Republican lawmakers criticized President Obama’s inaugural address Monday, saying he failed to reach out to their party.
“I would have liked to have seen some outreach,” said Sen. John McCainJohn McCainMcCain having 'conversations' with Dems on Gorsuch nomination Live coverage: Senate intel holds first public Russia hearing McCain responds to North Korean criticism to calling Kim Jong-un 'crazy fat kid' MORE (R-Ariz.), who lost to Obama in the 2008 presidential race. “This is the eighth [inauguration] that I’ve been to and always there’s been a portion of the speech where [the president says], ‘I reach out my hand because we need to work together.’ That wasn’t in this speech.”
“It did seem that he wasn’t doing the kind of outreach that he needs to do if he wants to get things accomplished in a second term,” Thune said. “We’ll see how it’s received.”
Sen. Susan CollinsSusan CollinsOvernight Healthcare: Ryan says key ObamaCare payments will continue during House lawsuit Pence breaks tie, allowing Senate to revoke Obama order on abortion provider funding Pence casts tiebreaking Senate procedural vote on funding for abortion providers MORE (R-Maine) said she believed Obama intended to reach out to Republicans in his second term, but that the speech strayed too far toward partisan rhetoric.
“I had hoped his speech would be a little less partisan than it was at times, but I nevertheless think he intends to reach out and work together, and I liked the diversity of the program,” Collins said.
Other Republicans likewise offered praise for the address by Obama, who repeatedly talked of the need for the nation, and its government, to come together to solve problems.
“I do come away with hope, as long as from the bully pulpit, he speaks the same way in the days ahead as he did today,” said Sen. Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyKushner meets with lawmakers about criminal justice reform: report Overnight Finance: Dems seek probe of acting SEC chief | Defense hawks say they won't back short-term funding | Senate seen as start point for Trump infrastructure plan | Dems want more money for IRS Overnight Regulation: Trump administration lifts Obama freeze on federal coal mining MORE (R-Iowa). He said he appreciated Obama talking about being “one people” and “one nation under God.”
Sen. John CornynJohn CornynLive coverage: Senate intel holds first public Russia hearing Texas Dem targets Sen. Ted Cruz in 2018 Senate Dems: Border wall is a budget 'poison pill' MORE (R-Texas), the No. 2-ranked Republican in the upper chamber, said that he didn’t want to criticize Obama on Inauguration Day.
“He appealed to our better angels,” Cornyn said. “Any differences we have on policy, the president gets a pass on his inauguration.”
Former GOP presidential candidate and House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) praised not only the speech but also the president’s move to have congressional leaders at the White House for coffee before the inauguration ceremonies Monday morning.
“If he follows through with this kind of effort to find ways to work together, we might be very surprised,” Gingrich said. “I didn’t think it was very liberal. I mean, there were one or two sentences obviously conservatives would reject. But 95 percent of the speech, I thought, was classically American, you know, emphasizing hard work and emphasizing self-reliance, emphasizing doing things together.”
Sen. John HoevenJohn HoevenCombating opioid epidemic, repealing ObamaCare will hurt the cause Senate panel considers how to fund Trump’s T infrastructure package A guide to the committees: Senate MORE (R-N.D.) said that the White House would need to reach out to Republicans in Congress if the challenges of the debt and deficit were actually going to get addressed.
“The part I liked is when he emphasized working together — that’s what we need,” Hoeven said. “He’s going to have to reach out to make that happen. It can’t be just him saying this is how he wants it done, he’s got to come meet the Congress and work with us to accomplish those objectives.”
The president’s speech address did not delve into many specifics of the divisive policy issues facing Washington, though he did emphasize climate change and gave nods to immigration and gun reform legislation.
Several Republicans noted that Obama had made little reference in the speech to the issues like the debt ceiling, the budget and taxes that will quickly threaten to erode whatever good will there might still be at the start of the president’s second term.
“I was pleased to see that in general the theme was about working together as one, but I thought where he missed an opportunity was to go beyond those issues where we know the president stands and talk about how to find common ground,” said Sen. Rob PortmanRob PortmanMcCaskill investigating opioid producers Overnight Finance: Senators spar over Wall Street at SEC pick's hearing | New CBO score for ObamaCare bill | Agency signs off on Trump DC hotel lease GOP senators offer bill to require spending cuts with debt-limit hikes MORE (R-Ohio.). “It was as if there was no sense of urgency about what I think are the core issues that we should be addressing as a Congress and as president.”
Following the speech, House Republican Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris RodgersCathy McMorris RodgersLobbying world The Hill's Whip List: 36 GOP no votes on ObamaCare repeal plan The one Trump pick leaving greens hopeful MORE (Wash.) issued a statement calling on the Senate to put the president’s words into action by passing a budget.
“The president’s eloquent words must be matched with deliberate actions to restore the country’s fiscal health,” she said in a statement.
Sen. Orrin HatchOrrin HatchWhat if there’s no 'Nuclear Option' in the Senate? Senate votes to eliminate Obama-era retirement rule Battle over tech patents spills into Supreme Court MORE (Utah), the longest-serving GOP senator, said there were certainly things he differed with in the speech, but that overall he found a positive message. “It was a ‘together’ agenda, as far as I can see,” Hatch said.
He was less certain whether the speech would actually lead to more bipartisanship in the 113th Congress.
“Let me put it this way: I think we’re going to have some very interesting times, some very trying times,” Hatch said.
— Elise Viebeck, Erik Wasson and Alexandra Jaffe contributed to this report.
— Updated at 8:15 p.m.