Republicans Look for Signs of New Obama Approach

January 24, 2011

Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Republicans say they want to hear less about everything they’ve been hearing for the past two years when President Barack Obama gives his State of the Union address.

Less spending and less of a government hand in trying to solve America’s problems, Republican lawmakers said on the talks shows Sunday, two days ahead of Obama’s speech.

More about anything? Yes, reducing the federal debt.

“The president needs to pivot,” said Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell. “He obviously saw what happened in the November election and is trying to go on a different direction.”

In his own preview, Obama told supporters in a video released Saturday that he will focus on economic issues, particularly jobs, as the economic recovery creeps along and unemployment hovers above 9 percent. His references to investing in educating workers and in research and technology set off alarms for Republicans.

“Any time they want to spend, they call it investment, so I think you will hear the president talk about investing a lot Tuesday night,” McConnell said. “We’ll take a look at his recommendations. We always do. But this is not a time to be looking at pumping up government spending in very many areas.”

The second-ranking House Republican, Rep. Eric Cantor, said Obama should focus less on Washington-based initiatives and more on policies that allow individuals to make their own decisions.

“We want America to be competitive, but then he talks about investing,” Cantor said. “When we hear `invest’ from anyone in Washington, to me that means more spending. … The investment needs to occur in the private sector.”

Cantor said the Republican push to cut spending — he repeated the party’s pledge to find $100 billion in budget reductions — would mean that all programs would be subject to review, including defense programs.

Republican Sen. John McCain, who lost to Obama in the 2008 presidential election, said he looks forward to Obama’s message on spending as well as his efforts to pass free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea as a different route to creating jobs in the U.S.

“I think there’s going to be a number of areas that we can at least find common ground on,” McCain said.

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