WASHINGTON - Republicans, including those who would be president, vowed yesterday to block President Obama’s State of the Union agenda, dismissing his blueprint for reviving the economy - especially a new minimum tax on people earning over $1 million a year.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky called Obama’s address “a campaign speech designed to please his liberal base,’’ and said the president should not include in his package of economic proposals any “poison pills like tax hikes on job creators.’’
GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney told NBC News that the president is wrong to say things are going well in the country. “The idea that we’re on the right track is something which is very foreign to the people here’’ in Orlando, Romney said.
The lone Republican in the Bay State’s congressional delegation, Senator Scott Brown, said he would keep an open mind - perhaps a political necessity as he faces a serious challenge from Democrats, especially former Obama official Elizabeth Warren, to keep his seat.
“The challenge is how we are going to pay for those things he’s proposing,’’ Brown said after the presidential address.
Brown, who has opposed taxes on the wealthy, said he needs more details about the new tax proposed by Obama. “I’m going to have to see it in writing,’’ said Brown, adding, “we need comprehensive tax reform’’ and “we’d be happy to work with him.’’
The president’s proposed tax, based on the so-called Buffett rule that no top executive’s tax rate should be lower than his secretary’s, would impose a minimum 30 percent tax on incomes exceeding $1 million. The proposal could erupt into another explosive political battle with Republicans who have rejected every major attempt by Democrats to increase taxes on the rich to help fund programs or ease strains on the federal budget.
Hours before the speech, Romney used a shuttered factory in Tampa as a backdrop to sharpen attacks against Obama. The former Massachusetts governor painted a dour portrait of Obama’s term in office, saying the president has done little to spur economic growth and produce jobs.
“This is the real state of our union,’’ Romney said.
In Naples, Fla., yesterday afternoon, Newt Gingrich said Obama should stop blaming his Republican predecessor for the country’s economic woes.
“This is the fourth year of his presidency. He needs to get over it,’’ Gingrich said. “A friend of mine says, ‘He has shifted from Yes We Can to Why We Couldn’t.’ ’’
While the White House insisted that the president’s address was not a campaign speech, it was nevertheless seen as such by members of both parties.
Governor Mitch Daniels of Indiana, who delivered the rebuttal address for the GOP, said, “When President Obama claims that the state of our union is anything but grave, he must know in his heart that this is not true.’’
“No feature of the Obama presidency has been sadder than its constant efforts to divide us, to curry favor with some Americans by castigating others,’’ Daniels said. “As in previous moments of national danger, we Americans are all in the same boat.’’
Said House Speaker John Boehner, Republican of Ohio: “This election is going to be a referendum on the president’s economic policies.’’
As the president delivered his speech, Boehner’s office e-mailed reporters with rebuttals, hammering him on such issues as Obama’s refusal to sign off on the Keystone pipeline project.
Gridlocked Washington was on full display last year when the federal government came close to shutting down three times. Republicans control the House, while Democrats hold a slim majority in the Senate.
“No matter what party they belong to, I bet most Americans are thinking the same thing right now: Nothing will get done this year, or next year, or maybe even the year after that, because Washington is broken,’’ Obama said.
But even before the president took to the podium, Republicans had launched an offensive designed to counter White House initiatives and prevail in the public relations battle.
“Based on what the president’s aides have been telling reporters, the goal isn’t to conquer the nation’s problems,’’ McConnell said. “It’s to conquer Republicans. The goal isn’t to prevent gridlock, but to guarantee it.’’