For President Obama and the Republican Party, the weekly addresses have frequently served as a clarification of differences.
Seldom has that been truer than it was on Saturday, when the president and Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-Ind., painted two distinct visions of America’s present and future.
At times, it seemed like they weren’t even living in the same country.
“Our economy just isn’t creating enough jobs,” said Stutzman. “More than 10 million Americans are unemployed. Last month, roughly 350,000 Americans -- a little more than the population of Tampa, Florida -- stopped looking for work. Health care premiums have gone up. And millions of families have lost their insurance because of the new health care law.”
“For the first time in nearly two decades, we produce more oil here at home than we buy from the rest of the world,” he said. “We generate more renewable energy than ever and more natural gas than anybody. Health care costs are growing at their slowest rate in 50 years – due in part to the Affordable Care Act. And since I took office, we’ve cut our deficits by more than half.”The president emphasized his push for high-tech manufacturing, recalling his trip to Raleigh, N.C., this week, where he launched the country’s second “manufacturing innovation institute” – a “partnership between companies, colleges and the federal government focused on making sure American businesses and American workers win the race for high-tech manufacturing and the jobs that come with it.”
And he outlined an ambitious, optimistic agenda for 2014. “We are primed to bring back more of the good jobs claimed by the recession and lost to overseas competition in recent decades,” he said. “And I want to work with Congress this year on proven ways to create jobs, like building infrastructure and fixing our broken immigration system.”
“Where Congress isn’t acting, I’ll act on my own to put opportunity within reach for anyone who’s willing to work for it,” he added, reprising his call for 2014 to be a “year of action.”
Stutzman wasn’t buying it.
“President Obama’s latest slogan is a ‘year of action,’ but his administration and his party’s leaders in the Senate are sitting on the bench,” he said.
The Indiana congressman slammed Democrats for their focus on a restoration of federal emergency unemployment benefits. “They seem to have surrendered to a new normal of high unemployment,” he said. “Instead of standing shoulder to shoulder with out-of-work Americans, they’re focused on making it easier to live without a job.”
And he called on Senate Democrats to pass “dozens of jobs bills” pushed by the House GOP that would approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline, expand offshore energy production, update job training programs and cut regulation.
“Republicans hope the president is serious about making 2014 a ‘year of action,’” Stutzman said. “It should start by giving each of these jobs bills an up-or-down vote in the Senate.”
“The American people haven’t quit," he said, "and neither have Republicans."