Republican SOTU Rebuttal Ignores One Glaring Issue

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“We heard the message you sent in November,” said Republican Senator Joni Ernst in delivering the RNC rebuttal to the president’s State of the Union address. “Loud and clear.”

Ernst was an unusual choice to deliver the rebuttal, having been a senator for only a couple of weeks. At 44, though, the Iowan is being tapped as one of the party’s rising stars, and RNC leaders apparently thought that choosing her to address the nation would position her for a steady climb up the ranks. If the moment had star-making potential, though, conservatives were more concerned about what she chose to leave out of her speech than what she actually said.

Most glaringly, Ernst opted to leave the issue of Obama’s amnesty for illegal immigrants out of her rebuttal altogether. Despite claiming that Republicans had “heard the message” of the November elections, many in the party’s base think they missed the loudest message of all. While she paid lip service to the idea that Republicans would “correct executive overreach,” she failed to bring up Obama’s amnesty declaration in specific terms.

Of course, no one who has followed the political maneuverings of the past couple of months can be too surprised by the omission. The Republican establishment has determined that turning back Obama’s executive action is more a talking point than a real strategy. House Speaker John Boehner led the House of Representatives in a fiery vote to defund amnesty last week, but most experts predict that bill will meet a swift end in the Senate. If not there, then they expect it to die on the president’s desk. Republicans, unwilling to stake it all on a Department of Homeland Security shutdown, are hoping the issue will gradually fade into the background.

Though she didn’t address amnesty, Ernst did provide a strong rebuttal against the president’s speech. She took particularly accurate aim at Obamacare, telling the nation that Republicans have seen”the hurt caused by canceled healthcare plans and higher monthly insurance bills.” She said that Washington needed to move away from the “stale mindset” that led to policies like Obamacare in the first place.

A veteran of the Iraq War, Ernst was especially compelling in her call for a “comprehensive plan” to go after terrorism in the wake of recent attacks around the world. “The forces of violence and oppression don’t care about the innocent,” she said, delivering a message that contrasted with Obama’s call for diplomacy and coalition-building. That message is bound to hit home for a country that names ISIS as the second most important issue facing America.

As for the most important – the economy – Ernst promised that Republicans would tackle job growth, stagnant wages, and a complicated tax code that was riddled with loopholes. She said that the way forward included easing trade restrictions with Europe and Asia and approving the Keystone Pipeline bill.

But after the dust settles, it may be that immigration omission that conservatives remember best. Only two months after voters came out in force against the president’s policies, many are left wondering why our chosen leaders have decided to ignore the worst of them.