.

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus declared that "the Democrats’ top-down, one-size-fits-all approach just doesn’t work. President Obama should take up real bipartisan proposals that are already on the table.

"The president wants to tell Americans that we shouldn’t worry about the economy, but the truth is we still have the lowest labor force participation rate since the Carter years," he added. "More needs to be done to get more Americans into the workforce — and to create more opportunities for those already in the workforce."

Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, accused Obama of slipping "back into the role of campaigner-in-chief.

"The president missed a real opportunity to put forward a bold economic vision that meets the demands of the American people and puts an aggressive jobs agenda center stage," he said. "Our country deserves something other and better than the president’s politics of division."

Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions said that Obama "stayed the course of tax, spend, borrow, regulate, and add to the debt. This policy has hammered working families."

Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert said that he "heard nothing new" in Obama's speech.

"He has brought Americans less healthcare at vastly expanding costs, though he has added tens of thousands of government jobs like IRS agents to harass working Americans," he said.

Tennessee Rep. Marsha Blackburn said that the best way to help middle-class Americans is by cutting government spending.

"We don’t have a revenue problem. We have a spending problem," Blackburn said. "Sending more money to bureaucrats in Washington is not going to solve the underlying problems. We need to work on real solutions like my proposal to cut just one penny out of every dollar from discretionary spending.

"By cutting 1 percent in discretionary spending, we could save taxpayers an estimated $4 billion in just one year," she said.

Florida Rep. Jeff Miller, chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, referenced the Veterans Affairs' wait-times scandal in attacking the president's speech.

Miller noted how Obama did not visit the Phoenix VA center where the debacle first came to light last year when he visited the city to announce a program to cut mortgage fees charged by the Federal Housing Administration.

"Many are wondering if he will ever give his Department of Veterans Affairs the personal attention it so desperately needs," Miller said. "Changing the culture at VA is a monumental task, and without the president leading by example it will be next to impossible."

Ohio Rep. Mike Turner, who chairs a House Armed Services subcommittee, highlighted Obama's silence on how sequestration has devastated the nation's armed forces.

"Sequestration will affect mission readiness and our deployed personnel around the globe, while having deep impacts to vital national security installations," Turner said. "National security is a constitutional responsibility, and the president's failure to address sequestration in tonight’s speech is a significant and meaningful omission."

Citing the unilateral actions Obama on illegals, Texas Rep. Lamar Smith charged the president with implementing policies that "have punished hard-working Americans who are struggling to get ahead.

"When he took unilateral, unconstitutional executive actions on immigration this past fall, President Obama added 5 million illegal immigrants to the workforce to compete with unemployed and underemployed Americans."

David McIntosh, president of the Club for Growth, likened Obama's tax plan to "Lindsay Lohan’s acting career. Lots of unemployment and not much income.

"President Obama’s policy proposals are more of the same: tax hikes and class warfare," McIntosh said. "President Obama’s proposals haven’t worked over the last six years — and you’d think the most recent elections would have taught him something.

"Americans are looking for a policy agenda that gives them more freedom and opportunity, not more government and bureaucracy."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Republicans Tuesday charged President Barack Obama with putting forth a highly divisive State of the Union speech that offered no new proposals and included a plan to raise $320 billion in new taxes that had no chance of passing Congress.
State of the Union, Boehner, Tea Party, Barack Obama, John McCain
Tuesday, 20 January 2015 11:54 PM
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