State of Exclusion
When President Obama mapped out his agenda last night, there was one thing missing: Congress. "I'm eager to work with all of you," he told a full chamber, only to spend the next hour explaining how he planned to avoid them. "America does not stand still -- and neither will I," the President vowed. "So wherever and whenever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families, that's what I'm going to do." Even to this, some of the same leaders the President had just declared irrelevant stood and cheered.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) wasn't one of them. Before the speech kicked off, Boehner warned the White House would hit a "brick wall" if he insisted on sidestepping the legislature. "This idea that he's just going to go it alone -- [we're] going to have to remind him we do have a Constitution and the Congress writes the laws." Even Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), a member of the President's own party, expressed "concern" with the White House's à la carte approach to the nation's laws.
"When a President can pick and choose which laws to follow and which to ignore, he is no longer a President," wrote Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas). Unfortunately, the President's philosophy on governing is much like last night's event: he talks to leaders, not with them. The speech itself, all 6,778 words, didn't contain any real surprises. As usual, the President managed to wrap his extreme liberalism in a cloak of platitudes and moderate language.
So moderate, in fact, that the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), complained that the man who's done more to impose their agenda than the last 43 presidents combined, didn't go far enough. While President Obama has used the word "gay" 272 times in five years (which is 270 times more than President Bush), HRC was miffed the White House didn't boost that total with last night's speech, complaining, "Unfortunately, President Obama missed a real opportunity to use the State of the Union to improve the lives of LGBT people..." Well, he may not have said enough -- but he's certainly done enough over the course of his two terms with federal benefits, same-sex "marriage," "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," State Department policy, personnel hires, education projects, legal strategy, judicial nominees, and military "pride." Even that doesn't satisfy his insatiable base, which, after a half-decade of the President's pandering, should be the happiest voters in all of America.
It wasn't easy, as I sat in the House chamber, but I did manage not to laugh out loud when the President declared "climate change a fact" (days after the Weather Channel announced the coldest temperatures in a century). Of course, no one felt like smiling when the President stuck his nose into employers' business and demanded that executives "Give America a raise!" The charge came after the White House's own executive order, raising the federal minimum wage for employees on federal contracts. But unlike the government, businessmen don't have an unlimited supply of money (even less so after the regulations and taxes foisted on them by this administration).
Like so many of the President's proposals, raising the minimum wage sounds like a good idea until you actually consider the practical effects. In this case, it's basic economics. The people who are most dependent on minimum wage are the ones most hurt by raising it. To afford higher wages, businesses will have to raise prices -- which at the very least negates the pay raise, and in some instances, may cost families more. And some companies have to cut jobs. It also fuels the demand for more undocumented workers, who are willing to take the same jobs for less. Most businesses would love to invest in growing their employees, but their hands are tied under this administration's high taxes, regulation, and ObamaCare. Asking companies to do that now, as they try to survive under the government's other demands, is like asking them to make bricks without straw. As Peter Roskam (R-Ill.) put it, the President "doesn't recognize that he is actually part of the problem in terms of incredibly slow economic growth."
As usual, the President continued to misdiagnose America's problems on poverty and unemployment, claiming one of the best "investments we can make in a child's life is a high-quality education" -- while completely ignoring the very best investment in a child's life: a married mom and dad. An intact family is better off financially than one that is broken. Its children do better in school and graduate college in greater numbers than those from non-intact homes. But instead of acknowledging the family's role, his administration punishes it. Just yesterday, NPR explained how divorce helps boost your health insurance subsidy under the President's system. If, after five years of waiting, we want real hope and change, we need to enact policies that build stronger families and a stronger economy. And we can't do that without focusing on the state of our unions.
House Makes Fund-amental Change to Abortion Policy
As far as House conservatives were concerned, the most important SOTU on Tuesday was the State of the Unborn. And they proved it by outlasting the Left's lies and attacks to pass, for the second time in three years, the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act (H.R. 7). With six Democrats and a 39-vote cushion, pro-lifers like Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) had the satisfaction of watching a piece of legislation pass that he and co-sponsor Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.) had been fighting for tooth and nail.
To the credit of House leaders, all but one Republican -- even the wobbly ones -- voted yes on the bill, which would create a blanket ban on taxpayer-funded abortion across the entire government -- permanently. "This is propaganda," Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) fumed. "The Republicans are trying to make people believe their taxpayer dollars are being used to pay for abortion." Regardless of whether people believe it, the facts are the facts. The federal government, for the first time ever, is dipping into taxpayer dollars to cover abortion subsidies under ObamaCare. From its abortion surcharge to the abortion-heavy D.C. plans (which FRC's own Anna Higgins exposed), Americans are more implicated than ever in the procedure that a majority oppose. The Left can kick and scream that we don't need H.R. 7 or call it a hoax, but the reality is, this bill is the only way to guarantee that Americans aren't subsidizing the procedure overseas, in ObamaCare, and appropriations bills.
All Americans are asking for is government neutrality on the funding issue. If abortion is a "private choice," as they say, then it shouldn't receive public dollars. Thank goodness that 227 Congressmen agree. We commend them, especially Reps. Smith and Lipinski, who refused to give up on H.R. 7 or the millions of Americans who support it.
Watchmen En Espanol!
Sitting in the House Chamber last night listening to President Obama's State of the Union address was a sharp contrast with how I started my day -- speaking to an overflow gathering of pastors at FRC's first regional Hispanic/Latino Pastors Briefing in Phoenix, Arizona. It would be easy to conclude from the President's remarks last night that Washington has the solution for everything that ails America, if Congress would just allocate the money -- or more accurately borrow it. The reality is that the tremendous problems facing America are not only political -- they're spiritual. And if these problems are spiritual, then who better to lead the effort to solve them than the spiritual leaders in our nation? It should be obvious that if the problem of poverty was political, then the politicians would have succeeded in their 50-year, $20 trillion war on it. Instead, little ground has been gained on poverty, and what we have seen are out-of-wedlock births (one of the key factors of child poverty) soar from 6% to over 41%.
In addition to hearing from local pastors who are part of a local council FRC helped launch last year, like Pastor Luis Rodriguez and Rev. Tony Martinez, the pastors heard from Pastor Jacob Aranza, a member of the national Watchmen on the Wall pastors' council, FRC's Dr. Pat Fagan, Gen. Jerry Boykin, and Dr. Kenyn Cureton, Alliance Defending Freedom's Joe Infranco and Rev. Rafael Cruz, the father of U.S. Senator Ted Cruz. The pastors, representing over 20 different denominations, were clearly motivated and inspired by what they heard as nearly all signed a pledge at the end of the day to become Watchmen in their communities. Join us in praying and working to assemble more Watchmen to stand atop the walls of our nation.
** For more reaction on the State of the Union, check out my video below.
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.