Reporting from Washington — President Obama used his weekly radio address Saturday to rip the GOP's recently unveiled "Pledge to America" manifesto, while a House Republican leader hit back in his own radio remarks.
Obama accused Republicans of wanting "to put special interests back in the driver's seat in Washington," arguing that the latest GOP prescriptions are "grounded in the same worn-out philosophy: Cut taxes for millionaires and billionaires; cut the rules for Wall Street and the special interests; and cut the middle class loose to fend for itself."
Rep. Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield, Republicans' chief deputy whip and an author of the 21-page manifesto the GOP rolled out last week, responded by blaming Obama for the economic malaise gripping the nation.
"As a result of the economically disastrous policies of the current administration, millions of Americans are out of work today, and our children will be saddled with a deficit and debt that is, by every definition, out of control," McCarthy said.
"The land of opportunity has become the land of shrinking prosperity," he said. "Americans across the country are outraged, and so are we.... Our government has failed us."
The president noted that on Monday economists declared that the recession officially ended in June 2009, meaning the U.S. economy is now growing, albeit modestly.
"But we have to keep pushing to promote growth that will generate the jobs we need and repair the terrible damage the recession has done," Obama said. "That's why I've proposed a series of additional steps: accelerated tax breaks for businesses who buy equipment now; a permanent research and development tax break to promote innovation by American companies; and a new initiative to rebuild America's roads, rails and runways that will put folks to work and make our country more competitive."
It's unclear how many of those measures will pass in the remaining few weeks before Congress adjourns in advance of the midterm elections, which could result in a Republican-controlled House of Representatives next year — and a changed political landscape for Obama.
In their "Pledge to America," unveiled at a Virginia hardware store, Republican lawmakers promised to keep the Bush administration tax cuts in place and to repeal the healthcare plan that Obama and the Democrats passed this year. They also promised a "path to a balanced budget," but their plan did not include many specific spending cuts to offset the $700 billion it would cost to extend the Bush-era tax cuts to the wealthiest earners.
Obama, who once touted bipartisan compromise, blasted the blueprint by Republican lawmakers who have sought to block his agenda at almost every turn.
"The Republicans who want to take over Congress offered their own ideas the other day," he said. "Many were the very same policies that led to the economic crisis in the first place, which isn't surprising, since many of their leaders were among the architects of that failed policy."
Obama noted that the Republicans drew some of their ideas from a website called "America Speaking Out," and he pointed out that one popular idea on the website, "ending tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas," was opposed by most GOP House members when it came up for a vote recently.
"So, America may be speaking out, but Republicans in Congress sure aren't listening," the president said. "And for all their talk about reining in spending and getting our deficits under control, they want to borrow another $700 billion and use it to give tax cuts to millionaires and billionaires. On average, that's a tax cut of about $100,000 for millionaires.... The way for us to remain the greatest country on Earth isn't to turn back the clock and put the special interests in charge. It's to make sure all our people are getting a fair shake."