Official GOP State of the Union response by Rep. Paul Ryan
January 25th, 2011
09:16 PM ET
12 years ago

Official GOP State of the Union response by Rep. Paul Ryan

As prepared for delivery:

Good evening. I’m Congressman Paul Ryan from Janesville, Wisconsin – and Chairman here at the House Budget Committee.

President Obama just addressed a Congressional chamber filled with many new faces. One face we did not see tonight was that of our friend and colleague, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona. We all miss Gabby and her cheerful spirit; and we are praying for her return to the House Chamber.

Earlier this month, President Obama spoke movingly at a memorial event for the six people who died on that violent morning in Tucson. Still, there are no words that can lift the sorrow that now engulfs the families and friends of the fallen.

What we can do is assure them that the nation is praying for them; that, in the words of the Psalmist, the Lord heals the broken hearted and binds up their wounds; and that over time grace will replace grief.


As Gabby continues to make encouraging progress, we must keep her and the others in our thoughts as we attend to the work now before us.

Tonight, the President focused a lot of attention on our economy in general – and on our deficit and debt in particular.

He was right to do so, and some of his words were reassuring. As Chairman of the House Budget Committee, I assure you that we want to work with the President to restrain federal spending.

In one of our first acts in the new majority, House Republicans voted to cut Congress’s own budget. And just today, the House voted to restore the spending discipline that Washington sorely needs.

The reason is simple.

A few years ago, reducing spending was important. Today, it’s imperative. Here’s why.

We face a crushing burden of debt. The debt will soon eclipse our entire economy, and grow to catastrophic levels in the years ahead.

On this current path, when my three children – who are now 6, 7, and 8 years old – are raising their own children, the Federal government will double in size, and so will the taxes they pay.

No economy can sustain such high levels of debt and taxation. The next generation will inherit a stagnant economy and a diminished country.

Frankly, it’s one of my greatest concerns as a parent – and I know many of you feel the same way.


Our debt is the product of acts by many Presidents and many Congresses over many years. No one person or party is responsible for it.

There is no doubt the President came into office facing a severe fiscal and economic situation.

Unfortunately, instead of restoring the fundamentals of economic growth, he engaged in a stimulus spending spree that not only failed to deliver on its promise to create jobs, but also plunged us even deeper into debt.

The facts are clear: Since taking office, President Obama has signed into law spending increases of nearly 25% for domestic government agencies – an 84% increase when you include the failed stimulus.

All of this new government spending was sold as “investment.” Yet after two years, the unemployment rate remains above 9% and government has added over $3 trillion to our debt.

Then the President and his party made matters even worse, by creating a new open-ended health care entitlement.

What we already know about the President’s health care law is this: Costs are going up, premiums are rising, and millions of people will lose the coverage they currently have. Job creation is being stifled by all of its taxes, penalties, mandates and fees.

Businesses and unions from around the country are asking the Obama Administration for waivers from the mandates. Washington should not be in the business of picking winners and losers. The President mentioned the need for regulatory reform to ease the burden on American businesses. We agree – and we think his health care law would be a great place to start.

Last week, House Republicans voted for a full repeal of this law, as we pledged to do, and we will work to replace it with fiscally responsible, patient-centered reforms that actually reduce costs and expand coverage.

Health care spending is driving the explosive growth of our debt. And the President’s law is accelerating our country toward bankruptcy.

Our debt is out of control. What was a fiscal challenge is now a fiscal crisis.

We cannot deny it; instead we must, as Americans, confront it responsibly.


And that is exactly what Republicans pledge to do.

Americans are skeptical of both political parties, and that skepticism is justified – especially when it comes to spending. So hold all of us accountable.

In this very room, the House will produce, debate, and advance a budget. Last year – in an unprecedented failure– Congress chose not to pass, or even propose a budget. The spending spree continued unchecked.

We owe you a better choice and a different vision.

Our forthcoming budget is our obligation to you – to show you how we intend to do things differently … how we will cut spending to get the debt down… help create jobs and prosperity … and reform government programs. If we act soon, and if we act responsibly, people in and near retirement will be protected.

These budget debates are not just about the programs of government; they’re also about the purpose of government.

So I’d like to share with you the principles that guide us. They are anchored in the wisdom of the founders; in the spirit of the Declaration of Independence; and in the words of the American Constitution.

They have to do with the importance of limited government; and with the blessing of self-government.


We believe government’s role is both vital and limited – to defend the nation from attack and provide for the common defense … to secure our borders… to protect innocent life… to uphold our laws and Constitutional rights … to ensure domestic tranquility and equal opportunity … and to help provide a safety net for those who cannot provide for themselves.

We believe that the government has an important role to create the conditions that promote entrepreneurship, upward mobility, and individual responsibility.

We believe, as our founders did, that “the pursuit of happiness” depends upon individual liberty; and individual liberty requires limited government.


Limited government also means effective government. When government takes on too many tasks, it usually doesn’t do any of them very well. It’s no coincidence that trust in government is at an all-time low now that the size of government is at an all-time high.

The President and the Democratic Leadership have shown, by their actions, that they believe government needs to increase its size and its reach, its price tag and its power.


Whether sold as “stimulus” or repackaged as “investment,” their actions show they want a federal government that controls too much; taxes too much; and spends too much in order to do too much.

And during the last two years, that is exactly what we have gotten – along with record deficits and debt – to the point where the President is now urging Congress to increase the debt limit.

We believe the days of business as usual must come to an end. We hold to a couple of simple convictions: Endless borrowing is not a strategy; spending cuts have to come first.


Our nation is approaching a tipping point.

We are at a moment, where if government’s growth is left unchecked and unchallenged, America’s best century will be considered our past century. This is a future in which we will transform our social safety net into a hammock, which lulls able-bodied people into lives of complacency and dependency.

Depending on bureaucracy to foster innovation, competitiveness, and wise consumer choices has never worked – and it won’t work now.

We need to chart a new course.


Speaking candidly, as one citizen to another: We still have time… but not much time. If we continue down our current path, we know what our future will be.

Just take a look at what’s happening to Greece, Ireland, the United Kingdom and other nations in Europe. They didn’t act soon enough; and now their governments have been forced to impose painful austerity measures: large benefit cuts to seniors and huge tax increases on everybody.

Their day of reckoning has arrived. Ours is around the corner. That is why we must act now.


Some people will back away from this challenge. But I see this challenge as an opportunity to rebuild what Lincoln called the “central ideas” of the Republic.

We believe a renewed commitment to limited government will unshackle our economy and create millions of new jobs and opportunities for all people, of every background, to succeed and prosper. Under this approach, the spirit of initiative – not political clout – determines who succeeds.

Millions of families have fallen on hard times not because of our ideals of free enterprise – but because our leaders failed to live up to those ideals; because of poor decisions made in Washington and Wall Street that caused a financial crisis, squandered our savings, broke our trust, and crippled our economy.

Today, a similar kind of irresponsibility threatens not only our livelihoods but our way of life.


We need to reclaim our American system of limited government, low taxes, reasonable regulations, and sound money, which has blessed us with unprecedented prosperity. And it has done more to help the poor than any other economic system ever designed. That’s the real secret to job creation – not borrowing and spending more money in Washington.

Limited government and free enterprise have helped make America the greatest nation on earth.


These are not easy times, but America is an exceptional nation. In all the chapters of human history, there has never been anything quite like America. The American story has been cherished, advanced, and defended over the centuries.

And it now falls to this generation to pass on to our children a nation that is stronger, more vibrant, more decent, and better than the one we inherited.

Thank you and good night.

Filed under: GOP • Paul Ryan • SOTU 2011
soundoff (123 Responses)
  1. jon

    After listening to this clown Paul Ryan, I am sorry to say that I am originally from Wisconsin.

    January 25, 2011 11:09 pm at 11:09 pm |
  2. Radgast

    The GOP response sounded more like venom, it kind of put me off after listening to the president reach out...

    January 25, 2011 11:10 pm at 11:10 pm |
  3. allnax

    This was horrible. Fear and God, Nice but not my cup of tea. Go scare your neighbors with that.....

    January 25, 2011 11:11 pm at 11:11 pm |
  4. Krystal Smith

    I want to first state that the speech the president gave was great. One thing I have to agree with if the Rep. and the Demo. party could work together. Since this president been in office there has been some great changes to get this country back on the right track. When President Bush was in office with all respect to him the Rep party and himself messed up everything. Now that we have someone in office trying to work together and fix this WORK TOGETHER.. I am tried of Rep. people like Paul Ryan always talking negative...DID YOU REALLY HAVE THIS SAME TALK WHEN BUSH WAS IN OFFICE NO NO NO... You will be up for reelection I pray that you lose your seat.

    January 25, 2011 11:13 pm at 11:13 pm |
  5. Michelle

    Take your disagreements and COMPROMISE. Two steps forward and two steps back is wasting time. Fix what you got and move on.

    January 25, 2011 11:15 pm at 11:15 pm |
  6. cytwo

    Problem is the neo-cons will still make a priority of spending 800 dollars on a Pentagon toilet seat before putting food on a baby's table.

    January 25, 2011 11:16 pm at 11:16 pm |
  7. Ann

    Paul Ryan's comments are full of hypocracy. When will the Republicans ever take responsibility for their role in destroying our economy instead of falsely putting all the blame on Obama? Repubicans claim to want to reduce our deficit but they created enormous problems with 2 unfunded wars and the unfunded drug prescription program – all costing us trillions of dollars that were not budgeted for, leading to massive debts. Remember fall of 2008 and the near collapse of our economy into a 2nd Great Depression – Bush and the Republican majority caused this and Obama has been working to correct their ineptitudes (while these same Republicans have worked to discredit and dismantle all of Obama's efforts to fix these problems). I will never have an ounce of faith with these Republicans since I can't help but feel they are systematically destroying our democracy but I don't understand why?

    January 25, 2011 11:19 pm at 11:19 pm |
  8. Emma

    Glad we are moving forward. In this day and age those same founding fathers would be moving forward as well. We are living in 2011 not 1776.

    January 25, 2011 11:21 pm at 11:21 pm |
  9. James


    This rhetoric is old. You and your party have yet to put own one solid idea on how to improve healthcare, how to improve education, how to improve jobs. In November, your party quickly sold us jobs, you won and the next day pulled the rug from underneath the people and began attacking healthcare. Sure, you backpedalled and then referred to it as a job killing bill, but you never sold your message as to why, showed evidence, nor came up with a solution of your own.

    If you're worried about your three children, start by setting an example.

    January 25, 2011 11:24 pm at 11:24 pm |
  10. mjmullinii

    "And it now falls to this generation to pass on to our children a nation that is stronger, more vibrant, more decent, and better than the one we inherited."

    In other words, do exactly what the President said.

    January 25, 2011 11:26 pm at 11:26 pm |
  11. greg

    Republicans want to cut spending. The three largest national budget items are Medicare/Medicaid, Social Security, and National Defense. Old people vote Republican more often than not and are often outspoken when it comes to cutting government spending.

    Solution: Mandatory euthanasia for everyone on their 65th birthday. Also, spend less on our outrageous military. But wait, that means that the GOP voter base would be smaller, thus ushering in more Dems!!! I guess they are handcuffed to futility.

    January 25, 2011 11:26 pm at 11:26 pm |
  12. William from Phoenix, Az.

    Hmmm so basically he is saying this. "While I agree that things need to change, it's everyone's fault that things are the way they are. And there is no one to blame but us all. But really it's all the President's and Democrats fault." Typical rhetoric of a typical Republican. What happened to the party of Lincoln? The party of.... that's the only good Republican president I can think of.

    January 25, 2011 11:28 pm at 11:28 pm |
  13. liz from OH

    Very well spoken! Thats what AMERICA is all about.

    January 25, 2011 11:29 pm at 11:29 pm |
  14. Fiery Buddha

    this speech was more right-wing rhetoric with no substance. how disappointing. i was so prepared to hear they were willing to work on real compromise to accomplish goals.

    too bad the party responses to a president's sotu are prepared, pat party speeches instead of real rebuttals.

    January 25, 2011 11:29 pm at 11:29 pm |
  15. George B

    OK Representative what are your "specifics"? Please stop talking rhetorically and tell me what it is exactly that you and the Republicans plan to do? Part of my frustration as a registered Republican is that the party talks in words that sound great (We have time, we are at a moment, we have an obligations, yada yada yada)...tell me specifically what it is that our party is going to do and how it will affect me. And tell me in plain and simple English, not lawyer-like legislative lingo.

    January 25, 2011 11:30 pm at 11:30 pm |
  16. Chris

    I was actually thoroughly impressed with Mr. Ryan's response to the President. To be honest, I was very surprised that neither side resorted to childish attacks. Not a terrible SOTU.

    January 25, 2011 11:32 pm at 11:32 pm |
  17. boochknock

    So I'm wondering when the republicans are going to finally own up to the fact that we are going to have to raise taxes on rich people as one of the things we need to do in order to get us out of this deficit. When these fools finally admit this, then I will consider voting republican again.

    January 25, 2011 11:33 pm at 11:33 pm |
  18. PalmReader

    Umm, well, yes. There is a limit to what anyone can deliver after an Obama speech, and Paul Ryan certainly surpassed his limit of fear mongering and innuendo, even by Republican standards; quite inspiring in its ... be very afraid ... message of unity and hope.

    January 25, 2011 11:35 pm at 11:35 pm |
  19. mr. potter

    Classic!!!….finally a remake to “it’s a wondersful life”…..This guys actually said…”we’re transforming our social safety net into a hammock which lulls able-bodied workers into lives of complacency and dependency”… tell ‘em Ryan. At least these jokers have finally moved on from quoting Reagan to quoting Mr. Potter…….what does this “social safety net” get us…..”a discontented lazy rabble, instead of a thrifty working class!”

    January 25, 2011 11:37 pm at 11:37 pm |
  20. Eric

    I would imagine that DARPA, NASA and government funded research institutions count as government bureaucracies. I would guess Paul Ryan thinks nothing good every came of that.

    January 25, 2011 11:46 pm at 11:46 pm |
  21. Steve

    Most economic professionals think that we need to stimulate the economy and tax the very wealthy, not exactly the thing that Republicans want to see. Maybe this guy would think differently if unemployment hit 15%. And exactly where were you the previous 8 years when W was around, and increasing the Federal Deficit with his wars and the tax refunds that he couldn't pay for? And the prescription drugs that he couldn't pay for?
    The Republican party is either schizophrenic or has Alzheimer's. This guy at least sounds more competent than Jindal, I give him that.

    January 25, 2011 11:50 pm at 11:50 pm |
  22. Kevin

    where is the response? Agree or disagree with the Presidents ideas, this response was canned and so far as I can tell doesnt contain one rebuttle to any ideas floated by the president. In fact it talks about the President and Dems wanting a larger gov't even though the President just spoke about reorganizing it.

    Again I would have a lot more to say in favor of this response if it was actually a response and not a "the president is wrong because he is a Dem".

    January 25, 2011 11:56 pm at 11:56 pm |
  23. Peter Arnold

    The President gave a good speech encouraging bipartisanship to solve our country's problems. He did not criticize his predecessor nor did he criticize the republican party or the tea party. He surely did promote a number of democratic policies, however he also recognized and praised a few republican initiatives. This was not a bad effort for a Democratic president. Unfortunately I do not see that bipartisan approach in Paul Ryan's speech. There is a lot of criticism of the Democratic party's policies and those of the President. I voted for progress – not for partisanship. Hey Paul – if we are to make progress as a country you need to look for common ground and work with the other side. Otherwise get out and give someone else a go.

    January 25, 2011 11:57 pm at 11:57 pm |
  24. Doug504

    I thought Ryan's speech was somewhat muddled. He said the government was "controls too much; taxes too much; and spends too much". He wants "limited government" and "regulatory reform".

    And then he says the proper role of limited government is "to protect innocent life… to ensure equal opportunity … to help provide a safety net...[to] promote entrepreneurship". How much does that sound like a generic liberal politician speaking?

    Apparently the government is supposed to "ensure equal opportunity" without regulating anyone. "Create the conditions [for] individual responsibility while providing a "safety net". "Protect innocent life" without spending any money.

    And finally we have the call for "lower taxes". Even though current tax rates are lower than in 65 of the past 78 years. Even though Bush 43 proposed the current rates and Republican Congress approved them.

    A muddled speech. Calling for less spending and limited government. But offering no actual cuts while agreeing with many of the core programs of big government. Calling for lower taxes even though taxes are near an 80 year low. Muddled.

    January 26, 2011 12:01 am at 12:01 am |
  25. Steve

    Having mentioned several parts of the preamble, why did he forget to mention "promote the general welfare?"

    January 26, 2011 12:05 am at 12:05 am |
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