Posted by on January 23, 2015 in Blog

By Eve Soliman
Spring Intern, 2015

During the 2015 State of the Union address, President Obama highlighted some of the successes that his administration achieved, which marked the transition from his campaign slogan of “yes we can” to the tone of “yes we did.” President Obama discussed the improvements in the economy thus far, focusing on the job growth, the Affordable Care Act, ending the recession, as well as minimizing outsourcing and reliance on foreign oil.

President Obama then shifted the focus to the pressing issues down the road and the Democratic Party’s agenda. The State of the Union address placed middle-class economics, protection of minority groups, immigration reform, counterterrorism and trade relations at the forefront of policy. President Obama stood in solidarity with victims of terrorist attacks and asked Congress to support his commitment to counterterrorism by passing legislation that would give him authority to use force against ISIL. He also called for a joint effort by both parties to create a plan that recognizes America as a nation of immigrants, protecting the interests of diversity and future of immigration. Many of the proposals called upon Congress for unified action and an end to divisive politics.

The Republicans were split on their opinions towards the State of the Union. The divide in the Republican Party was illustrated by Senator Joni Ernst's (R-IA) rebuttal towards President Obama's State of the Union address, or lack there of. Rep. Ernst’s speech was not necessarily a response to the President's address, but one of vague agenda setting and their priorities after the recent victory in Congress, with little reference to direct plans or policy.

Rep. Ernst’s speech avoided the topic of immigration. However, when Representative Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) translated Ernst's speech into Spanish, he inserted his own comments on the issue of immigration. Rep. Curbelo lead the spanish-speaking members of the audience to believe that the GOP was committed to immigration reform by calling for cooperation between both parties to achieve their shared interest and discussing the need " create permanent solutions for our immigration system" and "modernize legal immigration." Republican officials endorsed Rep. Ernst as the voice of the party and Rep. Curbelo as the translator, specifically noting that it was to be the same speech. The Republican Party's stance on immigration, which has been a promise to stop all executive immigration reforms ordered from the President- was more than lost in translation.

The GOP’s opinion towards the State of the Union continued to have even more varying voices from within their party. Representative Curt Clawson (R-FL), Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), and Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) from the Tea Party fraction all issued conflicting statements. Clawson discussed the issue of immigration in two languages as well when delivering his opinion. In spanish Clawson said, “the law must be followed, [but] you are all welcome with us” and in that same breath, but in english, he commented on how "we’ve also got to be fair to the more than 10 million Americans currently struggling to find good jobs" and advocated for stricter border control as a solution.

During the State of the Union, President Obama emphasizes the need for combating terrorism worldwide and calls upon Congress to help take strong action against the threats, mentioning the attacks in both France and Pakistan. The Republicans seemed to have two very different approaches to this agenda as well, Sen. Cruz criticized the President's delivery and refusal to identify the threats as "radical Islamic terrorism."Meanwhile, Sen. Paul's response to the President's address on the issue of terrorism was quite different, he criticized both parties for resorting to military intervention too quickly.

Sen. Paul argued that it is crucial that the U.S. defends itself against terrorist attacks and protects the interests of the nation, but contends it should be limited to that scope and that the Middle East is not our "puzzle" to fix with Western ideals.After the Republican Party's official and unofficial responses to the 2015 State of the Union it is evident that there is a lack of cohesiveness and clear difference in opinion within the party. This variance of ideology towards pressing issues poses a serious threat to the GOP's 2016 campaign and ability to set a unified agenda, despite their current control of Congress.




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