U.S. Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell:
“The biggest problem is the President made a speech that made it look like he's going to run for office again. His time for running is over. His time for governing is here. And in order to accomplish things over the last two years of the Obama Administration, he needs to work with the Republican Congress. Much of what he did tonight, you know, new taxes, new spending is sort of the same old thing that we've heard over the last six years. What I had hoped was the President was going to focus on areas of possible agreement. There are a few: trade, tax reform, infrastructure—those are the things we need to be concentrating on and let the next election occur in 2016.”
Sen. Rand Paul:
Good Evening. I wish I had better news for you, but all is not well in America. America is adrift. Something is clearly wrong. America needs many things, but what America desperately needs is new leadership. I've only been in office a short time, but one thing I've discovered is that there is no monopoly on knowledge in Washington. The best thing that could happen is for us—to once and for all—limit the terms of all politicians. We already limit the President to two terms. I think we should put limits on the terms of Congress and infuse our government with fresh ideas.
Before I ran for office, I practiced medicine for nearly 20 years in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Liberal elites fly over my small town, but they don't understand us. They simply seek to impose their will upon us—from what insurance we can buy, to what light bulbs we can use, to how we generate electricity.
Most of us in flyover country, and I suspect many who live in our big cities, think those in government take us for granted. Those of us who are actively pursuing the American Dream simply want government to get out of our way. For those of us who feel separated and distant from the American Dream, we don't want be perpetually talked down to, forgotten, and left in perpetual poverty. Many are discouraged that the “gifts” offered by liberals have not generated wealth, but rather perpetuated poverty. People want a way out—not fake concern and baubles.
The war on poverty is 50 years old, and still black unemployment is twice that of white unemployment. Income inequality has worsened under this Administration, and tonight President Obama offers more of the same policies—policies that have allowed the poor to get poorer, and the rich to get richer. Pitting one American against another is not a pathway towards prosperity.
The President is intent on redistributing the pie but not growing it. He misunderstands that the bulk of America wants a bigger pie. They want to work and don't want a handout—but a hand up. Not only do we need new blood in Washington, we need a new way of thinking in Washington. As a physician, I was taught first to do no harm: To think before you act, To analyze the unintended consequences of your actions. I think America would be better off if all our politicians took that same approach: “First, do no harm.”
It is self-evident that the President and Congress are unable to do what every family in America must do—balance the budget. If Congress cannot, or will not, balance the budget, then we should amend the Constitution to make it mandatory. President Obama is on course to add more to our national debt than all previous presidents combined. We borrow a million dollars a minute. Our $18 trillion dollar debt has become an anchor. Some economists argue that the burden of debt costs us a million jobs a year. I fear that this enormous burden of debt threatens our currency. I fear that another 2008-style panic is possible, and I fear that this degree of debt is an imminent threat to our national security. You cannot project power from bankruptcy court. It does not make us appear stronger when we borrow money from China and send it to countries that burn our flag. The hollowing out of our national defense comes from the advocates for unlimited spending and perpetual military intervention.
Secretary Gates got it right when he said that we've over-militarized our foreign policy. Should we be engaged in trying to encourage stability in the world? Absolutely. But we must think before we act. We must remember the maxim—first, do no harm. Hillary's war in Libya is a prime example of acting without thinking. Libya is now a jihadist wonderland. Jihadists swim in our embassy pool. Our Ambassador is dead, and we are now more at risk from terrorist attacks than ever before. Unfortunately, both parties too often seek military intervention without thinking through the possible unintended consequences. Many Republicans only complain that we didn't send U.S. ground troops or we didn't stay long enough. The Middle East lives in the midst of a 1,000-year war between Sunni and Shia. Superimposed on the long war is a century-old war pitting a barbaric aberration of Islam against civilized Islam.
We are foolish to believe we will solve this puzzle. We must defend ourselves and defend vital American interests, but we must not be deluded into believing that we can remake the Middle East in an image of Western Democracy. At home, much of nation still suffers. Dr. Martin Luther King spoke of two Americas. He described them as “two starkly different American experiences that exist side by side.”
In one America, people experienced “the opportunity of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness in all its dimensions.” In the other America, people experienced a “daily ugliness” that dashes hope and leaves only “the fatigue of despair.”
Although I was born into the America that experiences and believes in opportunity, my trips to Ferguson, Detroit, Atlanta, and Chicago have revealed what I call an “undercurrent of unease.” There is a tension that has become visible in the protests in every major American city. As Congressman John Lewis put it: “There is a growing discontent in this country. ” I think peace will come when those of us who have enjoyed the American Dream become aware of those who are missing out on the American Dream. The future of our country will be secure when we break down the wall that separates us from “the other America.” It is a noble aspiration and a moral obligation to make sure our fellow man is provided for, that medical treatment is made available to all. But compassion cannot be delivered in the form of coercion.
President Obama's fundamental promise that if you like your doctor you can keep them—was a lie. Obamacare, at its core, takes away a patient's right to choose. Under Obamacare, patients are prohibited from choosing their doctor or their insurance. Today, more Americans may have medical insurance, but Americans are now paying more money for worse care. The relationship between doctor and patient is withering. Doctors are fleeing the profession they love. Hospitals are straining, closing, or refusing to accept Obamacare policies. Everyone knows our health care system needed reforming, but it was the wrong prescription to choose more government instead of more consumer choice and competition. Obamacare restricts freedom and must be repealed! I was asked recently how we would fix our healthcare system. I replied, “Let's try freedom again. It worked for over 200 years!”
The President tonight calls for higher taxes. I believe we should do the opposite. I propose we cut everyone's taxes, from the richest to poorest, and we cut spending at the same time. Imagine a private stimulus fed by allowing you to keep more of your own money! Some will ask, “But what of the safety net?” I say: We will not cut one penny from the safety net until we've cut every penny from corporate welfare! So much of Washington's inability to cut waste in government comes from them not doing their job. It has been several decades since Congress passed all the spending bills individually.
Instead, the spending bills are lumped together in something they call a “Cromnibus” that is thousands of pages long. They allow no amendments to cut wasteful spending. Often the bill is plopped on our desk with only a few hours to review. No one, and I mean no one, is able to read what is in the bill. To fix this, I will introduce legislation called “Read the Bills Act.” It mandates that Congress wait one day for each 20 pages of legislation.
Congress should also live under the laws they pass. I will introduce a Constitutional Amendment that Congress shall pass no law that exempts Congress from the requirements of the bill. We have set up a privileged class in Washington, and Americans are sick and tired of it. These elites say, “trust us, we won't violate your privacy.” But when the Intelligence Director is not punished for lying to Congress, how are we to trust them? Are we to trust them to collect and hold every American's phone records? Remember, these are the same people who have only a 10 percent approval rating!
The Constitution is clear. Politicians should NOT collect this information without a warrant. Warrants must be specific to an individual and there must be probable cause before government is allowed to search any American's documents. The President created this vast dragnet by Executive Order without Congressional authority. He should immediately end this invasion of our privacy. We need to return to our founding principles and stand up for the entire Bill of Rights. To defend the Bill of Rights, we must have a strong national defense. I believe national defense is the single most important, Constitutional obligation of our Federal Government.
We should have a military that is second to none in the world, and ready to defend us from all enemies. To defend ourselves, we need a lean, mean fighting machine that doesn't waste money on a bloated civilian bureaucracy. The civilian bureaucracy at the Pentagon has doubled in the past 30 years, gobbling up the money necessary to modernize our defense. That's why I will propose the first ever Audit of the Pentagon, and seek ways to make our defense department more modern and efficient.
Without leadership, our country is adrift — yet there is still much promise for the future of America. Our future can include a road back to prosperity back to respect at home and abroad. It can include a balanced budget and a simple, fair tax system. It can include a government that protects your rights and your security. It can include a Congress that is responsive to YOU, the people, and not the special interests. It can include a stronger, better military, where our troops and veterans are valued and taken care of. It can include a plan to bring prosperity to our inner cities, and real justice to all Americans.
The path we are on now does not lead there. But there is time to change course. This President tonight, and for the past six years, has had the wrong diagnosis for what ails our country. I look forward to having a conversation with the American people about this throughout this next year.”
Congressman John Yarmuth:
“Tonight, President Obama reminded the American people just how important a strong middle class is in continuing our economic recovery. Though our economy continues to grow, we still see so many of the benefits only going to millionaires and billionaires, not our working families. A fair tax code that rewards work rather than wealth is necessary, and I welcome the President's tax proposal.
“Education is the foundation of building a strong workforce, and increasing access to community college and making student loans more affordable will help to further grow our middle class. When paired with responsible investment in manufacturing and our growing renewable energy industry, we can help create American jobs of the future that will lead the global economy. We've seen that first-hand in Louisville.
“Whether it's reforming our flawed immigration system, fixing our unfair tax code, or protecting the guarantee of a secure retirement, there is no shortage of issues that Congress can begin tackling immediately. I hope to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to address these many important challenges we face.”
Rep. Todd Young:
“While the President closed his State of the Union address by noting his desire to work across the aisle, much of his speech was spent digging in his heels on the same tax-and-spend policies rejected by the American people rather than identifying areas of common ground. But while I'm generally disappointed he took this tack, I still think there were some hints of bipartisanship that might present opportunities to grow a stronger economy.
“For starters, I agree with the President that Congress must pass a trade promotion authority bill. With two of the largest free trade agreements in the history of the world currently being negotiated, it is vital that the administration works with Congress to set negotiating priorities so that a deal might be completed quickly. In order to grow our economy, we must continue to open foreign markets to agricultural products and manufactured goods from places like Indiana, and that won't happen without Congressional authorization. I look forward to President Obama following through on his words tonight, and helping us gather more Democratic support.
“Second, I appreciate that the President recognizes the need to overhaul our antiquated tax code. However, given the details we've heard about his plan, I question the seriousness of his approach. He proposes to increase revenues by shifting wealth and making the tax code more complicated, rather than trying to broaden the tax base by simplifying the tax code and growing the economy from the bottom up. Additionally, he proposes tax reform that only lowers rates for large corporations, while leaving rates high on individual Americans and small businesses. In coming months, I hope he'll rethink this strategy.
“Finally, too often over the past few months, the President has made it clear that he intends to act unilaterally whenever possible. In our system of government, where a duly-elected Congress is responsible for writing laws, that course of action only creates more gridlock, erodes the trust of the American people, and sets a dangerous precedent. That's why tomorrow, I plan to reintroduce the REINS Act with Senator Rand Paul. This bill would require Congressional sign-off before major rules and regulations from the executive branch could take effect, thus helping to restore the Constitutionally-defined role of Congress to the legislative branch. If the President is serious about working with Congress to do what's best for America, I hope he'll engage us in this effort to ensure Congress plays a part.”
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