POLITICS
02/12/2013 10:31 pm ET

Marco Rubio Speech: GOP Senator Responds To Obama's State Of The Union Address [FULL TEXT]

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) gives the GOP rebuttal to President Barack Obama's 2013 State of the Union address Tuesday night.

Rubio's remarks come after Obama speaks in front of a joint session of Congress.

Read the full text of Rubio's remarks as prepared for delivery in English below:

Good evening. I’m Marco Rubio. I’m blessed to represent Florida in the United States Senate. Let me begin by congratulating President Obama on the start of his second term. Tonight, I have the honor of responding to his State of the Union address on behalf of my fellow Republicans. And I am especially honored to be addressing our brave men and women serving in the armed forces and in diplomatic posts around the world. You may be thousands of miles away, but you are always in our prayers.

The State of the Union address is always a reminder of how unique America is. For much of human history, most people were trapped in stagnant societies, where a tiny minority always stayed on top, and no one else even had a chance.

But America is exceptional because we believe that every life, at every stage, is precious, and that everyone everywhere has a God-given right to go as far as their talents and hard work will take them.

Like most Americans, for me this ideal is personal. My parents immigrated here in pursuit of the opportunity to improve their life and give their children the chance at an even better one. They made it to the middle class, my dad working as a bartender and my mother as a cashier and a maid. I didn’t inherit any money from them. But I inherited something far better – the real opportunity to accomplish my dreams.

This opportunity – to make it to the middle class or beyond no matter where you start out in life – it isn’t bestowed on us from Washington. It comes from a vibrant free economy where people can risk their own money to open a business. And when they succeed, they hire more people, who in turn invest or spend the money they make, helping others start a business and create jobs.

Presidents in both parties – from John F. Kennedy to Ronald Reagan – have known that our free enterprise economy is the source of our middle class prosperity.

But President Obama? He believes it’s the cause of our problems. That the economic downturn happened because our government didn’t tax enough, spend enough and control enough. And, therefore, as you heard tonight, his solution to virtually every problem we face is for Washington to tax more, borrow more and spend more.

This idea – that our problems were caused by a government that was too small – it’s just not true. In fact, a major cause of our recent downturn was a housing crisis created by reckless government policies.

And the idea that more taxes and more government spending is the best way to help hardworking middle class taxpayers – that’s an old idea that’s failed every time it’s been tried.

More government isn’t going to help you get ahead. It’s going to hold you back.

More government isn’t going to create more opportunities. It’s going to limit them.

And more government isn’t going to inspire new ideas, new businesses and new private sector jobs. It’s going to create uncertainty.

Because more government breeds complicated rules and laws that a small business can’t afford to follow.

Because more government raises taxes on employers who then pass the costs on to their employees through fewer hours, lower pay and even layoffs.

And because many government programs that claim to help the middle class, often end up hurting them instead.

For example, Obamacare was supposed to help middle class Americans afford health insurance. But now, some people are losing the health insurance they were happy with. And because Obamacare created expensive requirements for companies with more than 50 employees, now many of these businesses aren’t hiring. Not only that; they’re being forced to lay people off and switch from full-time employees to part-time workers.

Now does this mean there’s no role for government? Of course not. It plays a crucial part in keeping us safe, enforcing rules, and providing some security against the risks of modern life. But government’s role is wisely limited by the Constitution. And it can’t play its essential role when it ignores those limits.

There are valid reasons to be concerned about the President’s plan to grow our government. But any time anyone opposes the President’s agenda, he and his allies usually respond by falsely attacking their motives.

When we point out that no matter how many job-killing laws we pass, our government can’t control the weather – he accuses us of wanting dirty water and dirty air.

When we suggest we strengthen our safety net programs by giving states more flexibility to manage them – he accuses us of wanting to leave the elderly and disabled to fend for themselves.

And tonight, he even criticized us for refusing to raise taxes to delay military cuts – cuts that were his idea in the first place.

But his favorite attack of all is that those who don’t agree with him – they only care about rich people.

Mr. President, I still live in the same working class neighborhood I grew up in. My neighbors aren’t millionaires. They’re retirees who depend on Social Security and Medicare. They’re workers who have to get up early tomorrow morning and go to work to pay the bills. They’re immigrants, who came here because they were stuck in poverty in countries where the government dominated the economy.

The tax increases and the deficit spending you propose will hurt middle class families. It will cost them their raises. It will cost them their benefits. It may even cost some of them their jobs.

And it will hurt seniors because it does nothing to save Medicare and Social Security.

So Mr. President, I don’t oppose your plans because I want to protect the rich. I oppose your plans because I want to protect my neighbors.

Hard-working middle class Americans who don’t need us to come up with a plan to grow the government. They want a plan to grow the middle class.

Economic growth is the best way to help the middle class. Unfortunately, our economy actually shrank during the last three months of 2012.

But if we can get the economy to grow at just 4 percent a year, it would create millions of middle class jobs. And it could reduce our deficits by almost $4 trillion dollars over the next decade.

Tax increases can’t do this. Raising taxes won’t create private sector jobs. And there’s no realistic tax increase that could lower our deficits by almost $4 trillion. That’s why I hope the President will abandon his obsession with raising taxes and instead work with us to achieve real growth in our economy.

One of the best ways to encourage growth is through our energy industry. Of course solar and wind energy should be a part of our energy portfolio. But God also blessed America with abundant coal, oil and natural gas. Instead of wasting more taxpayer money on so-called “clean energy” companies like Solyndra, let’s open up more federal lands for safe and responsible exploration. And let’s reform our energy regulations so that they’re reasonable and based on common sense. If we can grow our energy industry, it will make us energy independent, it will create middle class jobs and it will help bring manufacturing back from places like China.

Simplifying our tax code will also help the middle class, because it will make it easier for small businesses to hire and grow.

And we agree with the President that we should lower our corporate tax rate, which is one of the highest in the world, so that companies will start bringing their money and their jobs back here from overseas.

We can also help our economy grow if we have a legal immigration system that allows us to attract and assimilate the world’s best and brightest. We need a responsible, permanent solution to the problem of those who are here illegally. But first, we must follow through on the broken promises of the past to secure our borders and enforce our laws.

Helping the middle class grow will also require an education system that gives people the skills today’s jobs entail and the knowledge that tomorrow’s world will require.

We need to incentivize local school districts to offer more advanced placement courses and more vocational and career training.

We need to give all parents, especially the parents of children with special needs, the opportunity to send their children to the school of their choice.

And because tuition costs have grown so fast, we need to change the way we pay for higher education.

I believe in federal financial aid. I couldn’t have gone to college without it. But it’s not just about spending more money on these programs; it’s also about strengthening and modernizing them.

A 21st century workforce should not be forced to accept 20th century education solutions. Today’s students aren’t only 18 year olds. They’re returning veterans. They’re single parents who decide to get the education they need to earn a decent wage. And they’re workers who have lost jobs that are never coming back and need to be retrained.

We need student aid that does not discriminate against programs that non-traditional students rely on – like online courses, or degree programs that give you credit for work experience.

When I finished school, I owed over 100,000 dollars in student loans, a debt I paid off just a few months ago. Today, many graduates face massive student debt. We must give students more information on the costs and benefits of the student loans they’re taking out.

All these measures are key to helping the economy grow. But we won’t be able to sustain a vibrant middle class unless we solve our debt problem.

Every dollar our government borrows is money that isn’t being invested to create jobs. And the uncertainty created by the debt is one reason why many businesses aren’t hiring.

The President loves to blame the debt on President Bush. But President Obama created more debt in four years than his predecessor did in eight.

The real cause of our debt is that our government has been spending 1 trillion dollars more than it takes in every year. That’s why we need a balanced budget amendment.

The biggest obstacles to balancing the budget are programs where spending is already locked in. One of these programs, Medicare, is especially important to me. It provided my father the care he needed to battle cancer and ultimately die with dignity. And it pays for the care my mother receives now.

I would never support any changes to Medicare that would hurt seniors like my mother. But anyone who is in favor of leaving Medicare exactly the way it is right now, is in favor of bankrupting it.

Republicans have offered a detailed and credible plan that helps save Medicare without hurting today’s retirees. Instead of playing politics with Medicare, when is the President going to offer his plan to save it? Tonight would have been a good time for him to do it.

Of course, we face other challenges as well. We were all heart broken by the recent tragedy in Connecticut. We must effectively deal with the rise of violence in our country. But unconstitutionally undermining the 2nd Amendment rights of law-abiding Americans is not the way to do it.

On foreign policy, America continues to be indispensable to the goal of global liberty, prosperity and safeguarding human rights. The world is a better place when America is the strongest nation on earth. But we can’t remain powerful if we don’t have an economy that can afford it.

In the short time I’ve been here in Washington, nothing has frustrated me more than false choices like the ones the President laid out tonight.

The choice isn’t just between big government or big business. What we need is an accountable, efficient and effective government that allows small and new businesses to create middle class jobs.

We don’t have to raise taxes to avoid the President’s devastating cuts to our military. Republicans have passed a plan that replaces these cuts with responsible spending reforms.

In order to balance our budget, the choice doesn’t have to be either higher taxes or dramatic benefit cuts for those in need. Instead we should grow our economy so that we create new taxpayers, not new taxes, and so our government can afford to help those who truly cannot help themselves.

And the truth is every problem can’t be solved by government. Many are caused by the moral breakdown in our society. And the answers to those challenges lie primarily in our families and our faiths, not our politicians.

Despite our differences, I know that both Republicans and Democrats love America. I pray we can come together to solve our problems, because the choices before us could not be more important.

If we can get our economy healthy again, our children will be the most prosperous Americans ever.

And if we do not, we will forever be known as the generation responsible for America’s decline.
At a time when one showdown after another ends in short-term deals that do little or nothing about our real problems, some are starting to believe that our government leaders just can’t or won’t make the right choices anymore.

But our strength has never come from the White House or the Capitol. It’s always come from our people. A people united by the American idea that, if you have a dream and you are willing to work hard, nothing should be impossible.

Americans have always celebrated and been inspired by those who succeed. But it’s the dreams of those who are still trying to make it that sets our nation apart.

Tonight, all across this land, parents will hold their newborn children in their arms for the first time. For many of these parents, life has not gone the way they had planned.

Maybe they were born into circumstances they’ve found difficult to escape. Maybe they’ve made some mistakes along the way. Maybe they’re young mothers, all alone, the father of their child long gone.

But tonight, when they look into the eyes of their child for the first time, their lives will change forever. Because in those eyes, they will see what my parents saw in me, and what your parents saw in you. They will see all the hopes and dreams they once had for themselves.

This dream – of a better life for their children – it’s the hope of parents everywhere. Politicians here and throughout the world have long promised that more government can make those dreams come true.

But we Americans have always known better. From our earliest days, we embraced economic liberty instead. And because we did, America remains one of the few places on earth where dreams like these even have a chance.

Each time our nation has faced great challenges, what has kept us together was our shared hope for a better life.

Now, let that hope bring us together again. To solve the challenges of our time and write the next chapter in the amazing story of the greatest nation man has ever known.

Thank you for listening. May God bless all of you. May God bless our President. And may God continue to bless the United States of America.

Below, live updates from State of the Union:

02/13/2013 1:22 AM EST

Paul Ryan: Obama Immigration Remarks 'Productive'

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) had rare words of praise on Tuesday for President Barack Obama's message on immigration.

"I thought on comprehensive immigration reform, I thought his words were measured," Ryan said in an interview with CNN after the State of the Union address. "I think the tone and the words he took were productive on that front."

Obama urged Congress to act quickly -- "in the next few months" -- and praised the work of bipartisan groups in the House and Senate. Ryan said he appreciated that nod to Congress, adding that he thinks immigration is "an area where we have a good chance of getting something done."

"I think, you know, when you have -- when you are in the legislative arena and we're trying to get a comprehensive bipartisan agreement here, the words he uses matters," Ryan told CNN. "And he used what I thought was a measured tone, which gives me a sense that he is trying to get something done."

-- Elise Foley

02/13/2013 1:20 AM EST

Immigrant Workers Surprised, Disappointed By Obama Immigration Remarks

WASHINGTON -- For many of the 300 immigrant day laborers, cooks and manual laborers watching the State of the Union address at a Hilton Hotel in Washington on Tuesday, President Barack Obama's remarks on immigration were underwhelming.

When Obama called for swift action on immigration reform, the crowd in the Hilton conference room roared with cheers. But as the president laid out his policy ideas, including enhanced border security, taxes and penalties, the immigrant workers quickly turned to boos, hisses and indignation.

"I was surprised that he dedicated so little time of his speech to immigration," said Guillermina Castellanos, 52, a community organizer from San Francisco. "We know it's our labor that makes this country function."

The group was gathered for grassroots organizing trainings hosted by the United Workers Congress and the National Guestworker Alliance, and later this week will attend a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing and a press conference with Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.).

The organizers and workers are staunch supporters of comprehensive immigration reform that includes a pathway to citizenship, and one of their top priorities is to urge Obama to halt deportations -- which currently stand at record levels -- until immigration reform discussions are complete. About one-fifth of the crowd was undocumented, National Day Laborer Organizing Network spokesman B. Loewe estimated.

For immigrants, Obama's statements were particularly important. Raul de la Torre, 46, is a worker from Mexico who along with 89 of his colleagues was fired by his employer for allegedly being undocumented after the group tried to organize to bargain for fair wages. He is involved with Voces de la Frontera, an immigrant rights group, and was with Jennifer Martinez, a 33-year-old U.S. citizen also involved with Voces. She has four small children she is raising alone after her undocumented husband was deported to Mexico last year.

With Martinez acting as a translator, de la Torre said he "hoped and prayed with all his heart that Obama has a conscience."

-- Preston Maddock

CORRECTION: This post has been corrected to clarify details of Raul de la Torre's case.

02/13/2013 1:14 AM EST

Jobs Proposals Don't Go Far Enough, Economists Say

President Barack Obama argued Tuesday night that a growing economy with more middle-class jobs "must be the North Star that guides our efforts."

But some outside observers and economists said the president's State of the Union address reflected a less ambitious approach to job creation than in the past -- one that acknowledged the realities of dealing with a Congress focused mostly on deficit-reduction.

"I'm sure there are a lot of good things in there, but it's just going to be nickel-and-dime stuff," said Dean Baker, an economist with the Center for Economic and Policy Research. "He's starting his term, in my view, by asking for very, very little."

Obama's new proposals included a "Fix It First" program that calls for $50 billion to hire people to fix decaying infrastructure such as bridges, and new upgrades to roads and railroads financed by reduced war spending. He also proposed a program to put people to work revamping vacant homes in communities ravaged by foreclosures, estimated to cost $15 billion.

The president made a passing reference to a $447 billion jobs bill he proposed in 2011, but he stressed that "nothing I’m proposing tonight should increase our deficit by a single dime."

The language was a marked contrast from last year's speech, where Obama referenced the Hoover Dam, the Golden Gate Bridge and the interstate highway system as examples of past administrations investing in "great projects that benefited everybody."

"You need to fund these projects," he said in the 2012 address. "Take the money we're no longer spending at war, use half of it to pay down our debt, and use the rest to do some nation-building right here at home."

"Rhetorically, there were some bold visions in this speech, but I didn't see the level of specificity about the new projects this time as I have in the past," said Scott Paul, president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing. "Part of that may be an aspect of realism, but I'm of the school that if you don't ask for it, you're not going to get it."

Jared Bernstein, a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, said some of the more modest initiatives on job creation in this speech reflect the country moving beyond the crisis mode of 2009 and 2010.

"As opposed to his agenda in his first years, where he was really putting out a huge fire, at this point he's talking about rebuilding the house," said Bernstein, a former Obama administration economist. "You're going to hear much less about large deficit spending on a big stimulus, and more about investments in kids, in infrastructure, in our manufacturing base."

-- Chris Kirkham

02/13/2013 12:46 AM EST

Howard Fineman: The Emotion Of The Night

I was playing the role of hard-boiled -- not to say cynical -- reporter on the Hill when I got into a conversation with Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz after the president's State of the Union address Tuesday night.

"So," I asked, "do YOU have your own personal victim of gun-violence with you tonight?"

The Florida Democrat, an important party leader, shot me a glance that was equal parts pity, surprise and annoyance. "Yes I do," she said, and turned to introduce me to 17-year-old from Miami named Megan Hobson. The young woman explained that she had been injured in a drive-by shooting last year.

"We needed to have people here such as Megan to underscore the point we want to make about gun violence," Wasserman Schultz said.

President Barack Obama laid out a detailed progressive agenda, a recitation that some pundits panned, but that early polls showed the public liked. Still, the emotional highlight -- and potentially most politically astute maneuver -- was when Obama and his fellow Democrats discussed the lives and losses of gun-violence victims.

In an effort organized by five Democrats from New York and New England -- the region of Newtown -- more than 30 members brought to the Capitol families that had experienced gun-related tragedies. It was powerful theater, especially when Obama himself paid homage to the parents of a victim from Chicago.

Using the call-and-response cadence of a church service, the president demanded that the Congress allow up-or-down votes on several gun measures. The idea was to put Republicans and wavering Democrats from Red States on the spot.

And it felt in the House Chamber Tuesday night that he had done so.

"The president backed them into a corner and they sat there like they were trying out for stone faces on Mount Rushmore," said Rep. Steve Cohen, a Democrat from Tennessee. "I loved that. And maybe we'll get those voters."

Maybe the Democrats and Obama will. Whether they will win them is another matter. If they do, the beginning of the story of that victory will be this night in the U.S. House -- and with people such as Megan Hobson.

-- Howard Fineman

02/13/2013 12:35 AM EST

Obama Promises Climate Change Action

The Huffington Post's Ryan Grim reports:

President Barack Obama Tuesday night pledged that if Congress refuses to take action to stem climate change, his administration would act unilaterally.

"I urge this Congress to pursue a bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change, like the one John McCain and Joe Lieberman worked on together a few years ago," Obama said, as McCain offered a tight smile from a back row. "But if Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will. I will direct my cabinet to come up with executive actions we can take, now and in the future, to reduce pollution, prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change, and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy."

There's about zero chance that the GOP-led House will pass climate change legislation this session, given that many of its members do not acknowledge that human activity has anything to do with it, if it's happening at all.

Click here to read more.

02/13/2013 12:34 AM EST

Sen. Joe Manchin, West Virginia Democrat, Miffed Obama Didn't Mention Coal

Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, said he liked President Barack Obama's speech, but was miffed the energy portion left out his state's key resource -- coal.

Obama and his administration have talked about coal in the past, but Manchin noticed the president didn't bring it up when he was addressing energy efficiency and climate change.

"I was disappointed on energy," Manchin told reporters. "Not to say a word about coal -- and coal produces about 35 percent of the the nation's energy. When you look at it, you've got to talk about climate, and if you're talking about climate, the United States of America consumes close to one-eighth of the the coal that's burned in the world -- you should be finding the technology that helps use it cleanly, and uses it much better and more efficiently. So that was disappointing."

Many analysts have said there is no such thing as clean coal, although Obama and Vice President Joe Biden have talked up the idea in the past.

-- Michael McAuliff

02/13/2013 12:18 AM EST

Obama Short On Details For Climate Change And Green Energy

HuffPost's Lynne Peeples reports:

President Barack Obama's State of the Union remarks fell in line with what many energy experts, industry representatives and environmental advocates predicted to me earlier today -- lots of rhetoric yet little detail on how to tackle climate change and propel green energy.

Read more here.

02/13/2013 12:10 AM EST

What Stands In The Way Of A Minimum Wage Increase

The payroll tax increase that went into effect at the beginning of the year stands to offset significantly the president's proposal to raise the federal minimum wage to $9 an hour.

In his State of the Union address, Barack Obama called on lawmakers to increase the federal minimum wage from $7.25. For an employee working a 40-hour work week, the bump would translate to a 24 percent raise to $18,720 a year.

However, because of the payroll tax hike that went into effect on Jan. 1, 10 percent of that raise, or $374, would be lost, according to a calculator provided by the Wall Street Journal.

Read more here.

-- Caroline Fairchild

02/12/2013 11:50 PM EST

Obama Calls For Pre-K Expansion

HuffPost's Joy Resmovits reports:

During Tuesday night's State of the Union address, President Barack Obama proposed several major education initiatives, including a big push to expand pre-kindergarten and a potential revamp of the federal aid system for college students.

"Tonight, I propose working with states to make high-quality preschool available to every child in America," Obama said. "Every dollar we invest in high-quality early education can save more than seven dollars later on.”

Instead of focusing on the bulk of American public school students, the president's proposals zeroed in on the margins, targeting the oldest and youngest members of the country's education system.

Read more here.

02/12/2013 11:49 PM EST

Obama Calls For Immigration Reform To Attract Skilled Entrepreneurs, Engineers

President Barack Obama during his State of the Union address called for reforms to the nation's immigration system that would help highly-skilled immigrants remain in the country.

"Real reform means fixing the legal immigration system to cut waiting periods, reduce bureaucracy and attract the highly-skilled entrepreneurs and engineers that will help create jobs and grow our economy," Obama said.

The president said bipartisan groups in both chambers of Congress were working to draft an immigration reform bill. "Send me a comprehensive immigration reform bill in the next few months, and I will sign it right away," he said.

Advocates said a massive backlog of visas is preventing immigrants with advanced degrees in engineering from securing visas to remain in the country.

Read the entire piece here.

-- Gerry Smith

HuffPost

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