WASHINGTON – President Obama, fresh from a five-state tour following his State of the Union address, is calling for government reforms to ease gridlock and bar members of Congress from profiting from their position.
In his radio and Internet address Saturday, Obama said many people he encountered during his trip 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.
Without mentioning him by name, the president noted that Utah Sen. Mike Lee, a Republican, said he would hold up nominations because he opposed the recess appointment of Richard Cordray to lead a new consumer protection agency, a move that many Republicans have called 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 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 your feel the failure of his leadership every single day of the week."
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 towards a new and prosperous American century."