A segmented response to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address served to illustrate ongoing fractures in the GOP. The Party’s factions were represented by a Tea Party response from Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) and an unsolicited rebuttal from Senator Rand Paul (Ky.), alongside the GOP establishment’s “hopeful message” delivered by Representative Cathy McMorris Rogers (Wash.)
“Our mission — not only as Republicans, but as Americans, is to once again to ensure that we are not bound by where we come from, but empowered by what we can become. That is the gap Republicans are working to close. It’s the gap we all face: between where you are and where you want to be,” McMorris Rodgers said in her official rebuttal.
McMorris Rodgers said that, unlike the plan presented in the President’s speech, the GOP’s mission in the year ahead will be to empower Americans to achieve greatness without expanding government.
The GOP, according to the Party’s highest ranking female in Congress, believes “in a government that trusts people and doesn’t limit where you finish because of where you started. That is what we stand for – for an America that is every bit as compassionate as it is exceptional. …Our plan is one that dreams big for everyone and turns its back on no one.”
In response to Obama’s praise of his healthcare reform package, which was notably lacking in any acknowledgement of its problems, McMorris Rodgers offered that Republicans want to improve on the President’s plan rather than scrapping healthcare reform altogether.
“We shouldn’t go back to the way things were, but the President’s health care law is not working. Republicans believe health care choices should be yours, not the government’s,” she said.
In his Tea Party response, Lee focused on Americans’ widespread dissatisfaction with government.
“You are probably as frustrated as I am about an ever-growing government that somehow thinks it is okay to lie to, spy on and even target its own citizens. Many hard-working Americans are discouraged and wondering what, if anything, can be done,” Lee said.
“I believe we need to do what Americans have always done – come together and press for positive change. Protesting against dysfunctional government is a great American tradition, going back to the original Tea Party in Boston, about 240 years ago. Americans have a natural instinct to stand up and speak out when they know something is wrong.”
While criticizing Obama’s dedication to growing the power of the Federal government, Lee noted that the GOP establishment was also to blame for many of the government failures that plague the Nation today.
“To be fair, President Obama and his party did not create all of these problems,” he said. “The Republican Establishment in Washington can be just as out-of-touch as the Democratic Establishment.”
With regard to income inequality Lee stressed that the first steps lawmakers should take must end the revolving door between corporations and government that shut out Main Street while enabling crony capitalism.
He said, “[The] inequality crisis presents itself in three principal forms: immobility among the poor, who are being trapped in poverty by big-government programs; insecurity in the middle class, where families are struggling just to get by and can’t seem to get ahead; and cronyist privilege at the top, where political and economic insiders twist the immense power of the federal government to profit at the expense of everyone else.”
Obamacare can be fixed, Lee argued, by listening to doctors and patients rather than bureaucrats or insurance executives.
“When it comes to healthcare, we know the best way to repeal Obamacare is to deliver better solutions. We can’t just return to the old system. Healthcare policy used to give too much power to insurance companies; Obamacare now gives far too much power to government. We know that real reform will put healthcare dollars and decisions where they belong, in the hands of patients and families and their doctors and nurses,” Lee said.
In an effort to stress that it’s the Tea Party, not the Washington establishment, that is offering real populist solutions to the problems facing average Americans, Lee noted that six of the ten wealthiest counties in America are suburbs of Washington, D.C.
In a similarly-toned message, Paul offered that he and other conservative members of Congress are willing to work with “the President, Democrats, Independents and anyone else who wants to get people back to work and alleviate poverty in our country.”
The Kentucky Senator stressed that, contrary to Obama’s assertions, government is notorious for failing in attempts to manipulate markets for the purpose of job creation.
“In the marketplace, most small businesses fail. If government is to send money to certain people to create businesses, they will more often than not pick the wrong people and no jobs will be created,” he said.
“Government spending doesn’t work. It doesn’t create jobs. Only the democracy of the marketplace can find those capable of creating jobs.”
The main point of Paul’s rebuttal was to stress that American entrepreneurs possess far greater power to put Americans to work that any government initiatives.
“The ticket to the middle class is not higher taxes on the very businesses that must create the jobs,” Paul said. “Economic growth will come when we lower taxes for everyone, especially people who own businesses and create jobs.”
The tonal differences of high-profile GOP reactions to the President’s speech serve as a reminder that a battle over the Republican message continues, even in the face of a massive Presidential power grab.
Meanwhile, Congressional Democrats signaled that they are are more united than ever on Tuesday, when every legislator on the left offered the President a standing ovation as he announced that he plans to bypass their Constitutional authority at every opportunity.