- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Acknowledging the public has a right to be angry at both parties, Republican leaders responding to President Obama’s State of the Union speech implored Americans to trust them to lead the country out of its economic malaise.

Rep. Paul D. Ryan, the Wisconsin Republican chosen to give the party’s official response, said both sides face a “tipping point” in addressing the problems of federal spending and ballooning national debt.

“Americans are skeptical of both political parties, and that skepticism is justified - especially when it comes to spending. So hold us accountable,” said Mr. Ryan in a televised GOP rebuttal shortly after Mr. Obama’s State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday evening.

Mr. Ryan, the new chairman of the House Budget Committee seen as one of the GOP’s rising stars, vowed to draft a federal budget that gives Americans “a better choice and a different vision” - one that features significant spending cuts and results in a reduced debt and more jobs.

“Our forthcoming budget is our obligation to you - to show you how we intend to do things differently,” said Mr. Ryan, speaking from the House Budget Committee’s main hearing room.

Mr. Ryan noted that House Republicans already this year have passed legislation that he said would slash spending, including bills to cut Congress‘ own budget and a repeal of the Democrat’s 2010 health care law. But many if not most GOP spending cut proposals, however, likely will die in the Democrat-dominated Senate.

“No economy can sustain such high levels of debt and taxation,” he said. “The next generation will inherit a stagnant economy and a diminished country.”

The Wisconsin lawmaker warned that if government’s growth “is left unchecked and unchallenged, America’s best century will be considered our past century.”

“Our nation is approaching a tipping point,” he said.

As President Obama did, Mr. Ryan expressed concern for Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was seriously injured in a gun attack in her Arizona district this month that killed six and wounded more than a dozen.

But in a discordant note for Republican leaders eager to show a unified response to Mr. Obama’s arguments, Rep. Michele Bachmann, Minnesota Republican and a favorite of the anti-spending tea party movement, independently offered her own GOP response. The speech was conceived as a webcast for tea party activists, but was broadcast live on CNN.

Mrs. Bachmann insisted her rebuttal, which followed Mr. Ryan’s response, was designed to complement - not compete with - the Wisconsin lawmaker’s words. But some Republicans privately worried the move could distract from their official response and give an impression that the tea party movement was taking over the party.

Mrs. Bachmann charged that Mr. Obama has ushered in an “unprecedented explosion of government spending and debt, unlike anything we have seen in the history of our country.”

The outspoken Minnesota lawmaker, citing last week’s House vote to repeal Mr. Obama’s health care law shows that “we are in the early days of a history-making turn.”

Congressional Democrats were only too happy to highlight the competing rebuttals, passing around press clippings showing the cool reception top GOP leaders were giving to Mrs. Bachmann’s speech.

“We all miss Gabby and her cheerful spirit; and we are praying for her return to the House chamber,” he said.

Republican leaders spent much of the day pre-emptively challenging Mr. Obama’s address and his call for targeted federal “investments,” accusing the administration of failing to rein in spending.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, said he was encouraged by the president’s recent “tones of a moderate” and his expressed willingness to work with the GOP, but quickly added that “it takes more than a change in tone to improve the economy.”

“Time and time again, the president has spoken in a way that appeals to many, then governed in a way that doesn’t,” Mr. McConnell said.

“Speeches only last for as long as they’re delivered,” he said. “Americans are more interested in what follows the speech. And in the case of this administration, Americans have good reason to be skeptical.”

New GOP House Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, said one central plank of Mr. Obama’s address - a call for a freeze on the operating budgets of most domestic agencies - fell far short of what was needed.

“At a time when the Treasury secretary is begging Congress to raise the debt limit, a ‘freeze’ is simply inadequate,” Mr. Boehner said.

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