WASHINGTON (AP) — Republicans said Wednesday that President Barack Obama's State of the Union address was full of well-worn liberal ideas and campaign-style hostility, and did little to ease partisan tensions over major issues.
"An opportunity to bring together the country instead became another retread of lip service and liberalism," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
He said Obama offered little more than "gimmicks and tax hikes" in a "pedestrian liberal boilerplate that any Democratic lawmaker could have given at any time in recent history."
Obama used the prime-time speech Tuesday to call for action on a broad agenda that included the economy, guns, immigration, taxes and climate change. He offered new initiatives on preschool programs, voting, manufacturing, and research and development. He said he wanted to raise the minimum wage and lower energy use.
"It is our unfinished task to make sure that this government works on behalf of the many and not just the few," the president said.
During a visit Wednesday to Asheville, N.C., Obama promoted his ideas on creating jobs and closing the income gap between the wealthiest and middle-income Americans. The president used a retrofitted former Volvo plant to make a case for proposals designed to encourage companies that have operated overseas to bring back jobs to the U.S.
"We're seeing this trend of what we call insourcing, not just outsourcing," Obama said. "And the reason is because America has got outstanding workers. We're starting to produce more homegrown energy, which is driving down our energy costs. And, obviously, we've still got the biggest market in the world. And if we try to improve our infrastructure a little bit more, then we're going to be even that much more competitive."
Obama wants to spend money on public works, on neighborhood renovations, on helping communities that have lost job major employers, and on encouraging businesses, universities and the government to work together on new manufacturing technologies.
"I need Congress to take up these initiatives, because we've come too far and we've worked too hard to turn back now," Obama said.
His remarks didn't seem to budge Republicans who control the House and hold enough votes to stall legislation in the Senate. They believe government helps best by getting out of the way.
The House Budget Committee chairman, GOP Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, said Obama's leadership style stands in the way of bipartisan efforts to resolve problems such as the ballooning deficit.
"He seems to always be in campaign mode, where he treats people in the other party as enemies rather than partners," Ryan, the Republican vice presidential nominee last year, told "CBS This Morning."
Ryan was asked if he supported House Speaker John Boehner's assertion that he didn't believe Obama "has the guts" to stand up to liberals in his own party on spending cuts.
"That's why the congressman makes remarks like that," Ryan said of Boehner, R-Ohio.
The morning-after comments came as Obama embarked on a three-state trip to sell voters on the programs he outlined. Republican critics have said the president should stay home and focus his attention on dealing directly with Congress.
Obama told a national audience that he was determined to intervene to right income inequality and aid the middle class.
He called on Congress to pass comprehensive immigration legislation with a pathway to citizenship for 11 million illegal immigrants, as well as far-reaching gun control measures and a climate bill to cut greenhouse gas emissions. He threatened to go around Congress with executive actions on climate change if lawmakers fail to act.
But Obama cannot count on willing partners on those issues, any one of which could tie Congress in knots for months with no guarantee of success.
The president spent relatively little time on the looming fiscal crises confronting the nation: the deep automatic spending cuts to take effect March 1, followed by the government running out of money to fund federal agencies March 27. He made clear he will continue to press for the rich to pay more in taxes, a position Republicans have rejected.
Republicans made clear they're in little mood to cooperate.
"In the last election, voters chose divided government which offers a mandate only to work together to find common ground," Boehner said in a statement. "The president, instead, appears to have chosen a go-it-alone approach to pursue his liberal agenda."
Obama did reiterate his willingness to tackle entitlement changes, particularly on Medicare, though he has ruled out increasing the eligibility age for the popular benefit program for seniors.