01/28/2014 10:34 pm ET Updated Jan 28, 2014

Republican Response To State Of The Union: Read Cathy McMorris Rodgers' Speech

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) gave the Republican response to President Barack Obama's State of the Union address.

Below, McMorris Rodgers' remarks as prepared for delivery:

What an honor it is for me to be with you after the President’s State of the Union.

Tonight we honor America – a nation that has witnessed the greatest rise of freedom and opportunity our world has ever seen.

A nation where we are not defined by our limits, but by our potential.

And a nation where a girl who worked at the McDonald’s Drive-Thru to help pay for college can be with you from the United States Capitol.

But the most important moments right now aren’t happening here.

They’re not in the Oval Office or in the House Chamber.

They’re in your homes.

Kissing your kids goodnight…

Figuring out how to pay the bills…

Getting ready for tomorrow’s doctor’s visit…

Waiting to hear from those you love serving in Afghanistan, or searching for that big job interview.

After all, ‘We the People’ have been the foundation of America since her earliest days – people from all walks of life, and from all corners of the world – people who come to America because here, no challenge is too great and no dream too big.

That’s the genius of America.

Tonight the President made more promises that sound good, but won’t solve the problems actually facing Americans.

We want you to have a better life. The President wants that too.

But we part ways when it comes to how to make that happen.

So tonight I’d like to share a more hopeful, Republican vision…

One that empowers you, not the government…

It’s one that champions free markets – and trusts people to make their own decisions, not a government that decides for you.

It helps working families rise above the limits of poverty and protects our most vulnerable.

And it’s one where Washington plays by the same rules that you do.

It’s a vision that is fair and offers the promise of a better future for every American.

If you had told me as a little girl that one-day I would put my hand on the Bible and be sworn in as the 200th woman to serve in the House of Representatives, I never would’ve thought it possible.

I grew up working at my family’s orchard and fruit stand in Kettle Falls, a small town in Eastern Washington - getting up before dawn with my brother to pick apples.

My dad drove a school bus and my mom worked as a part-time bookkeeper.

They taught me to work hard, help others, and always, always dream for more.

So, when I showed my 4H animals at the county fair, my parents used to say to me, “Cathy, you need to save this money so you can go to college one day!”

So I did – I saved, I worked hard, and I became the first in my family to graduate from college.

The chance to go from my Washington to this one was unexpected.

I came to Congress to help empower people, not politicians;

To grow the working middle class, not the government;

And to ensure that everyone in this country can find a job.

Because a job is so much more than just a paycheck –

It gives us purpose, dignity, and the foundation to build a future.

I was single when I was elected – but it wasn’t long before I met Brian, a retired Navy commander, and now we have three beautiful children, one who was born just eight weeks ago.

Like all parents, we have high hopes and dreams for our children, but we also know what it’s like to face challenges.

Three days after we gave birth to our son, Cole, we got news no parent expects.

Cole was diagnosed with Down syndrome.

The doctors told us he could have endless complications, heart defects, even early Alzheimer’s.

They told us all the problems.

But when we looked at our son, we saw only possibilities.

We saw a gift from God.

Today we see a 6-year old boy who dances to Bruce Springsteen; who reads above grade level; and who is the best big brother in the world.

We see all the things he can do, not those he can’t.

Cole, and his sisters, Grace and Brynn, have only made me more determined to see the potential in every human life – that whether we are born with an extra twenty-first chromosome or without a dollar to our name – we are not defined by our limits, but by our potential.

Because our mission – not only as Republicans, but as Americans, is to once again to ensure that we are not bound by where we come from, but empowered by what we can become.

That is the gap Republicans are working to close.

It’s the gap we all face: between where you are and where you want to be.

The President talks a lot about income inequality.

But the real gap we face today is one of opportunity inequality…

And with this Administration’s policies, that gap has become far too wide.

We see this gap growing every single day.

We see it in our neighbors who are struggling to find jobs…

A husband who’s now working just part-time…

A child who drops out of college because she can’t afford tuition…

Or parents who are outliving their life’s savings.

Last month, more Americans stopped looking for a job than found one. Too many people are falling further and further behind because, right now, the President’s policies are making people’s lives harder.

Republicans have plans to close the gap…

Plans that focus on jobs first without more spending, government bailouts, and red tape…

Every day, we’re working to expand our economy, one manufacturing job, nursing degree and small business at a time.

We have plans to improve our education and training systems so you have the choice to determine where your kids go to school…so college is affordable…and skills training is modernized.

And yes, it’s time to honor our history of legal immigration. We’re working on a step-by-step solution to immigration reform by first securing our borders and making sure America will always attract the best, brightest, and hardest working from around the world.

And with too many Americans living paycheck to paycheck, we have solutions to help you take home more of your pay – through lower taxes, cheaper energy costs, and affordable health care.

Not long ago I got a letter from Bette in Spokane, who hoped the President’s health care law would save her money – but found out instead that her premiums were going up nearly $700 a month.

No, we shouldn’t go back to the way things were, but this law is not working. Republicans believe health care choices should be yours, not the government’s.

And that whether you’re a boy with Down syndrome or a woman with breast cancer … you can find coverage and a doctor who will treat you.

So we hope the President will join us in a year of real action – by empowering people – not making their lives harder with unprecedented spending, higher taxes, and fewer jobs.

As Republicans, we advance these plans every day because we believe in a government that trusts people and doesn’t limit where you finish because of where you started.

That is what we stand for – for an America that is every bit as compassionate as it is exceptional.

If we’re successful…

Years from now our children will say that we rebuilt the American Dream.

We built a working middle class that could take in anyone, and a workforce that could take on the world.

Whether you’re a girl in Kettle Falls or a boy from Brooklyn, our children should be able to say that we closed the gap.

Our plan is one that dreams big for everyone and turns its back on no one.

The President said many things tonight.

But now, we ask him to listen – to you – for the true state of the union lies in your heart and in your home.

Tomorrow, I’ll watch my son Cole get on the school bus; others will wait in the doctor’s office or interview for that first job.

Some of us will celebrate new beginnings…

Others will face great challenges…

But all of us will wake up and do what is uniquely American…

We will look forward to the boundless potential that lies ahead.

We will give thanks to the brave men and women who have answered America’s call to freedom, like Sgt. Jacob Hess from Spokane, who recently gave his life to protect all of ours.

So, tonight, I simply offer a prayer…

A prayer for Sgt. Hess’s family, your family, and for our larger American family.

That, with the guidance of God, we may prove worthy of His blessings of life … liberty … and the pursuit of happiness.

For when we embrace these gifts, we are each doing our part to form a more perfect union.

May God guide you and our President, and may God continue to bless the United States of America.



01/29/2014 1:22 AM EST

Sen. Menendez On Obama Sinking His Iran Sanctions Bill: 'I'm Not Frustrated'

President Barack Obama made clear Tuesday night that an Iran sanctions bill being pushed by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) isn't going anywhere, threatening a veto if it ever made it to his desk.

HuffPost caught up with Menendez after the president's address and asked for his thoughts on Obama shutting down his legislation. He didn't have much to say.

"I’m not frustrated," said the New Jersey Democrat as he ducked into an elevator, pushing the buttons and looking ready to be done with the conversation. "The president has every right to do what he wants."

Menendez's bill has bipartisan support, but it faces stiff resistance from the White House, which argues it may thwart a delicate deal now in place between Iran and a number of world powers, including the United States. Under that six-month deal, Iran will stop developing its nuclear capability in exchange for an ease in existing sanctions.

Speaking to a group of reporters as he made his way to the elevator, Menendez said his "real concern" is that, without steadily imposing sanctions on Iran, the U.S. will ultimately let them all fall away.

"We'll have to accept a nuclear weapons state or we're going to end up with a military option," he said. "We won't have sanctions in place anymore."

Rep. James Lankford (R-Okla.) said he noticed something different about the way the president talked about Iran during Tuesday's address.

"He talked about preventing them from building a nuclear weapon. It used to be we're going to prevent them from having the capability to build a nuclear weapon. That seems to be gone," Lankford said. "It was all about just not getting to the last stage rather than capability. That's a pretty big shift."

-- Jennifer Bendery and Michael McAuliff

01/29/2014 1:03 AM EST

Michele Bachmann: Equal Pay Is So Old

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) didn't think much of President Barack Obama's State of the Union address (aside form his support for wounded warriors), but she was especially dismissive of his appeal for women to get equal pay. That's just so over, Bachmann argued.

"Frankly, a lot of what we heard were 40-year-old prescriptions and 40-year-old bromides. I mean really, equal pay for equal work?" Bachmann said. "I mean, this was something in the 1970s people were talking about. So I think we've addressed that."

Most economists estimate that women earn about 77 percent of what their male counterparts earn.

-- Michael McAuliff

01/29/2014 12:57 AM EST

Sen. Lindsey Graham: 'World Is Literally About To Blow Up'

Shortly after President Barack Obama's State of the Union address Tuesday, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told reporters point-blank: "The world is literally about to blow up and our president did not really paint a fair picture of the threats we face."

Graham, a member of the Senate Arms Services Committee, said he wanted Obama to tell the American public during his annual address how he intends to resolve the conflict in Syria and questioned whether the administration's negotiations with Iranians over their nuclear program would be productive.

"I cannot stress to you enough how disappointed I was to hear the president's explanation of the state of affairs when it comes to the Mid-East and our national security threats," Graham said. "I thought he underplayed that and oversold. Explain what happens in the Middle East if the Syrian conflict goes on and (Bashar al) Assad continues to win."

He went on: "I would say that trying to free people from the bonds of al Qaeda is a good thing. That going into Afghanistan is a good thing. Taking Saddam Hussein out is a good thing. Trying to get people get on their feet and elect their government is a good thing."

Graham and a bipartisan group of senators have called for more sanctions on Iran. Obama has promised to veto any legislation that would increase such sanctions.

-- Eugene Mulero

01/29/2014 12:35 AM EST

State Of The Union Poll Gives Obama Positive Marks

HuffPost's Ariel Edwards-Levy and Mark Blumenthal report:

CNN's instant polling among Americans who watched Tuesday's State of the Union found an overwhelming majority reacting positively to President Barack Obama's address, as it has four times previously during his presidency.

The network's poll found that 76 percent of Americans viewed the speech somewhat or very positively, in line with reactions to his previous speeches, although the percentage with "very positive" views declined. Last year, 77 percent of watchers reported a positive view of the speech to CNN, and slightly higher numbers approved of Obama's speeches in three previous years. (The network didn't conduct a post-State of the Union poll in 2012.)

Read more here.

01/29/2014 12:15 AM EST

GOP Response To State Of The Union Leaves Out These Words: Repeal Obamacare

HuffPost's Jeffrey Young reports:

Rep. Cathy McMorris-Rodgers (R-Wash.) delivered harsh criticisms of President Barack Obama's health care reform law during the official GOP response to his State of the Union address Tuesday, but stopped short of explicitly demanding its repeal.

McMorris-Rodgers highlighted the negative effects of the Affordable Care Act on consumers whose premiums rose, whose previous health insurance policies were canceled because they didn't meet the law's benefit standards and whose physicians aren't covered by the new plans available on Obamacare's health insurance exchanges. But while McMorris-Rodgers declared Obama's reforms a failure, she didn't vow that congressional Republicans would continue their push to repeal the law, for which the GOP-led House has vote dozens of times.

"No, we shouldn't go back to the way things were, but this law is not working. Republicans believe health care choices should be yours, not the government's," McMorris-Rodgers said. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) made no mention of Obamacare in the written statement he issued following the speaches by Obama and McMorris-Rodgers.

Read more here.

01/28/2014 11:17 PM EST

'All-Of-The-Above' Energy?

Environmental advocates had mixed reviews for the climate and energy portions of President Barack Obama's speech –- praising his climate comments but criticizing his energy strategy.

A number of environmental groups wrote to the president earlier this month asking him to drop his "all-of-the-above" rhetoric on energy. That policy, they wrote, is "fundamentally at odds with your goal of cutting carbon pollution." But Obama's speech doubled down on that language, claiming that the strategy "is working."

"If we are truly serious about fighting the climate crisis, we must look beyond an ‘all of the above’ energy policy and replace dirty fuels with clean energy," Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune said in a statement following the speech. "We can’t effectively act on climate and expand drilling and fracking for oil and gas at the same time."

Erich Pica, the president of Friends of the Earth, noted that the speech "was filled with unhelpful contradictions" in an email to The Huffington Post. "You cannot address carbon pollution through an all of the above energy policy. You cannot promote regulatory streamlining and trade pacts that will undermine governments regulations while trying to implement carbon pollution regulations."

Gene Karpinski, president of the League of Conservation Voters, praised the climate portion of the speech but also brought up the environmental elephant in the room that Obama didn't address tonight: the Keystone XL pipeline. His statement called on Obama to reject the proposed pipeline from Canada to Texas.

-- Kate Sheppard

01/28/2014 11:16 PM EST

Republicans Respond To Obama With A Soft-Focus Human Interest Speech

HuffPost's Jon Ward reports:

The response to the president's State of the Union address from Rep. Cathy McMorris-Rodgers (R-Wash.), the GOP's fourth-ranking member in the House, was largely an attempt to present a humanizing side of the GOP, "a more hopeful Republican vision."

The 44-year old mother of three, who gave birth to her third child in November, talked at length about her own biography: She worked at a McDonald's drive-through in college, she got up before dawn to pick apples on her family's orchard, she was in the 4H Club, she's married to a retired Navy commander. The YouTube livestream of her speech featured a picture of McMorris-Rodgers' family when she mentioned her husband and children.


Beyond that, her speech was largely a string of generalized bromides about how Republicans want to "empower people, not politicians."

But for a party that has lost support among women voters in the last few elections -- and is viewed by a good number of voters as the party of old white men -- such a soft-focus human interest speech was just what the GOP wanted.

Read more here.

01/28/2014 11:12 PM EST

Obama Barely Mentions Government Shutdown, In Contrast To Clinton In 1996

HuffPost's Amanda Terkel reports:

In 1996, President Bill Clinton went before the nation and shamed congressional Republicans for shutting down the government. It was his first State of the Union address after two shutdowns that closed the federal government for 28 days, and he made sure GOP lawmakers would regret what they did.

But on Tuesday, in his first State of the Union speech since the 16-day shutdown in October, President Barack Obama took a very different approach. He made only a passing reference to the government shutdown and never pointed the finger directly at anyone.

"For several years now, this town has been consumed by a rancorous argument over the proper size of the federal government," said Obama near the beginning of his address. "It's an important debate -- one that dates back to our very founding. But when that debate prevents us from carrying out even the most basic functions of our democracy -- when our differences shut down government or threaten the full faith and credit of the United States -- then we are not doing right by the American people."

Read more here.

01/28/2014 11:07 PM EST

Exactly Zero Words On Pot, Drug Policy Or Criminal Justice Reform

President Barack Obama didn't mention criminal justice, drug policy or marijuana in his 2014 State of the Union address at all.

Obama recently told the New Yorker he was troubled that "Middle-class kids don’t get locked up for smoking pot, and poor kids do." Attorney General Eric Holder has identified fixing the broken justice system that disproportionately affects millions of young black men as one of his top priorities. And the administration recently seems to be taking a more lenient stance on drug policy, allowing Colorado and Washington to proceed with their experiments in marijuana legalization.

None of that, however, was in the speech.

Every interest group feels left out when their favorite issue gets excluded from the State of the Union, and marijuana reform advocates are no exception. Tom Angell, co-founder of Marijuana Majority, said he thought it was "shameful" the president couldn't spare a few words.

"There are many ways the president can act to lead us out of this mess without Congress, including commuting the sentences of the thousands of nonviolent drug offenders that are locked up for no good reason," he said in an email. "He should also use the bully pulpit to build the case for repealing mandatory minimum sentences and reforming the failed drug prohibition policies that put too many of our fellow Americans behind bars for too long."

-- Matt Sledge

01/28/2014 11:01 PM EST

Drone Strikes Under 'Prudent Limits' Still Cause Civilian Casualties

President Barack Obama mentioned in his remarks the "prudent limits" he has imposed on U.S. drone strikes, referring to new procedures for the so-called "targeted killing" program laid out in a May 2013 speech.

In Pakistan, at least, those procedures seem to be having some effect: the U.K.'s Bureau of Investigative Journalism recently found that there were no reported civilian casualties from drones in that country in 2013.

Overall, however, drone strike deaths -- including those of suspected militants -- increased in both Pakistan and Yemen in the first six months after the May speech. And 2013 ended on a grisly note for the program, when the U.S. killed up to 12 civilians in a strike on a Yemeni wedding convoy.

"We will not be safer if people abroad believe we strike within their countries without regard for the consequence," Obama said Tuesday.

So far, Pakistanis and Yemenis do not seem to be satisfied by the changes to the drone program. Pakistani's interior minister this week blamed a U.S. drone strike for derailing peace talks with the Pakistani Taliban, and Yemen's parliament approved a resolution after the wedding convoy attack calling for an end to all drone strikes in the country.

-- Matt Sledge