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Deep Partisan Split on Obama Speech

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call
Obama greets Boehner, left, and Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. before delivering his State of the Union address Tuesday.

Democrats loved the president’s speech; Republicans hated it. What else is new?

President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address didn’t bridge the partisan divide in Washington, nor did anyone — least of all the White House — expect it to do so. But the pre-canned tweets, prebuttals and lightning-fast reaction from congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle turned the legislatively modest presidential agenda quickly into chum for partisan consumption.

Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, who spent much of the speech sitting glumly behind the president, said the president “is clearly out of ideas.”

“With few bipartisan proposals, Americans heard a president more interested in advancing ideology than in solving the problems regular folks are talking about,” Boehner said. “Instead of our areas of common ground, the president focused too much on the things that divide us — many we’ve heard before — and warnings of unilateral action. The president must understand his power is limited by our constitution, and the authority he does have doesn’t add up to much for those without opportunity in this economy.”

Boehner did however, offer to work with the president on immigration, patent changes, skills and education, and energy and water infrastructure — leaving room for some actual legislating before both sides focus on the November elections.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., said Obama may have said that he’s “eager” to work with Congress but that hasn’t been the case.

“For years, President Obama has chosen to withdraw from policy debates and ignore our Constitutional balance of power,” he said in his statement. “Let’s put away the pen, and pick up the phone and work together to find common ground. That is something all Americans expect of the Congress, as well as the President.”

Democrats predictably cheered a speech sprinkled throughout with red meat for the Democrats to fire up their base in November — from a minimum wage hike to equal pay for women to extending unemployment insurance.

Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., issued a statement squarely focused on the elections. “The key issue of the 2014 elections will be who can do more for the middle class — raise middle class incomes and create more good paying jobs,” he said. “The President’s speech shows that he gets it. Helping the middle class will supersede every other issue in November.”

Schumer said in an interview that he doesn’t think many Democrats would react negatively to Obama’s threat to do more via executive actions.

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