The new Republican Congress understands Americans' suffering from the economy, health care system, and Washington gridlock and will steer the country away from President Obama's "failed policies," promised a newly minted senator delivering her party's official response to the State of the Union. Mixing calls for bipartisanship with a flexing of GOP muscle, Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, cited Americans' worries about stagnant wages, lost jobs, and canceled health-care coverage. In prepared remarks, she called on Obama to cooperate with Republicans to simplify the tax code by lowering rates and eliminating unspecified loopholes and to ease trade barriers with Europe and Asia. Yet Ernst also listed a parade of looming clashes with the president, including GOP efforts to force construction of the "Keystone jobs bill," balance the budget without raising taxes, and restrict abortions.
Ernst's speech marked her party's first State of the Union response under Obama in which the GOP has held House and Senate majorities. "We heard the message you sent in November, loud and clear," she said. "And now we're getting to work to change the direction Washington has been taking our country." Ernst, 44, sprinkled her policy prescriptions with her personal story, recounting her youth on her family's farm in Red Oak, Iowa. She described plowing fields, working mornings at a Hardee's, and this: "Growing up, I had only one good pair of shoes. So on rainy school days, my mom would slip plastic bread bags over them to keep them dry. ... We were raised to live simply, not to waste." Click for the full text. (Read more State of the Union Address stories.)