WASHINGTON — Republicans warned Tuesday that President Barack Obama's second-term agenda would bring more tax increases and escalate deficit spending, vowing that they would guard against Washington-centric policies and help middle-class families rebound from years of tepid economic growth.
Republicans responded to Obama's State of the Union address with fresh appeals to voters on the economy, promises to rein in federal spending and address the future of entitlement programs like Medicare. The party sought to portray itself as an alternative source of policies to grow the economy after the president swept to re-election last November.
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, delivering the Republican response, urged Obama to "abandon his obsession with raising taxes" and said the president had shifted the nation away from free-market economic principles that had helped middle-class families achieve prosperity.
"Presidents in both parties — from John F. Kennedy to Ronald Reagan — have known that our free-enterprise economy is the source of our middle-class prosperity. But President Obama? He believes it's the cause of our problems," Rubio said.
Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, in a separate tea party response, said both parties had failed voters by driving up trillion-dollar deficits. "Washington acts in a way that your family never could — they spend money they do not have, they borrow from future generations, and then they blame each other for never fixing the problem," Paul said in prepared remarks.
Rubio appeared to wipe away sweat during his rebuttal from the Speaker's conference room in the U.S. Capitol. At one point, he reached out with his left hand and took a small swig from a Poland Spring water bottle. As the incident generated heavy attention on Twitter, Rubio later tweeted a photo of the water bottle.
Republicans sought to characterize Obama as overly reliant on government, even as the president made his case to the nation that he could generate new jobs without raising the federal deficit. Both Obama's address to Congress and the Republican responses around the Capitol sought to position each party as the champion of average Americans in a nation still grappling with high unemployment and a slow economic recovery.