Congressional Republicans are going on offense ahead of President Obama’s third State of the Union address Tuesday night, arguing that the question facing the country isn’t whether Congress has succeeded or failed, but rather whether Obama’s agenda has made the country better or worse off.
“Based on what I’ve read about the State of the Union speech tonight, it sounds like we’re going to see a rerun of what we’ve heard over the last three years: more spending, higher taxes and more regulations,” House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told reporters at the Capitol Tuesday morning after a closed-door meeting with House Republicans.
“Listen, the president’s policies have made our economy worse. We’ve had 35 straight months with unemployment over 8 percent,” he added. “Gas prices have doubled over the course of this administration. And the president’s policies, again, are just going to double down on what hasn’t worked.”
White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer responded on the FOX News program “America’s Newsroom” to Boehner’s comments:
“First, I would encourage Speaker Boehner to hear the speech before he renders his colorful judgment on it. Second, he’s going to hear a lot of ideas that are things he’s supported in the past, things like putting construction workers back to work rebuilding roads and bridges. And the question for Speaker Boehner and all of the Republicans in the chamber tonight is are they going to be willing to put country before party and work with the President to get some things done. Our hope is that they will do that, it’s what the country expects and it would be disappointing if they say as we’ve read in some reports that the House Republicans and Senate Republicans want to spend the next year just playing politics trying to hurt the President. That wouldn’t be good for the country and it probably wouldn’t be good for them either.”
Democrats contend that while the rate of the country’s economic recovery has been sluggish, the economy has been gradually adding jobs.
Boehner’s counterpart in the Senate, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), argued in floor remarks Tuesday that “the message from the White House is that the president’s basically given up.”
“He got nearly everything he wanted from Congress for the first two years of his presidency,” McConnell said. “The results are in. It’s not good. So he’s decided to spend the rest of the year trying to convince folks that the results of the economic policies he put in place are Congress’s fault, not his. Well, my message is this: This debate isn’t about what Congress may or may not do in the future, it’s about what this President has already done.”
House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) took aim at both Obama and Senate Democrats, noting that “today marks a thousand days the Senate has not produced a budget.”
”In the thousand days by the numbers, 2.3, the number of times the Empire State Building could have been built; 58.8, the number of times Thomas Jefferson could pen the Declaration of Independence; 250, the number of times Neil Armstrong could fly to the Moon,” he said.
He added that Obama should use his State of the Union address to call on the Senate to pass a budget.
“We have watched the Senate, controlled by the Democrats for the last thousand days, the time the president has been in, with no budget produced. That cannot stand. That is unacceptable,” McCarthy said.
The State of the Union comes amid a period of intense upheaval in the GOP presidential race — and it also comes on the same day that former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney (R) has unveiled his tax returns, which show he has an effective tax rate of about 14 percent.
Asked about Romney’s taxes, Boehner defended the rate that Romney pays and argued that the White House is engaged in “class warfare.”
“Listen, this election’s going to be a referendum on the president’s economic policies,” Boehner said. “His policies have failed. As a matter of fact, his policies have made the economy worse. Now, the politics of envy, the politics of dividing our country is not what America’s all about. And so let’s get back to the economy.”
He also took aim at Obama’s planned address as a “campaign speech” as opposed to a presidential address.
“The president’s been in total campaign mode since Labor Day,” Boehner said. “And since the campaign apparently wrote the speech, I expect we’ll hear a campaign speech.”
Of course, both sides have been deeply engaged in politics over the past several months, from the debt ceiling debate to the payroll tax extension last month.