In response to President Obama's State of the Union address Tuesday night, the new Republican majority is promising to make Congress more productive -- and even, in some cases, to work with Mr. Obama.
"I'd like to have a conversation about the new Republican Congress you just elected, and how we plan to make Washington focus on your concerns again," Sen. Joni Ernst, the new Republican lawmaker from Iowa, said in her response. "We heard the message you sent in November -- loud and clear. And now we're getting to work to change the direction Washington has been taking our country."
President Obama insisted in his address that after years of struggling to recover from the recession, America is finally ready to "turn the page."
Ernst, however, stressed that the president's policies haven't been helping.
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"We see our neighbors agonize over stagnant wages and lost jobs," she said. "We see the hurt caused by canceled health care plans and higher monthly insurance bills. We see too many moms and dads put their own dreams on hold while growing more fearful about the kind of future they'll be able to leave to their children. Americans have been hurting, but when we demanded solutions, too often Washington responded with the same stale mindset that led to failed policies like Obamacare. It's a mindset that gave us political talking points, not serious solutions."
Even so, she said, "There's a lot we can achieve if we work together."
Specifically, the senator mentioned passing trade agreements, bolstering U.S. exports and simplifying the "outdated and loophole-ridden tax code."
"Republicans think tax filing should be easier for you, not just the well-connected," she said. "So let's iron out loopholes to lower rates -- and create jobs, not pay for more government spending. The President has already expressed some support for these kinds of ideas. We're calling on him now to cooperate to pass them."
Mr. Obama also mentioned tax reforms on Tuesday night, including a proposal to raise capital gains taxes and impose a fee on large financial firms.
Republicans, however, have been very dismissive of those specific ideas.
"It all looks like that same old tax-and-spend that the president has been advocating for the last six years," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, said Tuesday afternoon. "Hopefully that's just rhetoric -- he knows we're not likely to pass these kinds of measures. And we'll still look for things we can actually agree on to try to make some progress here."
In her response, Ernst -- the first female combat veteran ever to serve in the Senate -- also spoke about the threat from extremists.
"We've been reminded of terrorism's reach both at home and abroad; most recently in France and Nigeria, but also in places like Canada and Australia," said Ernst, who donned a pair of camouflage high heels for the night. "Our hearts go out to all the innocent victims of terrorism and their loved ones. We can only imagine the depth of their grief... The forces of violence and oppression don't care about the innocent. We need a comprehensive plan to defeat them."
In addition to being the Senate's first female combat veteran, Ernst is also the first woman ever elected to Iowa's congressional delegation and one of six women in the GOP Senate caucus. She replaced former Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin, helping the GOP win a majority in the Senate for the first time since 2006.
The GOP tapped new Rep. Carlos Curbelo of Florida to deliver a Spanish-language response to the State of the Union.