President Obama delivered his annual State of the Union (SOTU) Address on Tuesday night, proposing nearly $41 billion per year in new federal spending. Immediately afterwards, newly-elected Congressman Curt Clawson (R-FL) and Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) offered official responses for the Tea Party and GOP, respectively.
The new Members both won key elections last year, which were highlighted in NTU Foundation analyses. We found that Senator Ernst proposed policies on the campaign trail that would, on net, reduce federal spending by $87 billion per year. Congressman Clawson, meanwhile, proposed a net $396 billion in annual spending cuts.
The SOTU responses are customary for political parties that don't occupy the White House at the time, and give them a chance to rebut particular parts of the President's speech and make the case for pursuing their own goals. Typically, the responses are much shorter and less detail-oriented, and this year the Tea Party and GOP editions followed suit.
Senator Ernst and Rep. Clawson each focused primarily on the importance of smaller government and economic liberty, painting a broad vision for America rather than offering laundry lists of specific policy proposals. There were, however, a few common themes discussed in both official responses.
- Simplify the tax system and reduce tax rates. Senator Ernst called on Congress and the President to "simplify America’s outdated and loophole-ridden tax code ... [and] iron out loopholes to lower rates -- and create jobs, not pay for more government spending." Congressman Clawson was more specific: "I say that we need to begin by cutting the small business and corporate tax rates in half, to 17.5%..."
- Move towards greater energy independence. The President has said he will veto any legislation that expands the Keystone XL pipeline, but both the GOP and Tea Party responses urged him to reconsider. "The President's own State Department has said Keystone’s construction could support thousands of jobs and pump billions into our economy," Ernst said. Rep. Clawson echoed her concerns, claiming "Long term, sustainable solutions require an empowered private sector... that must include energy independence. A major step forward here would be for the President to approve the completion of the Keystone pipeline."
- Military action against ISIS and other terrorist threats. The President's speech urged Congress to authorize the use of force to counteract terrorist threats in the Middle East, and the GOP and Tea Party contingencies agreed. Sen. Ernst, herself a veteran, said "[w]e need a comprehensive plan to defeat [terrorism]." And Rep. Clawson spoke of the need to "unite against ... global terrorist threat[s]."
With a new Republican majority in both Chambers, taxpayers should expect these issues to be a continued focus for lawmakers as the 114th Congress gets underway.