Republicans Charge Obama Isn't Serious About Working With Them
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
President Obama laid out a broad vision for his final two years in office in last night's state of the union address. He highlighted some areas where he and the Republican-controlled Congress could work together. He also defiantly vowed to move ahead with policies that have faced opposition. NPR's Juana Summers spoke with a number of Republicans who say President Obama is not serious about working with them.
JUANA SUMMERS, BYLINE: Don't expect Republicans and Democrats to join hands around the campfire anytime soon. In the hours after President Obama's State of Union address, Republicans rejected the proposals at the core of his speech and said the president did little to show that he actually wanted to work with them. Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina.
SENATOR TIM SCOTT: Well, he knew before he started the state of the union that most of what he was going to say would be rejected by the Congress and/or not taken up at all. But I think what he's done is he's pivoted to the left as opposed to looking for common ground and moving forward on some of the most important issues.
SUMMERS: Arizona Congressman Matt Salmon put it this way.
REPRESENTATIVE MATT SALMON: The president is pulling out the same old playbook - pit one American against another American. And frankly, I find it trite and old. And I wish he'd come up with something new.
SUMMERS: Republicans pointed to the president's proposals to raise taxes and fees on the wealthiest Americans and biggest financial institutions and the actions he recently took to protect millions of illegal immigrants from deportation. But it wasn't just what the president said, it was also the way he said it. Congressman Carlos Curbelo of Florida.
REPRESENTATIVE CARLOS CURBELO: I didn't come here tonight to listen to a lecture. I came here tonight to figure out ways in which we can work together now. Despite what I thought was a professorial tone, I am going to try to find ways to work with the White House on immigration reform, on education reform because I owe that to my district.
SUMMERS: Also fresh in the rearview mirror were two new veto threats from the White House - one on a bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy and a second bill that would require a decision on pipeline construction within 12 months. House Speaker John Boehner said that the threats, along with what he called un-serious proposals, made for good political theater but that Republicans would continue to press their agenda. Some Republicans said they thought the president's speech was crafted with the upcoming 2016 campaigns in mind. At one point, the president even broke with his prepared text to remind Republicans that he won both of his last campaigns. Texas Senator Ted Cruz.
SENATOR TED CRUZ: The White House's early teasing was, this speech sets the stage for the 2016 presidential election. And one of the saddest things about the Obama presidency is at every stage, the president has made the decision to be the campaigner-in-chief. Everything is politics. Everything is partisan. Everything is warfare.
SUMMERS: Republicans are focused on an election, too - the most recent one that gave them control of the Senate and a widened majority in the House. They say the president needs to listen to the message of voters. Iowa Senator Joni Ernst, who took office just two weeks ago following those victories, gave the official Republican response.
(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)
SENATOR JONI ERNST: We heard the message you sent in November loud and clear. And now we're getting to work to change the direction Washington has been taking our country.
SUMMERS: With the big speech finished, Congress now turns to the debates over the Keystone XL pipeline and the Department of Homeland Security funding bill. Both are test cases for the working relationship between the new Republican majority and the president. Juana Summers, NPR News, the Capitol. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.