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Entries in State of the Union (13)

Thursday
Feb142013

Boehner Challenges Senate to Enact Obama's State of the Union Agenda

Alex Wong/Getty Images(NEW YORK) ) -- While the majority of congressional Republicans oppose most of the policies President Obama outlined during his State of the Union address Tuesday, House Speaker John Boehner deflected attention away from Republican resistance, challenging Senate Democrats to prove that there is support for the president’s proposals.

“The president laid out his agenda and it’s one I largely disagreed with,” Boehner, R-Ohio, said. “It was largely more of the same: more tax hikes, more stimulus spending and the president likes to attack Congress. But if he’s serious about enacting his agenda, I think it must start with a part of this Congress that his party controls, the United States Senate.”

Boehner questioned whether there is sufficient support in the Senate for the president’s proposals for a national cap-and-trade energy tax, more stimulus spending or new tax increases.

“What can he get passed in the United States Senate?” Boehner asked. “This isn’t the agenda that many Americans are looking for, and I think many in the president’s own party won’t support those ideas.”

Senate Democrats are expected to introduce their plan to offset the looming sequester cuts on Thursday. That proposal is expected to replace the across-the-board cuts with a concoction of alternative savings derived from agriculture subsidies and defense spending, in addition to new tax increases.

Boehner met with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid this morning in the Capitol, but he didn’t reveal much of the discussion.

“When the Senate passes a plan, we’ll be happy to take a look at it,” Boehner said. “Until they pass a plan, there’s no reason for me to comment on what they’re going to do or not do.”

Boehner once again emphasized that Republicans passed legislation to replace the sequester on two occasions in the 112th Congress, and that he personally prefers to avert the ominous cuts that will remain in place until lawmakers approve a package of savings that addresses the growing national deficit.

“The sequester will be in effect until there are cuts and reforms that put us on a path to balance the budget over the next 10 years,” Boehner said. “Period.”

While the president called on Congress to fix the country’s crumbling infrastructure, Boehner said he is “committed to working to find a funding source so we can begin to repair America’s aging infrastructure.” However, leaders are struggling to identify a way to pay for infrastructure repairs.

“The president talked about infrastructure but he didn’t talk about how to pay for it, and it’s easy to go out there and be Santa Claus and talk about all of the things you want to give away, but at some point somebody’s got to pay the bill,” he said.

Boehner also said he doubted Obama’s ability to take executive action on climate control, an issue the president highlighted during his address Tuesday night.

“I don’t know what actions the president thinks he can take,” Boehner said. “I don’t think he has the ability to impose a national energy tax on Americans without the authority of Congress. So he may attempt to do this, but I’m not sure how much he can really do.”

Asked whether the House will wait for the Senate to act on immigration overhaul before considering legislation, Boehner said no decision has been made and there are still “a lot of issues that we have to deal with” that are preventing negotiators from striking an agreement.

“I’ve done everything I can to try to encourage those bipartisan conversations to continue,” he said. “Our border is not secure [and] the ability of our government to enforce the law has its share of problems as well."

“I want my colleagues to continue to work together to see if they can’t come to a solution that’s acceptable here in the House,” he added.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Feb132013

Sen. Marco Rubio Delivers GOP State of the Union Response

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. used the Republican response to President Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday to challenge the president on how to best serve the middle class, arguing that the answer to alleviating the burdens on working class people is not through the president's "obsession" with taxes and spending but by supporting a free enterprise system.

“Tax increases can’t do this. Raising taxes won’t create private sector jobs. And there’s no realistic tax increase that could lower our deficits by almost $4 trillion. That’s why I hope the president will abandon his obsession with raising taxes and instead work with us to achieve real growth in our economy,” Rubio said from the Speaker of the House’s conference room in the U.S. Capitol.

READ the FULL TEXT of Sen. Rubio’s Republican Response

“The idea that more taxes and more government spending is the best way to help hardworking middle class taxpayers -- that’s an old idea that’s failed every time it’s been tried,” said Rubio, 41. “More government isn’t going to help you get ahead.  It’s going to hold you back.  More government isn’t going to create more opportunities.  It’s going to limit them. And more government isn’t going to inspire new ideas, new businesses and new private sector jobs.  It’s going to create uncertainty.”

Rubio’s speech, the first ever bilingual response to the State of the Union, comes at a time when the Republican Party is struggling with how to appeal to a growing constituency, which it lost in last year’s election: Latinos.  Rubio, whose parents immigrated to the United States from Cuba in the 1950′s, is one of the most recognizable Hispanic figures in the Republican Party and is often floated as a potential presidential contender for 2016.

Rubio, who lives in the same Miami, Fla. neighborhood he was raised in, tried to link himself to working class people, saying it is their concerns he has in mind, not the interests of the rich.

“His favorite attack of all is that those who don’t agree with him -- that we only care about rich people,” Rubio said of the president. “Mr. President, I still live in the same working class neighborhood I grew up in. My neighbors aren’t millionaires. They’re retirees who depend on Social Security and Medicare. They’re workers who have to get up early tomorrow morning and go to work to pay the bills. They’re immigrants, who came here because they were stuck in poverty in the countries where the government dominated the economy.”

And these modest people in his neighborhood, argued Rubio, will actually be hurt if taxes rise and government spending isn’t cut.

“The tax increases and the deficit spending you propose will hurt middle class families,” he said of the president. “It will cost them their raises. It will cost them their benefits. It may even cost some of them their jobs. And it will hurt seniors because it does nothing to save Medicare and Social Security,” Rubio said. “So Mr. President, I don’t oppose your plans because I want to protect the rich. I oppose your plans because I want to protect my neighbors.”

Rubio helped craft a bipartisan immigration plan which was introduced last month, but he only briefly mentioned immigration in his speech, saying a legal immigration system would benefit the economy.

“We can also help our economy grow if we have a legal immigration system that allows us to attract and assimilate the world’s best and brightest. We need a responsible, permanent solution to the problem of those who are here illegally. But first, we must follow through on the broken promises of the past to secure our borders and enforce our laws.”

The Florida senator promoted the issues of school choice and access to affordable student loans while also pushing Republicans’ efforts to reform the Medicare system. But Rubio also noted that the power to enact change comes not from politicians but from the American people.

“Our strength has never come from the White House or the Capitol. It’s always come from our people. A people united by the American idea that, if you have a dream and you are willing to work hard, nothing should be impossible,” Rubio said.

Rubio rehearsed his speech Tuesday morning, as can be seen in these photos released by his office, but when it came to the actual delivery of the speech, Rubio hit a snafu.

 

In the middle of his speech, Rubio stopped speaking and reached off screen to grab a water bottle to take a drink. The Florida senator made light of the moment afterwards, tweeting out a photo of a small Poland Spring water bottle resembling the one he took a swig from in the middle of his speech.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Feb132013

Sen. Rand Paul Delivers Tea Party State of the Union Response

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Sen. Rand Paul Tuesday night delivered the Tea Party response to President Obama’s State of the Union address. Below is a transcript of his remarks as prepared for delivery.

I speak to you tonight from Washington, D.C. The state of our economy is tenuous but our people remain the greatest example of freedom and prosperity the world has ever known.

People say America is exceptional. I agree, but it’s not the complexion of our skin or the twists in our DNA that make us unique. America is exceptional because we were founded upon the notion that everyone should be free to pursue life, liberty, and happiness.

For the first time in history, men and women were guaranteed a chance to succeed based NOT on who your parents were but on your own initiative and desire to work.

We are in danger, though, of forgetting what made us great. The President seems to think the country can continue to borrow $50,000 per second. The President believes that we should just squeeze more money out of those who are working.

The path we are on is not sustainable, but few in Congress or in this Administration seem to recognize that their actions are endangering the prosperity of this great nation.

Ronald Reagan said, government is not the answer to the problem, government is the problem.

Tonight, the President told the nation he disagrees. President Obama believes government is the solution: More government, more taxes, more debt.

What the President fails to grasp is that the American system that rewards hard work is what made America so prosperous.

What America needs is not Robin Hood but Adam Smith. In the year we won our independence, Adam Smith described what creates the Wealth of Nations.

He described a limited government that largely did not interfere with individuals and their pursuit of happiness.

All that we are, all that we wish to be is now threatened by the notion that you can have something for nothing, that you can have your cake and eat it too, that you can spend a trillion dollars every year that you don’t have.

I was elected to the Senate in 2010 by people worried about our country, worried about our kids and their future. I thought I knew how bad it was in Washington. But it is worse than I ever imagined.

Congress is debating the wrong things.

Every debate in Washington is about how much to increase spending – a little or a lot.

About how much to increase taxes – a little or a lot.

The President does a big “woe is me” over the $1.2 trillion sequester that he endorsed and signed into law. Some Republicans are joining him. Few people understand that the sequester doesn’t even cut any spending. It just slows the rate of growth. Even with the sequester, government will grow over $7 trillion over the next decade.

Only in Washington could an increase of $7 trillion in spending over a decade be called a cut.

So, what is the President’s answer? Over the past four years he has added over $6 trillion in new debt and may well do the same in a second term. What solutions does he offer? He takes entitlement reform off the table and seeks to squeeze more money out of the private sector.

He says he wants a balanced approach.

What the country really needs is a balanced budget.

Washington acts in a way that your family never could – they spend money they do not have, they borrow from future generations, and then they blame each other for never fixing the problem.

Tonight I urge you to demand a new course.

Demand Washington change their ways, or be sent home.

To begin with, we absolutely must pass a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution!

The amendment must include strict tax and spending limitations.

Liberals complain that the budget can’t be balanced but if you cut just one penny from each dollar we currently spend, the budget would balance within six or seven years.

The Penny Plan has been crafted into a bill that millions of conservatives across the country support.

It is often said that there is not enough bipartisanship up here.

That is not true.

In fact, there is plenty.

Both parties have been guilty of spending too much, of protecting their sacred cows, of backroom deals in which everyone up here wins, but every taxpayer loses.

It is time for a new bipartisan consensus.

It is time Democrats admit that not every dollar spent on domestic programs is sacred. And it is time Republicans realize that military spending is not immune to waste and fraud.

Where would we cut spending; well, we could start with ending all foreign aid to countries that are burning our flag and chanting 'Death to America.'

The President could begin by stopping the F-16s and Abrams tanks being given to the radical Islamic government of Egypt.

Not only should the sequester stand, many pundits say the sequester really needs to be at least $4 trillion to avoid another downgrade of America’s credit rating.

Both parties will have to agree to cut, or we will never fix our fiscal mess.

Bipartisanship is not what is missing in Washington. Common sense is.

Trillion-dollar deficits hurt us all.

Printing more money to feed the never-ending appetite for spending hurts us all.

We pay higher prices every time we go to the supermarket or the gas pump. The value of the dollar shrinks with each new day.

Contrary to what the President claims, big government and debt are not a friend to the poor and the elderly. Big-government debt keeps the poor poor and saps the savings of the elderly.

This massive expansion of the debt destroys savings and steals the value of your wages.

Big government makes it more expensive to put food on the table. Big government is not your friend. The President offers you free stuff but his policies keep you poor.

Under President Obama, the ranks of America’s poor swelled to almost 1 in 6 people last year, reaching a new high as long-term unemployment left millions of Americans struggling and out of work.

The cycle must be broken.

The willpower to do this will not come from Congress. It must come from the American people.

Next month, I will propose a five-year balanced budget, a budget that last year was endorsed by taxpayer groups across the country for its boldness, and for actually solving the problem.

I will work with anyone on either side of the aisle who wants to cut spending.

But in recent years, there has been no one to work with.

The President’s massive tax hikes and spending increases have caused his budgets to get ZERO votes in both houses of Congress. Not a single Democrat voted for the President’s budget!

But at least he tried.

Senate Democrats have not even produced a budget in the time I have been in office, a shameful display of incompetence that illustrates their lack of seriousness.

This year, they say they will have a budget, but after just recently imposing hundreds of billions in new taxes, they now say they will include more tax hikes in their budget.

We must stand firm. We must say NO to any MORE tax hikes!

Only through lower taxes, less regulation and more freedom will the economy begin to grow again.

Our party is the party of growth, jobs and prosperity, and we will boldly lead on these issues.

Under the Obama economy, 12 million people are out of work. During the President’s first term 800,000 construction workers lost their jobs and another 800,000 simply gave up on looking for work.

With my five-year budget, millions of jobs would be created by cutting the corporate income tax in half, by creating a flat personal income tax of 17%, and by cutting the regulations that are strangling American businesses.

The only stimulus ever proven to work is leaving more money in the hands of those who earned it!

For those who are struggling we want to you to have something infinitely more valuable than a free phone, we want you to have a job and pathway to success.

We are the party that embraces hard work and ingenuity, therefore we must be the party that embraces the immigrant who wants to come to America for a better future.

We must be the party who sees immigrants as assets, not liabilities.

We must be the party that says, “If you want to work, if you want to become an American, we welcome you.”

For those striving to climb the ladder of success we must fix our schools.

America’s educational system is leaving behind anyone who starts with disadvantages.

We have cut classroom size in half and tripled spending on education and still we lag behind much of the world.

A great education needs to be available for everyone, whether you live on country club lane or in government housing.

This will only happen when we allow school choice for everyone, rich or poor, white, brown, or black.

Let the taxes you pay for education follow each and every student to the school of your choice.

Competition has made America the richest nation in history. Competition can make our educational system the envy of the world.

The status quo traps poor children in a crumbling system of hopelessness.

When every child can, like the President’s kids, go to the school of their choice, then will the dreams of our children come true!

Washington could also use a good dose of transparency, which is why we should fight back against middle of the night deals that end with massive bills no one has read.

We must continue to fight for legislation that forces Congress to read the bills!

We must continue to object when Congress sticks special interest riders on bills in the dead of night!

And if Congress refuses to obey its own rules, if Congress refuses to pass a budget, if Congress refuses to read the bills, then I say:

Sweep the place clean. Limit their terms and send them home!

I have seen the inner sanctum of Congress and believe me there is no monopoly on knowledge there.

If they will not listen, if they will not balance the budget, then we should limit their terms.

We are the party that adheres to the Constitution. We will not let the liberals tread on the Second Amendment!

We will fight to defend the entire Bill of Rights from the right to trial by jury to the right to be free from unlawful searches.

We will stand up against excessive government power wherever we see it.

We cannot and will not allow any President to act as if he were a king.

We will not let any President use executive orders to impinge on the Second Amendment.

We will not tolerate secret lists of American citizens who can be killed without trial.

Montesquieu wrote that there can be no liberty when the executive branch and the legislative branch are combined. Separation of powers is a bedrock principle of our Constitution.

We took the President to court over his unconstitutional recess appointments and won.

If necessary, we will take him to court again if he attempts to legislate by executive order.

Congress must reassert its authority as the protector of these rights, and stand up for them, no matter which party is in power.

Congress must stand as a check to the power of the executive, and it must stand as it was intended, as the voice of the people.

The people are crying out for change. They are asking for us to hear their voices, to fix our broken system, to right our economy and to restore their liberty.

Let us tonight let them know that we hear their voices. That we can and must work together, that we can and must re-chart our course toward a better future.

America has much greatness left in her. We will begin to thrive again when we begin to believe in ourselves again, when we regain our respect for our founding documents, when we balance our budget, when we understand that capitalism and free markets and free individuals are what creates our nation’s prosperity.

Thank you and God Bless America.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Feb122013

Obama to Announce 34,000 Troops Coming Home from Afghanistan

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama will announce at Tuesday night’s State of the Union address that 34,000 troops -- more than half of those currently serving in the combat region -- will be back from Afghanistan a year from Tuesday, according to a source familiar with the speech.

Roughly 66,000 U.S. troops are serving in Afghanistan.  The military has proposed keeping several thousand troops in the country after 2014 as advisers, trainers and logistical support for Afghan forces; the White House has said it remains open to pulling out all troops entirely.

In January, during a meeting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Obama said that most U.S. combat operations in Afghanistan would end this spring, signaling a quickening troop drawdown that will bring the decade-long war to a close at the end of 2014.

“Our troops will continue to fight alongside Afghans when needed, but let me say it as plainly as I can: Starting this spring, our troops will have a different mission -- training, advising, assisting Afghan forces,” Obama said on Jan. 11 at a news conference in Washington, D.C.

The president's comments planned for the State of the Union address will detail specific numbers along with that new mission.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Feb122013

Paralyzed Rep. to Showcase Gun Victims at State of the Union

langevin.house.gov(WASHINGTON) -- As a 16-year-old, Rep. Jim Langevin of Rhode Island was critically injured while working with the Warwick Police Department in the Boy Scout Explorer program.  

A veteran officer handling a .45-caliber semiautomatic pistol, not realizing a round rested in the chamber, pulled the trigger, bouncing a bullet off a metal locker and striking the teenager in the neck, severing his spinal cord.

When President Obama prepares to begin his State of the Union address and looks out to his Cabinet, the Supreme Court and a sea of lawmakers Tuesday night, he’ll likely notice the seven-term Democrat off to his right sitting up front in a wheel chair.  But Langevin won’t be the only reminder in the House chamber of how guns can change the course of history.

Langevin, the first quadriplegic to serve in the House of Representatives, is leading an effort to persuade lawmakers to give their guest pass to a victim of gun violence.  Since the president is expected to address gun violence during his speech, Langevin told ABC News’ chief White House correspondent Jonathan Karl that he wanted to be sure there was a “heavy presence” of people who have been directly affected by gun violence in order “to really put a human face on the tragedy of gun violence.”

“I was so affected by the tragic shootings that took place in Newtown, Conn., as we all were,” Langevin said as he explained the impetus behind his idea.  “My concern was that the news cycle moves on after a period of time and we’re on to other things and I don’t want us to lose focus on the tragedy of Newtown, the tragedy of these mass shootings that have taken place over the last several years.”

More than two dozen lawmakers have taken Langevin up on his appeal.  Attending the president’s address will be victims or family members of victims from some of the nation’s deadliest shootings, including Virginia Tech; Aurora, Colo.; Tucson, Ariz.; and Newtown.  Each member of Congress is entitled to one guest ticket for the State of the Union, while the White House and members of congressional leadership get additional guest passes.

“When I asked them to give up their one ticket to someone who has been affected by gun violence, or have been a victim of gun violence themselves, so many of them were ready to embrace the idea right away,” Langevin said.

Langevin invited one of his constituents, Jim Tyrell, to attend the president’s address as his guest.  Tyrell’s sister, Debbie, was murdered in 2004 during a robbery at a convenience store she owned in Providence, R.I.  The shooter has never been caught.

Langevin, 47, is at the forefront of a growing constituency in Congress calling for a makeover of the nation’s gun laws.  Among the proposals, he wants to reinstate an assault weapons ban, limit high-capacity ammunition magazines, crack down on gun trafficking and pass a law requiring universal background checks for every firearm purchase in the country.

“I want members of Congress to know as they’re looking up in the gallery and seeing all the people there that…they are waiting for the Congress to take up meaningful gun control legislation,” he said.  “These are human lives, these are real people.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Monday
Feb112013

Marco Rubio, Rand Paul to Respond to State of the Union Address

Michael Bonfigli /The Christian Science Monitor via Getty Images | ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- It'll once again be the old one-two punch against President Obama following his State of the Union address on Tuesday.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, considered one of the top contenders for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination, will deliver the official Republican Party response.

Meanwhile, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, a frequent outspoken critic of the administration, will give the "Tea Party response" from the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

It'll be the third go-round for the Tea Party address, with Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachman and former Godfather's Pizza CEO Herman Cain having delivered the previous two responses to Obama's annual speech.

As it happens, Paul has also indicated that he may seek the White House in 2016.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Feb102013

State of the Union 2013: What to Expect From President Obama’s Speech

Saul Loeb-Pool/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- In contrast to his inaugural address, President Obama’s State of the Union speech will focus primarily on jobs and the economy, outlining new initiatives on manufacturing, education, clean energy and infrastructure.

He will elaborate on the big themes of the inaugural — immigration, gun violence and climate change — but a top White House official said the State of the Union will have a “heavy economic focus,” specifically on “the middle class as the driver of economic growth.”

To drive home the point that the president sees jobs and the economy as his number one priority, the president’s travel after the speech will be used to promote his new economic initiatives.

The new initiatives will entail new federal spending, but the spending will be off-set by reductions elsewhere in the federal budget. In terms of cost, these initiatives will be relatively modest:  the days of big economic stimulus programs are over.

The president will use his speech to warn Congress to avoid automatic spending cuts — the dreaded “sequester” — scheduled to go into effect on March 1.  The across-the-board cuts, the president will warn, would jeopardize the economic recovery and endanger national security.

But the president will also make what the official called “a progressive case for deficit reduction” — warning that if entitlement spending is not brought under control it will crowd out spending on other social programs that progressives hold dear.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Jan252012

Obama Promotes State of the Union Message in Iowa

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images(CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa) -- President Obama launched his post-State of the Union tour Wednesday in a campaign-style speech in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where he pitched his vision for the future of American manufacturing.

The president began his three-day trip through five battleground states reminiscing about the 2008 election.

“I know there’s been a lot of excitement here over the past couple of months. It kind of made me nostalgic,” Obama told workers at Conveyor Engineering and Manufacturing. “I used to have a lot of fun here in Iowa.”

“All across this state, in all 99 counties -- and I was in, I think, just about every county -- we talked about how for years the middle class was having a tougher time. Hard work had stopped paying off for too many people,” he said.

Offering a truncated version of Tuesday night’s address, the president continued to cast himself as a defender of the middle class and previewed the themes he will hammer throughout his re-election campaign.

The president outlined his populist vision for an America where “there’s a sense of fair play and shared responsibility” and where everyone does their “fair share,” including the wealthiest Americans.

Obama touted his plans to reform the tax code and to reward companies that hire workers in the U.S. Obama also took direct aim at Republicans seeking to block his economic agenda.

“Their philosophy, what there is of it, seems to be pretty simple: We’re better off when everybody is left to fend for themselves, and everybody can play by their own rules. And I’m here to say they’re wrong,” he said.

The White House continues to say the president’s trip is not political, but Wednesday’s speech came after the Republican presidential candidates spent months in Iowa bashing the president and his record.

Obama continues to focus on manufacturing at his next stop in Phoenix.

Thursday, he will shift gears to American energy.

The trip is designed to highlight the “four pillars” of the “Blueprint for an America Built to Last,” which the president outlined in his State of the Union address. The other two pillars that he will promote are skills for American workers and values.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Jan242012

State of the Union: Obama Makes Case for Economic 'Fairness,' Second Term

Saul Loeb-Pool/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Barack Obama Tuesday night presented an argument for his presidency and a second term with a State of the Union address that outlined a sweeping vision for American exceptionalism sustained by an economy rooted in "fairness."

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"The defining issue of our time is how to keep that promise alive. No challenge is more urgent. No debate is more important," Obama said of the need to enact an agenda that bolsters the middle class.

"We can either settle for a country where a shrinking number of people do really well, while a growing number of Americans barely get by. Or we can restore an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules," he said.

"What's at stake are not Democratic values or Republican values, but American values," he added. "We have to reclaim them."

Obama's moment in the spotlight and on the national stage came at a crucial moment in his first term, with the economy showing continued signs of progress, his job approval ratings up slightly, and his Republican rivals divided over choosing their nominee. (See ABC News' Fact-Checking Analysis of the president's State of the Union here.)

Obama seized the opportunity to highlight his accomplishments over the past three years and "set the tone" for his re-election campaign, tacitly framing the November election as a choice between two starkly different political philosophies, rather than a referendum on his controversial tenure.

The president accentuated themes from a fiery populist speech he delivered in Kansas in December, telling his audience because of his economic and foreign policies "the state of our Union is getting stronger."

"We've come too far to turn back now," he said.

At the heart of Obama's case for the restoration of "American values" was formally imposing the so-called Buffett Rule -- the idea that millionaires and billionaires should not pay a lower percentage rate in taxes than members of the middle class.

"You can call this class warfare all you want. But asking a billionaire to pay at least as much as his secretary in taxes? Most Americans would call that common sense," he said, calling for a new legal requirement that Americans making more than $1 million a year pay a minimum effective tax rate of at least 30 percent.

The secretary of billionaire investor Warren Buffett was a guest of first lady Michelle Obama Tuesday evening so as to illustrate that point made by her boss. (See the full list of guests in the first lady's box.)

Obama also discussed proposals to boost American manufacturing, invigorate energy production and expand the skill sets of U.S. workers that included a series of new taxes and new spending measures as well as at least two new government departments.

He called for an end to tax deductions for housing, health care, retirement and child care for millionaires and the elimination of federal subsidies, such as food stamps, for the same, an idea put forth by Republican Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma.

Adding details to an idea he hinted at last week, Obama called for an end to tax incentives for companies that move work overseas or shut down their factories, while proposing new, lower overall tax rates for U.S. manufacturers, particularly those that relocate factories to economically hard-hit communities.

"It's time to stop rewarding businesses that ship jobs overseas, and start rewarding companies that create jobs right here in America," he said. "Send me these tax reforms, and I'll sign them right away."

Obama also repeated his call for no tax increases on the middle class, including an extension of the payroll tax cut through the end of 2012 -- a line that drew bipartisan applause.

To enforce the rules in a "fair shot" economy, the president envisioned two new government agencies. A Financial Crimes Unit within the Justice Department would target large scale financial fraud, he said, while a new Trade Enforcement Unit would work to hold international trading partners accountable for unfair practices.

"A return to the American values of fair play and shared responsibility will help us protect our people and our economy," Obama said.

He said the fairness doctrine should apply to federal government and educational institutions as well, with rules prohibiting lobbyists from bundling for political candidates and bundlers from lobbying; a ban on insider trading by members of Congress; and an end to federal aid for colleges that don't keep net tuition down and provide good value.

On housing, Obama proposed a new plan to let every homeowner who has kept up with mortgage payments to re-finance at current low rates, including those who have equity in their homes.

While on education, he called on every state to require students to stay in high school through graduation or age 18, a policy 20 states already have in place. He also reiterated a pledge he's already made to make college more affordable and loans less burdensome by boosting tax credits and increasing federal student aid.

Republicans Respond

Republicans greeted the ideas -- some of which are not new -- largely with disapproval, blasting the president before he even began speaking for what they characterized as a campaign-style approach on the heels of three months of public castigation of lawmakers as a "do-nothing Congress."

"The president checked out last Labor Day. He spent the last four months doing nothing but campaigning. He hasn't been engaged in the process," House Speaker John Boehner told CBS News ahead of the address. "If the President wants us to be engaged in the process, it takes two to tango."

There is simmering anger among congressional Republicans that came to a head recently over the recess appointments of Richard Cordray to the Consumer Financial Protection Board and three others to the National Labor Relations Board. And there's a lingering resentment over the bruising payroll tax cut fight and the rejected Keystone XL oil pipeline, a shovel-ready project Republicans said would create thousands of jobs.

Boehner invited three small oil company executives he dubs "job creators" who say their businesses would receive a boost from the Keystone plan.

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, who delivered the official Republican response to Obama's speech, cast aside the president's economic class contrasts -- which some conservatives have decried as "class warfare" -- calling instead for a "passionate pro-growth approach" that benefits everyone.

"No feature of the Obama presidency has been sadder than its constant efforts to divide us, to curry favor with some Americans by castigating others. As in previous moments of national danger, we Americans are all in the same boat," Daniels said.

"If we drift, quarreling and paralyzed, over a Niagara of debt, we will all suffer, regardless of income, race, gender, or other category. If we fail to shift to a pro-jobs, pro-growth economic policy, there will never be enough public revenue to pay for our safety net, national security, or whatever size government we decide to have," he added.

The Indiana governor also pushed back on Obama's suggestion that Republicans in Congress were obstacles to adopting such a policy.

"They and they alone have passed bills to reduce borrowing, reform entitlements, and encourage new job creation," he said, "only to be shot down nearly time and again by the president and his Democrat Senate allies."

But Obama, seeking to claim the mantle of an active president who has offered compromise and been rebuffed, insisted tonight that he is not to blame, offering an olive branch to Republicans and a threat to stand his ground.

"As long as I'm president, I will work with anyone in this chamber to build on this momentum. But I intend to fight obstruction with action, and I will oppose any effort to return to the very same policies that brought on this economic crisis in the first place," he said.

Obama's approach -- portraying himself as a "warrior for the middle class" in the face of a recalcitrant Congress -- hewed closely to a re-election narrative he's crafting based on polls of public opinion.

In the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll, Obama leads Republicans in Congress by a 13-point margin on who voters trust to better protect the middle class, 48 percent to 35 percent. He also leads by eight points on who would be better on boosting job creation.

The public by 55-35 percent margin also says unfairness in the economic system that favors the wealthy is a bigger problem than over-regulation of the free market that interferes with growth and prosperity. That puts Obama on the more popular side of this central debate by 20 points.

Meanwhile, just 13 percent of Americans say they approve of the way Congress is handling its job, its lowest rating in nearly 40 years of polling by ABC News. Obama's job approval rating in the poll stands at 48 percent.

One year ago, Obama spoke to the nation from a united House chamber, where members of both parties crossed the aisle to sit side by side in the immediate aftermath of the shooting of Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

"We will move forward together, or not at all -- for the challenges we face are bigger than party, and bigger than politics," Obama said at the time.

One year later, on many counts, members of both parties have shown they chose to stay put. And it's likely for the next 10 months they still will.

Obama takes his agenda on the road Wednesday to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and Phoenix, Arizona. He stops in Las Vegas, Nevada, and Denver, Colorado, on Thursday, before ending the three-day swing in Ann Arbor, Mich., on Friday.

All stops on the trip are in key 2012 electoral battlegrounds.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Jan242012

Obama to Address 'Do Nothing' Congress at State of the Union

JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama has spent the past three months railing against a "do-nothing Congress," and Tuesday night he has the opportunity to deliver his message face to face.

Obama will use his third State of the Union Address to promote what aides describe as a populist economic agenda he's already spent weeks pitching directly to voters, insisting the ideas deserve bipartisan support. Now, in the face of what he's framed as Republican obstruction, Obama will draw an election-year line in the sand.

This is a "make-or-break moment for the middle class and folks trying to work their way into the middle class," Obama said, previewing the address in a video posted on his re-election campaign website and emailed to supporters.

"Because we can go in two directions: One is towards less opportunity and less fairness, or we can fight for where I think we need to go: building an economy that works for everyone, not just a wealthy few."

Obama intends to make tax fairness a central theme to illustrate his point, renewing a push for what he calls the Buffett Rule, a principle for tax reform that would ensure billionaires and millionaires do not pay a lower effective tax rate than members of the middle class.

The class contrast and tax fairness issues, two of Obama's major re-election campaign themes, will get what is arguably its biggest audience yet with the nationally televised address in prime time. An estimated 43 million viewers watched Obama's State of the Union last year.

But as Obama lays out what he calls a "blueprint" for the county, viewers may find that many of the ideas aren't all that new.

Proposals Obama put forward in 2011, from eliminating subsidies for oil companies, to overhauling No Child Left Behind and the nation's immigration system, remain unresolved. Many of the infrastructure investments the president heralded have not gotten off the ground, while sweeping tax reform to "simplify the system and get rid of the loopholes" is still elusive.

"I think that any State of the Union address which lays out an agenda has to be ambitious. And if you got through a year and you achieved everything on your list, then you probably didn't aim high enough. So I think this president aims high," White House press secretary Jay Carney said Monday.

"There are absolutely things that remain undone that need to be done, that he will call on all of us to work together to get done in this address and beyond," he added. "But there is also a fairly comprehensive list of proposals that have been achieved, that I'm sure we'll be discussing as the year goes on."

Among those accomplishments are newly signed trade deals with South Korea, Panama and Colombia that had been in works since the Bush administration, a recently-launched effort to streamline and reorganize the federal agencies, and a new website for how tax dollars are spent -- all mentioned in the address one year ago.

Perhaps the biggest areas of achievement Obama will tout are in foreign and military policy: a successful raid that killed Osama bin Laden, a targeted international military operation in Libya that helped in the overthrow of Moammar Gadhafi, and an end to the war in Iraq.

White House aides say the overarching framework of the address, with the sweeping rhetoric and broad policy priorities of State of the Unions past, will "bookend" Obama's "fair shot" speech in Osawatomie, Kan., one month ago.

He will underline a vision of revitalizing American manufacturing, boosting energy production, invigorating skills training programs for American workers and a return to "American values," they say.

But will Republicans buy it?

Claims of optimism for a bipartisan embrace notwithstanding, the short answer is no.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio







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