Republicans in the U.S. Congress responded in competing voices on Tuesday to President Barack Obama’s annual State of the Union address as various wings of the party vied to advance their prescriptions for the country’s best way forward.
Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky and Mike Lee of Utah, two favourites of the anti-Washington Tea Party movement, were staging separate responses to Mr. Obama’s speech.
Mr. Paul, a newcomer to the Senate associated with the libertarian fringe of the U.S. right wing, appealed to the conservative base of the Republican Party that is suspicious of government social programs.
Mr. Paul used his YouTube video rebuttal to pitch his own small government and low taxes message. “Prosperity comes when more money is left in the private marketplace. … Mr. President, where are the jobs?”
He said both main parties erred in bailouts and stimulus in response to the 2008 financial crisis, because the government isn’t as efficient as “the democracy of the market.” He also called the landmark “war on poverty” born in the 1960s a failure, saying it created “dependency” and “no exit” from “big government.”
“It’s not that government is inherently stupid,” he said, “although it’s a debatable point.”
Mr. Paul offered his own anecdote, speaking of a woman who found welfare more profitable than working until she started her own business. And he offered his prescription: lower taxes, a flat rate, education tax credits for parents “because [they] know what’s best for their kids, not government.”
“I’ll work with the President, Democrats, independents and anyone who wants to alleviate poverty and get people back to work in our country,” added Mr. Paul, who is seen to be positioning himself for a 2016 presidential run that would require him to broaden his appeal within the GOP.
Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers delivered the sanctioned Republican response to Mr. Obama, offering a folksy speech about her children and family life. The five-term congresswoman from Washington state also took a broad swipe at “Obamacare,” the 2010 landmark health-care law that Republicans have tried to repeal, delay or significantly alter nearly 50 times since its enactment.
“We’ve all talked to too many people who have received cancellation notices they didn’t expect or who can no longer see the doctors they always have,” Ms. McMorris Rodgers said of the Affordable Care Act, which got off to a troubled start.
“No, we shouldn’t go back to the way things were, but the President’s health-care law is not working,” she said.
Mr. Paul’s remarks were echoed in the Tea Party rebuttal.
Tea Party proposals, Mr. Lee said in excerpts of his remarks, “will put Americans back to work, not just by cutting big government, but by fixing broken government.”
With a report from Globe staff