BOISE, Idaho — Prodding the new Republican Congress from a conservative state, President Barack Obama on Wednesday urged GOP lawmakers to work with him on an agenda that helps the middle class and insisted they offer better alternatives if they disagree with his. "Tell me how we get to yes," he declared.
Obama, in his first visit top Idaho as president, pitched the proposals he outlined Tuesday night in his State of the Union address by calling on politicians to move beyond their party labels to find common ground.
Speaking to a crowd of 6,600 people at Boise State University, Obama said that like the school's overtime victory in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl, he too can achieve success late in his presidency.
"I don't need to remind you that big things happen late in the fourth quarter," he said.
Obama acknowledged that his economic proposals to pay for free community college initiatives and middle-class tax breaks with tax increases on the rich face Republican opposition. "I could tell from their body language," he said, recalling the reaction to his State of the Union speech.
"They should put forward some alternative proposals," he continued. "I want to hear specifically from them how they intend to help kids pay for college. It is perfectly fair for them to say we have a better way to meet these national priorities. But if they do they have to show what those ideas are."
From Boise, Obama heads to Kansas, another state that typically backs Republicans. White House officials say Obama deliberately chose conservative states for his first stops following his annual address to Congress.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Obama wanted to come to Idaho to show that Republican support exists for the programs he discussed in his State of the Union address.
While in Idaho, Obama met privately with Naghmeh Abedini, the wife of an American pastor held prisoner in Iran. Christian pastor Saeed Abedini has been in Iranian custody since September 2012 and was sentenced to eight years for what was termed undermining state security when he attempted to build a church network in private homes.
The 34-year-old man is of Iranian origin but had been living in Boise.
Earnest told reporters traveling with Obama that the United States is concerned with the unjust detention of Abedini and other Americans being held in Iran. He said Secretary of State John Kerry raised the matter recently with his Iranian counterpart during a meeting in Europe, and that it is a priority for Obama.