Republicans responded to President Obama's first address to Congress on Tuesday by vowing to work with the White House while also holding fast to principles of limited government and fiscal discipline.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who delivered the Republican response to Obama's speech from the governor's mansion in Baton Rouge, called on his party to return to core values and object to massive government spending intended to boost the economy.
"Democratic leaders say their legislation will grow the economy. What it will do is grow the government, increase our taxes down the line and saddle future generations with debt," Jindal said, according to excerpts released by his office before the speech. "It's irresponsible."
Jindal, 37, was elected in 2007 and is one of a crop of Republicans whose star power has risen since the 2008 election. He recently gained attention for refusing millions of dollars in unemployment assistance bound for his state in Obama's $787 billion stimulus plan.
Obama enjoys a 59% job approval rating according to a Gallup Poll released Tuesday. But many Republicans criticized the recovery plan as bloated and say billions more being spent to prop up financial markets will have devastating long-term effects.
"He's likable. We all like him," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. "We're not here to attack the president. We're here to talk about spending. And we think we're off on the wrong foot with the rate of spending that we're engaged in."
Congressional Republicans, including McConnell, have said steeper tax cuts are needed to revive the economy. He threatened to fight future legislation that adds to what he called a "spending spree of gargantuan proportions."
With Republicans out of power in Washington, the search for party leaders has shifted to red-state governors such as Jindal, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. Jindal has dismissed questions about whether he will run for president.
In his address, Jindal said Republicans fared poorly in 2008 "because our party got away from its principles" of fiscal discipline. "Republicans went along with earmarks and big government spending," he said. In future policy debates, he said, party leaders should take a different approach.
"So where we agree, Republicans must be the president's strongest partners," said Jindal, the son of Indian immigrants. "And where we disagree, Republicans have a responsibility to ... offer better ideas for a path forward."