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House Republicans Offer Measured Criticism of State of the Union

Speaker John Boehner dismissed President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday, saying the president’s call for a spending freeze was inadequate and accusing him of lacking commitment to fiscal responsibility.

“As I’ve stated in the past, when the president is willing to work with us on the people’s priorities, we’ll be ready to work with him,” the Ohio Republican said in a statement. “Unfortunately, even as he talked about the need for fiscal discipline, President Obama called for more ‘stimulus’ spending without making a commitment to the cuts and reforms the American people are demanding. Adding to our debt and pushing us closer to bankruptcy for the sake of more ‘stimulus’ spending will not make our nation more competitive.”

Boehner dismissed Obama’s proposed spending freeze as insufficient. “A partial freeze is inadequate at a time when we’re borrowing 42 cents of every dollar we spend, and the Administration is begging for another increase in the debt limit,” he said.

Boehner’s pointed criticisms, which lacked the bombast and overheated partisan rhetoric of past State of the Union responses, set the tone for other Republicans.

Chief Deputy Majority Whip Peter Roskam (R-Ill.) said in a statement: “I fear that President Obama is not listening to Americans’ clear warnings, because ‘invest’ and ‘freeze’ actually means ‘more government spending’ and ‘locking in a Pelosi-level budget.’ We saw those job-destroying policies in action over the last two years, and in turn, the American people voted for a drastically different direction this past November.”

Likewise, Rep. Kristi Noem, a tea party favorite and a member of the House GOP leadership, criticized Obama without engaging in over-the-top rhetoric.

“Despite the failed stimulus package that is simply adding to our debt rather than creating jobs, the President repeatedly fell back tonight on more government spending as his only economic solution,” the South Dakota Republican said in a statement. “Whether you call it a stimulus or an investment, more government spending simply isn’t the answer.”

Following the speech, Noem told Roll Call that she was nevertheless happy that she and Obama can agree on some areas, at least rhetorically.

“There were obviously some things in there I could find agreement on — simplifying the tax cut, making sure that we’re focusing on jobs and getting our spending under control,” she said. “It will be interesting to see how he balances that with his determination to continue to reinvest. That will be interesting because I really think we need to truly stop spending dollars.”

Even Republican Study Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (Ohio) was relatively measured in his criticisms.

“After two years of reckless spending and putting record levels of debt on the backs of our children and grandchildren, I am glad to see President Obama finally say what the Republican Study Committee has been saying all along, that ‘the only way to tackle our deficit is to cut excessive spending wherever we find it,’” Jordan said in a statement.

“I urge the President to put his call for spending cuts into action by pledging to sign our Spending Reduction Act, a $2.5 trillion spending cut package that will begin to restore fiscal responsibility to Washington,” he added.

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