Skip to: Content
Skip to: Site Navigation
Skip to: Search

Lawmakers craft role in time of crisis

Republican members weigh working with Obama versus more traditional opposition role.

By Staff Writer / February 25, 2009

President Barack Obama delivers his address to Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington on Tuesday.

Kevin Lamarque/Reuters



For 52 minutes, in his first address to a joint session of Congress, Barack Obama gave lawmakers a primer on how to set a tone and turn a phrase.

Skip to next paragraph

“We will rebuild, we will recover, and the United States of America will emerge stronger than before,” he said. Closing, he added: “We are equal to the task before us.”

After months of dismal economic news, the message – and the popular messenger – set a tone that lawmakers on both sides of the aisle said was sorely needed.

Now, Democrats and Republicans are eager to put their own stamp on how that vision takes shape.

On Thursday, the president sends his first proposed budget to Capitol Hill, launching months of hearings and debate. Next week, the White House hosts a summit on healthcare.

For Republicans, it’s a classic choice: Work with the majority Democrats and hope to leverage GOP priorities into the outcome – or recast the party brand around opposition to the principle of an expanded government role.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who delivered the Republican response to President Obama’s address Tuesday night, chose Option B.

Governor Jindal, along with a handful of other Southern governors, says that he will refuse some of the federal dollars for his state in the $787 billion economic recovery plan that Congress passed earlier this month.

“What it will do is grow the government, increase our taxes down the line, and saddle future generations with debt,” he said. Other Southern Republican governors were critical of congressional Republicans for not opposing plans to expand government more vigorously.

In Congress, GOP leaders said they welcomed the president’s calls for fiscal discipline but predicted a vigorous debate over proposed tax increases and reductions in defense spending.

“We think we ought to do a spending freeze across the board,” said Rep. Mike Pence (R) of Indiana, who chairs the House Republican Conference.

“We think the pathway forward is fiscal discipline combined with not tax increases in the near future but tax relief that will release the inherent power of the American economy,” he says. “It should set the stage for a healthy debate.”

Senate Republicans, with a recount in Minnesota pending, currently have just barely enough votes to block legislation, if they hold together. Three GOP moderates broke ranks to pass the stimulus bill.