WASHINGTON (February 13, 2013)--President Barack Obama set the stage for high-stakes clashes in Congress over guns, immigration, taxes and climate change in a State of the Union address that showcased a newly re-elected president determined to mark his legacy in spite of Republicans eager to rein him in.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Wednesday on the floor of the chamber that Mr. Obama’s address could have been "an opportunity to bring together the country," but instead it "became another retread of lip service and liberalism."
McConnell said the president offered little more than "gimmicks and tax hikes."
He described the speech as "a pedestrian liberal boilerplate that any Democratic lawmaker could have given at any time in recent history."
Mr. Obama pushed a raft of new initiatives in his speech Tuesday night including initiatives to improve preschool programs and voting, boost manufacturing and research and development, raise the minimum wage and lower energy use.
He urged a divided Congress to boost job creation and strengthen the middle class through a package of government-backed proposals, calling for an increase in the federal minimum wage, spending more to fix the nation's roads and bridges, and expanding early childhood education.
The president also pledged to cut the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan in half within a year.
Mr. Obama says his proposals would not increase the deficit "by a single dime," but with unemployment persistently high and consumer confidence falling, he is pressing a progressive case for Washington's role in reigniting the economy.
Republicans who control the House and hold enough votes to stall legislation in the Senate were quick to declare that the government helps best when it gets out of the way.
They say Mr. Obama’s second-term agenda will mean more tax increases and increase deficit spending and they’re vowing to promote economic growth to help middle-class families find good jobs.
They responded to the State of the Union address with fresh appeals to voters on the economy and promises to rein in federal spending with a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution.
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who delivered the GOP response, said Mr. Obama should "abandon his obsession with raising taxes."
Rubio's Republican response included an impromptu water break to quench his thirst.
Rubio appeared to wipe away sweat during his rebuttal from the Speaker's conference room in the U.S. Capitol shortly after Mr. Obama's address and at one point, Rubio reached out with his left hand and took a quick swig of water from a small Poland Spring water bottle.
The brief sip of water lit up social media outlets such as Twitter, with people commenting on Rubio's thirst.
Rubio later tweeted a photo of the water bottle.