Obama's State of the Union long on US greatness, short on austerity
President Obama called on America to maintain greatness through innovation. In his State of the Union address Tuesday, he also proposed cuts in defense and a partial budget freeze.
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GOP reply: still too much government
In the Republican response, Rep. Paul Ryan (R) of Wisconsin chided Obama and the Democratic leadership for what he called a belief that “government needs to increase its size and its reach, its price tag and its power.”Skip to next paragraph
Gallery State of the Union 2011
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“Whether sold as ‘stimulus’ or repackaged as ‘investment,’ their actions show they want a federal government that controls too much; taxes too much; and spends too much in order to do too much,” said Congressman Ryan, the new chairman of the House Budget Committee.
Ryan is the author of a fiscal “roadmap” that includes cuts in entitlements, including Medicare and Social Security, but many in his party have not signed on and on Tuesday night he did not promote his own ideas for how to achieve the Republican ideal of limited government.
In the spotlight of national attention that goes along with the State of the Union, it may have been the smart political move, for both parties, not to go into the specifics of cuts, analysts say.
“The spending choices will be very difficult and contentious,” says Jack Pitney, a political scientist at Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, Calif. “There’s no political profit in getting too detailed, because the picture is so grim.”
The White House insists that specifics are in the works. Watch what Obama proposes when he releases his fiscal 2012 budget in three weeks, administration officials say.
Love that middle ground
In another much-telegraphed move, the president made clear pitches to the political center in his speech, another bow to the new reality in Congress – and to politically independent voters, some of whom have come back to Obama’s side after the popular compromises of last month’s lame-duck session of Congress.
Obama twinned his touting of the repeal of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy with a call for all US college campuses to “open their doors” to military recruiters and ROTC. And he repeated his openness to medical malpractice reform, a proposal popular among Republicans, as he drew a bright line in the sand rejecting repeal of his signature achievement to date, sweeping health-care reform.
Obama even employed a little humor in defending the reform, which the House voted last week to repeal.
“Now, I have heard rumors that a few of you still have concerns about our new health-care law,” Obama said, grinning broadly and eliciting laughter.
Even as the mood in the House chamber conveyed a continuing sense of unity, following the assassination attempt Jan. 8 on Rep. Gabrielle Gifford (D) of Arizona, no one thinks the next year will be particularly easy or funny. Members of the House and Senate mixed up their usually partisan seating arrangement and sat next to one another, Republican next to Democrat. Chief Justice John Roberts also attended, after hinting he might not after last year’s contentious comment by Obama about a Supreme Court decision.
But the new reality of divided government has just begun, and the ability of Obama, the Democrats, and the Republicans to work together remains an open question.