Rep. Paul Ryan, R. Wisc., and chairman of the House Budget Committee, faced a double challenge when he delivered the Republican response to President Obama’s State of the Union address. The president pre-empted some of Ryan’s talking points by promising to cut federal spending, reduce burdensome regulation and “fix what needs fixing” in the health care reform legislation. Then Ryan was followed by a more animated and less conciliatory Rep. Michele Bachmann, R. Minn., who stole some of the spotlight representing the Tea Party.
Speaking from the House Budget Committee hearing room and looking directly into the camera, Ryan acknowledged that no one party is responsible for the deficit or the country’s stagnant economy. He agreed with much of what Obama said about the need to create jobs, boost economic growth and reduce debt and added, “I look forward to working with the president to restrain federal spending.”
But Ryan, a rising star in the Republican party who was first elected to Congress in 1998 when he was 28, also repeated Republican calls for more limited government and criticized increased spending by the Obama administration. He said Democrats want “a federal government that controls too much; taxes too much; and spends too much in order to do too much.” He said since taking office, President Obama has signed into law spending increases of nearly 25 percent for domestic government agencies.
“The country is “at a tipping point,” he said, and risks facing the austerity measures imposed in Greece, Ireland, the U.K. and other European nations if it doesn’t reduce the deficit. “Their day of reckoning has come, ours is just around the corner,” he added.
Bachmann’s criticism of Obama was more direct. “For two years President Obama made promises just like the ones we heard him make tonight,” she said. “Yet still we have high unemployment, devalued housing prices and the cost of gasoline is skyrocketing.” In a presentation complete with Power Point images: a chart of the unemployment rate since 2001, images of the Declaration of Independence and the flag-raising at Iwo Jima during World War II, she said, “We need to start making things again in this country, and we can do that by reducing the tax and regulatory burdens on job creators.”
Unlike Ryan, Bachmann had some specific suggestions for the president to help the economy grow, including an energy policy that increases American energy production and reduces our dependence on foreign oil and eliminating some of what she said are 132 regulations put in place in the last two years, many of which will cost the economy $100 million or more.
She criticized Obama’s handling of the deficit, the health care legislation and the economic stimulus program.
Ryan’s message was different. “Americans are skeptical of both political parties, and that skepticism is justified – especially when it comes to spending,” Ryan said. “Our forthcoming budget is our obligation to you – to show you how we intend to do things differently, how we will cut spending to get the debt down, help create jobs and prosperity, and reform government programs.”
Profile: Congressman Paul Ryan (The Fiscal Times)
Michele Bachmann: House Rebel with a Fiscal Cause (The Fiscal Times)