A top Senate Republican said Saturday that President Obama “has a lot of explaining to do” in his State of the Union speech about the weak economy and persistently high unemployment.
Sen. Roy Blunt, Missouri Republican, noted that Mr. Obama intends to speak to the nation Tuesday night about income inequality and his plans for a “year of action.”
“Well, the president’s right about at least one thing — Americans are hurting,” Mr. Blunt said in the weekly GOP address. “Too many of the poorest Americans continue to suffer from stalled job creation, skyrocketing federal debt, burdensome regulations, and broken promises on health care reform. What President Obama fails to acknowledge is that Americans are hurting as a result of his own policies.”
The senator noted that more than 10 million people are unemployed nationwide, and another 2.4 million have stopped looking for work.
“This administration’s agenda to create more government, more spending, more taxes, and more debt has created an inequality crisis of opportunity in our country,” he said. “Those policies have been disproportionately hurtful to the poorest among us for the past five years.”
He said of the president’s upcoming speech, “If all he has to offer is more of the same, or if he refuses to acknowledge that his own policies have failed to work – the president is simply doing what many failed leaders have done before him: trying to set one group of Americans against another group of Americans. We don’t need more class warfare, and we don’t need more interference from Washington.”
Senior White House adviser Dan Pfeiffer said Saturday that Mr. Obama will deliver an “optimistic” speech in which he’ll lay out “a set of real, concrete, practical proposals to grow the economy, strengthen the middle class, and empower all who hope to join it.”
Mr. Pfeiffer, in an email to suporters, also revealed that the president will travel to several communities after the State of the Union speech, including Prince George’s County in Maryland; Pittsburgh, Milwaukee, and Nashville, to promote his agenda.
Among the proposals Mr. Obama is expected to urge is an increase in the federal minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10.10, and an extension of long-term unemployment benefits.
Mr. Pfeiffer said the president also will emphasize his intention to bypass Congress when he sees fit, by taking more executive actions.
“When American jobs and livelihoods depend on getting something done, he will not wait for Congress,” Mr. Pfeiffer said. “President Obama has a pen and he has a phone, and he will use them to take executive action and enlist every American — business owners and workers, mayors and state legislators, young people, veterans, and folks in communities from across the country — in the project to restore opportunity for all.”
Republicans favor measures that would reduce government regulation and boost domestic energy production to create jobs, Mr. Blunt said. He said the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, on which the administration reportedly is near announcing a decision, would create tens of thousands of jobs at no cost to taxpayers.
Mr. Blunt also recommended fixing Obamacare.
“Republicans are ready to turn these policies around and launch a ‘year of action’ – starting with fixing our broken health care system,” he said. “Let’s work together to replace a plan that won’t work with common-sense solutions. Solutions like buying insurance across state lines and fair tax treatment for every health care dollar. We can also help jump-start job creation for American workers by creating more economic certainty.”