WASHINGTON — Republican leaders continued their attacks on President Barack Obama's handling of the economy Tuesday, calling it irresponsible and certain to increase taxes and federal debt.
Responding in advance to Obama's televised speech to a joint session of Congress, top Republicans said the president relies too heavily on spending, and not enough on tax cuts, to try to revive the gasping economy. They said they want to work with Obama, and sometimes blamed congressional Democrats more than him. But their criticisms were sharp and plentiful.
"The way to lead is not to raise taxes and put more money and power in hands of Washington politicians," Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who gave the Republican Party's official response, said in excerpts released early. The massive economic stimulus bill recently enacted by Obama and congressional Democrats, Jindal said, will expand the government, "increase our taxes down the line, and saddle future generations with debt."
"It's irresponsible," said Jindal, who is eyeing a presidential bid in 2012.
Nearly unanimous opposition
The tone of the Republicans' response was in keeping with their nearly unanimous opposition to the $787 billion economic stimulus bill, which was backed by only three Republicans in the Senate and none in the House. Some Democrats and independents think the Republicans are blundering and misreading most Americans' sentiments about the need for massive government action to help the economy.
In the latest New York Times/CBS News poll, about three-fourths said Obama was trying to be bipartisan, and almost as many faulted the response of Republican officials, which was seen as politically motivated.
Despite such findings, GOP lawmakers say they believe they will be proven right in the long run.
House Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio said Tuesday that Republicans want to help Obama find "responsible solutions to the challenges facing our nation, but thus far congressional leaders in the president's own party have stood in the way."
Bringing up the tax issue
Boehner, Jindal and other Republicans repeatedly accused Democrats of wanting to raise taxes, but the Obama-backed stimulus package has extensive tax cuts.
Jindal acknowledged that to some degree, Republicans deserved the drubbing they took in the last two national elections.
"Our party got away from its principles," he said. "You elected Republicans to champion limited government, fiscal discipline, and personal responsibility. Instead, Republicans went along with earmarks and big government spending in Washington." But that is changing, he said.
Taking advantage of his moment in the national spotlight, Jindal publicized a Web link Tuesday allowing respondents to receive early excerpts of his planned televised response, and to donate to his political organization. Jindal also collected their e-mail and postal addresses, which could prove handy in a presidential race.
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