By U.S. Representative Bradley Byrne (AL-1)
Article II, Section 3 of the United States Constitution reads: “He shall from time to time give to Congress information of the State of the Union.” In that spirit, last week President Obama traveled to the Capitol to deliver his State of the Union Address, the sixth such speech of his presidency.
I hoped the President would use the speech to outline his strategy for working with the new, Republican-controlled Congress. I thought President Obama might look at the past examples set by Presidents Reagan, Clinton, and Bush, who all had to work with a Congress controlled by the opposite party. Despite their differences, these men were able to find legislative success because they made a serious effort to work with the Congress.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t the message we heard. Instead, the President rattled off an unrealistic liberal wish list of the same failed policies he has been advocating for over the past six years. From raising the minimum wage to higher taxes to closing down Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba, the President simply offered the same stale policies that the American people rejected last November when they elected a Republican Senate and added seats to the Republican majority in the House.
President Obama tried to convince us that the economy has completely turned the corner. While I agree the economy is on better footing today than it was a few years ago, now is not the time for a victory lap. Wages remain stagnant, too many Americans have stopped looking for work and part-time jobs are all too common. Instead of pushing for a tax hike, the President should be offering to work with the Republican-controlled Congress to simplify the tax code and reduce regulations on small businesses.
The President also used the State of the Union to celebrate what he called a “smarter” foreign policy. I found that analysis bizarre considering the current state of international affairs: Russia-backed rebels have launched a new offensive in Ukraine, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) continues to hold strong in the Middle East, China becomes more of a threat every day, Iran continues to get closer to a nuclear weapon, and the US-aligned government in Yemen has fallen to Islamic extremists. Each of these examples demonstrates how the lack of United States leadership is causing instability across the globe.
Additionally, President Obama outlined a completely unrealistic plan to offer “free” community college to all students. As the former chancellor of Alabama’s two-year college system, you will be hard pressed to find a stronger supporter of community colleges than me, but the President’s proposal is not a serious effort to increase skills training in our country. Even worse, the President proposes to raise taxes on 529 college savings plans in order to pay for the “free” community college plan. Punishing those who responsibly saved for college is entirely the wrong approach.
All told, President Obama again pushed an agenda designed at growing the federal government instead of growing American’s paychecks. Families and small businesses don’t want a bigger, more heavy-handed federal government. The people I represent simply want a federal government that is efficient, effective and accountable.
Instead of focusing on areas where Republicans and Democrats can work together, the President once again pledged more executive action and pandered to his party’s political base. The President seemed completely oblivious to the results of the midterm elections, spending more time talking about issuing vetoes than working together.
From the war against ISIL to our growing skills gap to the still recovering economy, our nation needs serious leadership and the people want to see tangible results. In the House, we will continue to advance a commonsense agenda that tackles the issues Americans face every day. I invite the President to put politics aside and join us in advancing sensible solutions.