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Obama must end tax hike 'obsession,' Republicans say

world Updated: Feb 13, 2013 07:31 IST
US Senator Marco Rubio

US Senator Marco Rubio, in the Republican response to President Barack Obama's speech, will challenge him on Tuesday to abandon his tax "obsession" and find a way to boost growth and cut the deficit.

The rising political star from Florida, widely tipped as a 2016 presidential candidate, will lay out the framework of his party's economic vision in his formal response released ahead of Obama's State of the Union address.

"The tax increases and the deficit spending you propose will hurt middle class families," he will say, according to excerpts released in advance. "There's no realistic tax increase that could lower our deficits by almost $4 trillion.

"That's why I hope the president will abandon his obsession with raising taxes and instead work with us to achieve real growth in our economy."

Rubio returned to a recurring Republican theme of the 2012 presidential campaign and beyond: that Democrats are fixated on raising new tax revenue in order to pare back the swelling US deficit and debt.

Republicans are smarting from their election defeat, when Americans largely rejected their austerity push.

Obama handily won the Hispanic and the youth vote, and Rubio, a 41-year-old Cuban American who is the lynchpin in a Senate proposal on immigration, will touch on his own immigrant roots to drive home the message that conservative politics can have broad appeal.

He plans to deliver his speech in both English and Spanish.

"Mr President, I still live in the same working class neighborhood I grew up in. My neighbors aren't millionaires," Rubio will say.

"They're retirees who depend on Social Security and Medicare. They're workers who have to get up early tomorrow morning and go to work to pay the bills," he added in the excerpts.

"They're immigrants who came here because they were stuck in poverty in countries where the government dominated the economy.

"So Mr President, I don't oppose your plans because I want to protect the rich. I oppose your plans because I want to protect my neighbors."

Obama, in excerpts released by the White House, is set to propose reigniting the US economic engine, while insisting that the plans won't increase the deficit "by a single dime."

Republicans are actually offering two responses Tuesday night. The retort by the conservative Tea Party, which backed Rubio in his improbable Senate victory in 2010, will be made by Rand Paul, also a first-term senator.

And at least part of the Tea Party message, on immigration, appears to be in sync with the Republican position.

"We are the party that embraces hard work and ingenuity, therefore we must be the party that embraces the immigrant who wants to come to America for a better future," Paul will say, according to advance excerpts.

"We must be the party who sees immigrants as assets, not liabilities. We must be the party that says, 'If you want to work, if you want to become an American, we welcome you.'"

Paul will also have harsh words for lawmakers of both parties whom he accuses of protecting their "sacred cows," and insist that hundreds of billions of dollars in looming automatic spending cuts should go ahead.

"It is time Democrats admit that not every dollar spent on domestic programs is sacred. And it is time Republicans realize that military spending is not immune to waste and fraud," he said in the excerpts.

Lawmakers and the White House are seeking an alternative to the mandated cuts, known as the sequester, that are set to kick in on March 1 if Congress fails to act.