On the morning of President Obama’s State of the Union speech, Republicans refused to be bounced from what is the day’s GOP messaging theme: This fall’s presidential and congressional elections are going to be a referendum on the White House’s economic policies.
“His policies have failed,” said House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, in a brief appearance before reporters on Tuesday after the House Republican Conference met behind closed doors.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., made similar remarks on the Senate floor on Tuesday, urging Obama to work with lawmakers instead of blaming them for the failure of his policies.
“The president’s policies are now firmly in place. It’s his economy now. The president may want to come here tonight and make it sound as if he just walked in the door,'' McConnell said. "A better approach is to admit that his three-year experiment in big government has made our economy worse and our nation’s future more uncertain. And that it’s time for a different approach.''
When Boehner was asked to focus on news that Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney had paid a 14 percent effective income-tax rate in 2010--and that much of his income was in capital gains and investment--the speaker pivoted back to his theme for the day. Boehner did so, even when pressed to answer whether this reflects fairness in the tax code, because that percentage is lower than what many wage-earning Americans pay.
“Well, we all know that the reason that we have low rates on capital gains--that’s because it spurs new investment in our economy and allows capital to move more quickly,” Boehner said.
“The politics of envy, the politics of dividing our country, is not what America is all about. So, let’s get back to the economy. The American people want jobs,” he continued.
Boehner said that Obama plans to blame Congress for inaction during his Tuesday night address, but he said that the blame should fall squarely on the Democratic-led Senate for not passing 27 bills designed to help job creators.
As for whether the president’s address will have the tone of a campaign speech, Boehner remarked, “The president has been in total campaign mode since Labor Day. And since the campaign apparently wrote the speech, I suspect we’ll hear a campaign speech.”
Responding to GOP assertions that Obama’s address will be purely political, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said on Tuesday that that’s a part of the American Democratic system. Hoyer said he believes the president’s remarks will reflect a “proper tone,” expressing what he believes are the best economic and other policies as well as a desire to reach out across the aisle.
But Hoyer added, “We are a democracy. Presidents have to be reelected. Members of Congress have to be reelected. There’s nobody in the Congress or in the White House who will not talk unrelated to their political recognition (that) they have to seek approval of the electorate in a few short months. That’s what makes our system so great.”