- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Saying the country is down but not out, Republicans on Tuesday accused President Obama of trying to divide the country by pushing tax increases and excessive regulations, and implored voters to embrace their party’s “pro-jobs, pro-growth” agenda over the program Mr. Obama offered in his State of the Union address.

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, chosen to give the Republican Party’s official response, said the “extremism” of Obama administration domestic policies, including his resistance to agree to a proposed oil pipeline from Canada to the Gulf Coast, have made the economy worse.

“As Republicans, our first concern is for those waiting tonight to begin or resume the climb up life’s ladder,” Mr. Daniels said. “We do not accept that ours will ever be a nation of haves and have-nots; we must always be a nation of haves and soon-to-haves.”

He said “no feature of the Obama presidency has been sadder than its constant efforts to divide us, to curry favor with some Americans by castigating others.”

Mr. Daniels said the country’s stagnant economy has put the U.S. “only a short distance behind Greece, Spain and other European countries now facing economic catastrophe.”

“Because the world uses our dollar for trade, we have a short grace period to deal with our dangers,” he said. “But time is running out, if we are to avoid the fate of Europe, and those once-great nations of history that fell from the position of world leadership.”

The governor, who was urged by some in his party to run against the president this year, called for a “passionate pro-growth approach,” featuring a simpler tax system of fewer loopholes and lower rates and “a pause in the mindless piling-on of expensive new regulations that devour dollars that otherwise could be used to hire somebody.”

“If we fail to shift to a pro-jobs, pro-growth economic policy, there will never be enough public revenue to pay for our safety net, national security, or whatever size government we decide to have.”

Mr. Daniels also dismissed Mr. Obama’s frequent accusations that GOP lawmakers on Capitol Hill have blocked his agenda for partisan purposes.

“They and they alone have passed bills to reduce borrowing, reform entitlements and encourage new job creation, only to be shot down nearly time and again by the president and his Democrat Senate allies,” Mr. Daniels said.

Mr. Daniels added that 2012 is “the year we strike out boldly not merely to avert national bankruptcy but to say to a new generation that America is still the world’s premier land of opportunity.”

“Republicans will speak for those who believe in the dignity and capacity of the individual citizen; who believe that government is meant to serve the people rather than supervise them; who trust Americans enough to tell them the plain truth about the fix we are in, and to lay before them a specific, credible program of change big enough to meet the emergency we are facing,” he said.

Rep. Mike Pence, Indiana Republican, called the president’s address “more of the same.”

“Gov. Mitch Daniels’ plain-spoken call for fiscal discipline and reform was the right message during these difficult times and must be heeded if we hope to put an end to the mountain range of debt that threatens the prosperity of our children and grandchildren,” Mr. Pence said.

Sen. Lamar Alexander, Tennessee Republican, said he doesn’t blame Mr. Obama and congressional Democrats who controlled both chambers of Congress during the president’s first two years in office for the country’s problems they inherited, “but we do hold them responsible for what they have done during the last three years.”

“They’ve been in charge, they’ve made it worse and we know how to make it better,” Mr. Alexander said.

Sen. Ron Johnson, a freshman Republican from Wisconsin, said the president talked a good game but failed to deliver.

“In the year ahead, Americans will have a choice: Do we want to follow President Obama down his path of bigger government, unsustainable debt, higher taxes and energy costs, a government takeover of health care, and anemic economic growth? Or, do we want to put our nation on a path toward true prosperity and economic security?”

• Sean Lengell can be reached at slengell@washingtontimes.com.

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