WASHINGTON — The nation cannot afford the spending Democrats have enacted or the tax increases they propose, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell said Wednesday in the Republican response to President Barack Obama's State of the Union address.
McDonnell told a cheering crowd of supporters in Richmond, Va., that Democratic policies are resulting in an unsustainable level of debt. He said Americans want affordable health care, but they don't want the government to run it.
"Today, the federal government is simply trying to do too much," McDonnell said. "In the past year, more than 3 million Americans have lost their jobs, yet the Democratic Congress continues deficit spending, adding to the bureaucracy, and increasing the national debt on our children and grandchildren."
McDonnell said that all Americans want affordable, high-quality health care. But, he added, "Most Americans do not want to turn over the best medical care system in the world to the federal government."
McDonnell delivered the Republican response after Obama's speech Wednesday evening. National GOP leaders picked McDonnell as a symbol of their recent success at the polls: He was elected in a rout last fall in a state Obama and the Democrats swept in 2008.
Republicans are feeling emboldened following a string of GOP victories, including a stunning win by Republican Scott Brown last week in a special Senate election in Massachusetts.
But with State of the Union messages traditionally delivered at the end of January, Obama had one of the presidency's biggest platforms just a week after the Massachusetts vote.
Republicans applauded the president when he entered the House chamber Wednesday night and craned to welcome Michelle Obama.
But bipartisanship disappeared early, with Republicans sitting stone-faced through several rounds of emphatic Democratic cheering and Obama taking a sharp jab at GOP congressional strategy. "Just saying no to everything may be good short-term politics, but it's not leadership."
Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, appointed by President George W. Bush, made a dismissive face and shook his head in disagreement as Obama said the court in a recent decision had "reversed a century of law to open the floodgates for special interests — including foreign corporations — to spend without limit in our elections."
Republicans complain that a $787 billion economic stimulus package enacted last year did not do enough to increase employment. And they oppose Obama's plan to let income tax cuts expire next year for families making more than $250,000 a year.
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"This isn't about a pivot in terms of his message," said House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio. "I think that most Americans know that actions speak louder than words."
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said he would be willing to work with Democrats if they pursue moderate policies.
"I'm hopeful the administration's new focus on the economy will lead it to say 'no' to more spending and debt, more bailouts and more government," McConnell said.
'Failed policies and broken promises'
Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele said in a statement on the RNC's Facebook site that "after a year of failed policies and broken promises" the President had shown "rhetorical flair in an attempt to sound populist, if not downright 'conservative,'" when taking about creating employment.
Video: Maddow on GOP reaction to speech "By all accounts, his explanations failed to answer the question on the mind of Americans: 'When will I get a job?'" Steele said.
"Last year, he promised a 'New Era of Responsibility' and instead delivered the exact opposite. Now that he’s offering a 'New Foundation for Prosperity,' business owners and the unemployed alike have reasons to be worried.
"There is just no amount of spin and blame shifting that can hide the fact that tonight the President added more zeros to an already burdensome deficit with no explanation as to how he would pay for this 'new foundation.' As a good construction worker will tell you – foundations cost money."
Citing Republican success in Virginia, New Jersey and Massachusetts, Steele said "if the President is serious, he will give Republicans a seat at the table. If not, then we know that this is just more spin, arrogance and a refusal to listen to the American people."
'Wrong path to excessive spending'
Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., who famously shouted "You lie!" during the President's last speech to Congress, sat stonefaced for most of the the address and even rose to applaud at times.
Later he gave a live video response on Facebook to more than 350 viewers. The New York Times reported Wilson said: "What the president proposed tonight would not truly create jobs. He is persisting on the wrong path of excessive spending."
Wilson praised the President for the response to the Haiti earthquake and for supporting American troops, the paper said, but he called cap-and-trade legislation "a national energy tax" that "would kill jobs."
On the Democrat's plans for health care reform, Wilson said: "It almost sounded like everything for everyone for free. That’s not correct and it’s not truly in the interest of the American people."
Democrats countered that much of the nation's debt is a result of economic policies enacted when Republicans controlled the federal government. Obama said he had cut income taxes, rather than increasing them, since taking office a year ago.
"Gov. McDonnell is a quick study," said Brad Woodhouse, communications director for the Democratic National Committee. "It took less than two full weeks in office for Bob McDonnell to adopt the national Republican Party's partisan rhetoric and to learn and repeat one falsehood after another about the president and his plans for the country."
McDonnell's speech was staged to look like a smaller version of a State of the Union address. He spoke from the historic Virginia House of Delegates before an audience of about 300 friends, family, supporters and members of his administration. The audience cheered when McDonnell entered the chamber, and applauded throughout his 13-minute speech.
In his remarks, McDonnell cited several areas of agreement with the president. On education, he said he agrees with Obama's proposal to increase the number of charter schools.
On national defense, he said he agrees with Obama's plan send an additional 30,0000 troops to Afghanistan. McDonnell said his oldest daughter, Jeanine, was an Army platoon leader in Iraq.
However, McDonnell said, Republicans have "serious concerns" about the administration's treatment of suspected terrorists. He complained that a Nigerian man accused of trying to blow up a plane as it approached Detroit on Christmas Day "was given the same legal rights as a U.S. citizen, and immediately stopped providing critical intelligence."
Some Republicans want suspected terrorists tried in military courts rather than civilian ones.
In a new twist for Republicans, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., taped a Spanish-language version of the Republican response carried by Spanish-language media.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.