Erin Billups

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GOP pushes repeal of Affordable Care Act

With a struggling economy the stakes are high this election year and members of Congress are fine tuning their message to voters.

The Republican-led House has a month-long agenda aimed at highlighting where they say Democrats have gone wrong.

"We want to make sure the American people understand what we’re working on in the House and what the Senate is not doing," Rep. Renee Ellmers, R-North Carolina, said.

This week, the House is focusing on repealing the administration’s health care laws which were upheld by the Supreme Court last month.

"Now the Supreme Court has said what we’ve always said all along. It is a tax increase. It will be the largest tax increase in history. So we think there’s a better way to improve the system. This is not the way," Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, said.

The House held two hearings Tuesday, previewing Wednesday’s vote to repeal the health care laws. Republicans voted over 30 times to overturn them, and Democrats say enough is enough.

"They feel they gain more politically from just attacking instead of offering any alternative," Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas, said.
Next week the House plans to highlight the Democrats’ lack of a plan to deal with the massive cuts to military spending. In the following weeks they will focus on burdensome regulations for businesses and maintaining the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy.

While it’s clear the agenda set by the House will be ignored by the Democratic-run Senate, McCaul defended his party saying they’re not playing political games.

"We’re trying to demonstrate that we disagree with the policy, that elections have consequences and given a different make up in the Senate and the White House we may be able to repeal and replace it," McCaul said.

Obama: State of the union is strong

President Obama laid out his blueprint for how to rebuild the nation’s economy Tuesday, and set his agenda for a tough election year. His State of the Union address began with plans to revitalize the nation’s manufacturing industry and tax cuts for businesses who create jobs domestically.

The President again made the argument for ending tax cuts for the wealthy in exchange for entitlement reform and asked Congress to pass the payroll tax cut immediately. The president also listed several initiatives he plans to implement via executive order, including the creation of a special unit to investigate any misconduct that led to the mortgage and securities crisis.

None of the changes, the president said, could be successful without more bipartisanship in Washington.

"None of these reforms can happen unless we also lower the temperature in this town," President Obama said. "We need to end the notion that the two parties must be locked in a perpetual campaign of mutual destruction, that politics is about clinging to rigid ideologies instead of building consensus around common sense ideas."

The ambitious plan also targets countries with unfair trade practices and asks states to force kids to stay in school until they turn 18.

Republicans, meanwhile, have talked down the president’s speech all day Tuesday. House Speaker John Boehner called the address a rerun of past State of the Union’s.

And continuing along that line Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels delivered the Republican response from Indianapolis shortly after the president’s speech.

"When President Obama claims that the state of our union is anything but grave, he must know in his heart that this is not true," Daniels said. "The president did not cause the financial and fiscal crises that continue in America tonight, but he was elected on a promise to fix them and he cannot claim that the last three years have made them anything but worse."

President Obama plans to ride the momentum of Tuesday’s speech. He will embark on a three day tour of five key battleground states–Nevada, Iowa, Arizona, Colorado and Michigan– starting on Wednesday.

After days of partisan gridlock, payroll tax cut extended

The standoff in Washington is over. Congress approved a bill to extend the payroll tax holiday and unemployment insurance Friday.

House Speaker John Boehner announced that a deal had been reached Thursday afternoon.

"It may not have been politically the smartest thing in the world. But let me tell you what. I think our members waged a good fight," Boehner said. "We were able able to come to a agreement. We were able to fix what came out of the Senate."

Senate Democrats agreed to immediately appoint members to a committee to resolve the differences that are standing in the way of a year-long extension. Republicans also pushed for language that would ease the processing burden for small businesses.

The tide turned earlier Thursday when Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell released a statement urging his House colleagues to pass the two-month extension. Shortly after the President, flanked by every-day Americans, joined McConnell in his call.

"Most importantly, it’s the right thing to do for American families all across the country," President Obama said. "This is not just my view…The Republican leader of the Senate said we should do it."

A compromise may have been reached, and crisis averted, but Democrats say this latest partisan stalemate shines a light on the effect Tea Party republicans are having in Washington. Still, members of the House GOP argue they were simply trying to deliver what the President asked for, a one-year extension, giving more stability to job creators and the economy.