Reporting from Washington — Even as President Obama mounted a spirited defense of his fiscal policies Wednesday night, Republicans charged that his approach had done little to revive a moribund economy. In particular, they criticized Obama's stimulus bill, which they said had failed to curb unemployment.
"Last year, we were told that massive new federal spending would create more jobs immediately and hold unemployment under 8%," said newly elected Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, who delivered the GOP response to the president's State of the Union address.
Instead, he said, "in the past year, over 3 million Americans lost their jobs."
The national unemployment rate now sits at 10%.
McDonnell was chosen to lay out a response to Obama's address, and to detail a Republican blueprint for success in the upcoming congressional elections.
Last week's victory in Massachusetts by Republican U.S. Senate candidate Scott Brown has fueled the party's plans to use widespread public unhappiness with the economy as a springboard.
Not surprisingly, McDonnell, a rising star in the party, mentioned Brown in his remarks Wednesday.
McDonnell -- who in an unusual move gave his speech from the floor of Virginia's House of Delegates, rather than speaking alone in front of a camera -- said that Republicans "want cooperation, not partisanship."
But with Obama's popularity flagging and the elections looming, that cooperation could be difficult to obtain.
Along with criticism of Obama's economic policies, McDonnell attacked the Democratic healthcare overhaul and the congressional climate bill that would cap carbon emissions. "The federal government is simply trying to do too much," McDonnell said.
Brown, who has yet to be sworn in as a senator, also responded to the president's address, saying in a statement that "putting America to work requires bold action. Bold action means broad-based tax cuts for families and businesses to create jobs, and not merely targeted tax relief."
The Senate's Republican leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, said that Obama's speech was a "welcome change."
"I'm hopeful the administration's new focus on the economy," McConnell said, "will lead it to say no to more spending and debt, more bailouts and more government."