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Wednesday, September 20, 2017

By Anita Kumar and Lesley Clark, McClatchy Washington Bureau (TNS)

WASHINGTON — As he prepares for his final State of the Union address next week to a seemingly hostile Republican Congress, President Barack Obama has an unusual and surprising reason to be optimistic.

Despite the image of gridlock in Washington, Obama actually had more successes than failures in the goals he pitched in his last State of the Union speech.

A McClatchy analysis shows he partially or fully fulfilled 11 of his 20 major goals for the year. Here’s what he sought, and what he got:

Trade promotion authority “to protect American workers, with strong new trade deals from Asia to Europe.” Partially fulfilled.
Congress granted Obama the “fast-track” trade authority, allowing him to negotiate trade deals without lawmakers getting an opportunity to change the details. But prospects remain dim for winning approval of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a 12-nation deal that would rank as the largest in history.

A “bold new plan” to make tuition free at community college across the country. Unfulfilled.
Obama unveiled his America’s College Promise plan and included the first installment of the 10-year, $60 billion plan in his budget proposal. It was not approved by Congress.

Legislation addressing cyberattacks and identity theft. Fulfilled.
A cybersecurity bill that included White House input and encourages companies to share cyberthreat information with the government was included in the recent $1.1 trillion spending bill that Obama signed into law.

Ensure men and women are paid the same for doing the same work. Unfulfilled.
Obama pushed the Paycheck Fairness Act, but Republicans blocked the bill, saying it would lead to job losses. Republicans introduced the Workplace Advancement Act, which Democrats described as too weak. It did not pass.

Protect a “free and open Internet.” Fulfilled.
Obama called on the Federal Communications Commission to support net neutrality, which would allow for the federal regulation of broadband Internet providers. The FCC voted 3-2 in February to do just that.

Close loopholes that allow the top 1 percent to avoid paying taxes on their accumulated wealth. Unfulfilled.
Obama urged lawmakers to eliminate the single largest capital gains loophole, which he says lets hundreds of billions of dollars escape taxation each year. Congress has not made the change.

International agreement on climate. Fulfilled.
The Obama administration struck a climate change agreement with nearly 200 nations. The coal industry and congressional Republicans, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, are trying to overturn his domestic climate agenda in the courts.

Increase the minimum wage. Mostly unfulfilled.
Obama proposed raising the minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10.10 an hour. Democratic lawmakers introduced various bills that would raise the minimum wage up to $15. None passed. But the White House said Obama’s call helped push 17 states and 31 localities to increase their minimum wages. Some companies have acted on their own.

“Pass a bipartisan infrastructure plan that could create more than 30 times as many jobs per year.” Partially fulfilled.
Obama failed to secure his $478 billion plan, but he was able to claim some progress when he signed a five-year, $305 billion spending bill to fix crumbling roads and bridges, the first federal transportation funding legislation since 2005 to last longer than two years.

“Show the world” the United States is united against the Islamic State by passing a resolution to authorize the use of force against the group in Iraq and Syria. Unfulfilled.
Congress failed to pass a resolution authorizing the deployment of the U.S. military to Iraq and the use of U.S.-led airstrikes, with Republicans criticizing the White House plan as too restrictive on ground troops and Democrats panning it as overly broad. However, House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., recently said he’s instructed lawmakers to begin looking at a possible new war authorization.

Crack down on a controversial practice that allows U.S. companies to relocate abroad to avoid paying federal taxes. Partially fulfilled.
Republicans have resisted, saying it should be addressed in a broader overhaul of corporate taxation. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew did take steps to make it more difficult for U.S. companies to merge with smaller overseas rivals, following up on similar action in 2014.

Make voting easier for Americans. Unfulfilled.
Lawmakers, mostly Democrats, introduced bills to update the landmark Voting Rights Act, which they say was gutted by a 2013 Supreme Court ruling. Republicans opposed the bills. Some states, including Texas and North Carolina, implemented tougher voter requirements that are being challenged in court.

Oppose a sanctions bill that threatened negotiations over his Iran deal. Fulfilled.
Obama won a major victory after months of lobbying when he secured backing for the agreement from enough Senate Democrats to rebuff Republican efforts to derail the deal.

Allow American workers to earn seven days of paid sick leave. Mostly unfulfilled.
Democrats proposed legislation. It did not pass. But the White House said Obama’s call helped push four states and 20 localities to take action. Obama also signed an executive order requiring federal contractors to pay up to seven days of leave each year. Some companies have acted on their own.

Move the United States closer to curing diseases and give Americans access to personalized health information. Fulfilled.
Obama released the Precision Medicine Initiative and included $215 million in his budget proposal to be split between cancer research and building a national, large-scale research participant group of all ages, racial and socioeconomic groups. Congress included the money in the budget.

Close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, a 2008 campaign pledge that has long eluded him. Unfulfilled.
The White House sought to develop a plan to outline how it would shutter the prison, but the defense policy bill that Obama signed bans him from moving detainees to the United States, complicating the administration’s efforts. As 2016 opened, more than 100 captives were still being held at the Navy base, and the administration had yet to deliver its closure plan to Congress.

“Begin the work of ending the embargo” against Cuba. Partially fulfilled.
Long-standing measures restricting U.S. trade with the island nation and preventing most American citizens from traveling there are still in effect despite Obama’s efforts to restore diplomatic ties with Havana. Members of Congress in both chambers, however, have introduced legislation to lift them.

Make quality child care more affordable through a new tax cut of up to $3,000 per child, per year. Unfulfilled.
Obama included an expansion of the Dependent Care Tax Credit in his budget proposal. Democratic lawmakers introduced a bill that would do the same thing. None passed.

Work with Congress to ensure that borrowers paying back student loans can reduce their monthly payments. Partially fulfilled.
Democratic lawmakers introduced bills to reduce debt for loan borrowers, but Republicans rejected them because they rely on raising taxes for the wealthy. Through executive actions, Obama expanded the federal pay-as-you-earn program, allowing borrowers to cap monthly student loan payments at 10 percent of their incomes.

Use declining crime and incarceration rates as a starting point for bipartisan criminal justice reform. Partially fulfilled.
Numerous Republicans support a revamp, and there are House and Senate proposals to do so, though significant differences remain.

(c)2016 McClatchy Washington Bureau. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

File photo: President Barack Obama delivers the State of The Union address on Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015, in the House Chamber of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS)