President Barack Obama is pressing his case for changes in how the Senate does business, hoping to ease the partisan gridlock, and he wants to bar lawmakers from profiting from their service.
In his radio and Internet address Saturday, Obama said many people he met during his five-state tour after his State of the Union address were optimistic but remained unsure "that the right thing will get done in Washington this year, or next year, or the year after that."
"And frankly, when you look at some of the things that go on in this town, who could blame them for being a little cynical?" Obama said.
The president reiterated his calls for government reform made in Tuesday's address, saying he wants the Senate to pass a rule that requires a yes-or-no vote for judicial and public service nominations after 90 days. Many of the nominees, he said, carry bipartisan support but get held up in Congress for political reasons.
Obama noted that "a senator from Utah" said he would hold up nominations because he opposed the recess appointment of the head of the new consumer protection agency and three members of the National Labor Relations Board. Obama put the officials in their post during the Senate's holiday break; many Republicans have called that move unconstitutional. Obama said the American people deserve "better than gridlock and games."
"One senator gumming up the works for the whole country is certainly not what our founding fathers envisioned," the president said.
Obama was referring to Utah GOP. Sen Mike Lee who asserted on Thursday that Obama's "blatant and egregious disregard both for proper constitutional procedures and the Senate's unquestioned role in such appointments, I find myself duty-bound to resist the consideration and approval of additional nominations until the president takes steps to remedy the situation."
On Saturday, Lee issued a statement standing by his decision.
"Sadly, the president has sought to make this a partisan issue; but the Constitution is not partisan," he said. "The Constitution does not allow any president, Republican or Democrat, to circumvent the Senate in making appointments, and I will resist, just as vigorously, members of my own party who would attempt to do the same thing."
In his address, Obama said he also wants Congress to pass legislation to ban insider trading by lawmakers and prohibit lawmakers from owning securities in companies that have business before their committees.
In addition, the president is seeking to prohibit people who "bundle" campaign contributions from other donors for members of Congress from lobbying Congress. Obama urged the public to contact their member of Congress and tell them "that it's time to end the gridlock and start tackling the issues that really matter."
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., delivering the GOP address, said Obama's address to Congress lacked much discussion of the president's achievements "because there isn't much."
"This president didn't talk about his record for one simple reason," Rubio said. "He doesn't want you to know about it. But you do know about it, because you feel the failure of his leadership every single day of your life."
Rubio accused the president of driving up the national debt, failing to reduce high unemployment across the country and offering divisive economic policies.
The Florida senator said there is a growing gap between the rich and the poor but the best way to solve the problem is by embracing the American free enterprise system. Rubio said he hopes 2012 "will be the beginning of our work toward a new and prosperous American century."
Obama address: www.whitehouse.gov
GOP address: http://www.youtube.com/gopweeklyaddress