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Friday, October 28, 2016

In less than 24 hours, President Barack Obama will have a chance to push his agenda forward and set the tone for the next year, when he delivers his 2014 State of the Union address.

Already considered a “lame duck” by some, the president’s approval ratings have dropped from their post-election highs over the past 12 months.

The address will allow the president the opportunity to once again take control of the narrative on major issues like income inequality, education reform, immigration reform, and climate change.

Though the speech will surely highlight Obama’s top priorities, for some it will serve as validation for one of the greatest criticisms people have of the president: That he cannot get anything done, and the proof is that the issues certain to come up in the speech are those that were prevalent in his 2013 State of the Union address.

Others, however, lay the blame for the lack of progress on the president’s agenda at the feet of the “least productive” Congress in recent history.

It is no surprise, then, that the speech will likely feature a vow from President Obama to use executive orders to bypass the gridlocked Congress and push forward key legislation.

“The president views the power of his presidency in two areas: his pen, which is the executive orders, the presidential memorandums, [and] also the phone, where what he can do is he can pick up the phone, bring together American citizens and businesses to commit on key issues,” Dan Pfeiffer, Obama’s senior advisor, said on Sunday’s edition of CNN’s State of the Union.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney more directly hinted that the president would use executive action “where necessary.”

“Where necessary” will most likely include areas concerning job creation and training, unemployment insurance, and the minimum wage. In recent months, the widening gap between the rich and the poor has prompted the president to speak out in support of initiatives meant to boost jobs across the nation, establish a decent living wage, and protect long-term unemployed Americans.

Specifically, the president will probably introduce plans for more infrastructure spending that Democrats argue will boost the economy. Just two weeks ago, the announcement of a $140 million conglomerate of companies and universities – the “Next Generation Power Electronics Institute” — at North Carolina State University provided a glimpse of what is to come. The president said the institute will “develop the next generation of energy-efficient electronic chips and devices,” will serve as a “hub to lift up our communities,” and “spark the technology and research that will create the new industries” and the “good jobs.” In his address, the president is expected to suggest similar proposals that will involve greater spending in areas concerning energy and job stimulus, reflecting his words in North Carolina: “Where I can act, on my own without Congress, I’m going to do so.”

Unemployment benefits and the minimum wage – issues on which Americans seem to side with Democrats, regardless of their own ideology – are sure to come up as well. It will not be the first time the president urges Congress to act on either issue, but the speech could also include a vow from the president to extend the benefits and raise the minimum wage if Congress waits too long or refuses to do either.

According to a letter sent out over the weekend from Pfeiffer to Obama supporters, “when American jobs and livelihoods depend on getting something done, he will not wait for Congress.”

Aside from issues related to the economy, the president will also address education reform – he is expected to suggest an expansion of pre-kindergarten education, an idea that failed to gain traction after being brought up in 2013 –  and climate change, an issue on which he has not been shy about taking executive action.

For 2014, President Obama could introduce – and order – new limits on methane emissions from gas-drilling sites and other locations.

Of course, immigration reform will also be among the issues mentioned in the speech. However, Obama — whom Pfeiffer says will “work with Congress” when he can — will probably steer clear of an executive order warning, considering that Republicans now say they are more open to passing comprehensive immigration reform through a piecemeal approach.

Even so, the idea of the president using executive orders to advance any part of his agenda is enough to upset the GOP. In anticipation of the speech, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) has said that “it sounds vaguely like a threat” and “also has a certain amount of arrogance.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) says the president “has sort of hung out on the left and tried to get what he wants through the bureaucracy as opposed to moving to the political center.”

For President Obama, however, the State of the Union address serves as a subtle warning of what may come if the Republican Party fails to move to the very “political center” McConnell claims Obama has neglected. The question is not whether the GOP will disapprove of the agenda put forward by the president, but whether he will actually move forward on the issues he raises in the address.

AFP Photo/Brendan Smialowski

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  • Bill Boltz

    I certainly hope he does exercise his executive order and bypass the absolutely most heartless assholes our nation has naively seen fit to elect and help truly needy and unemployed Americans.

  • charleo1

    I’m not very excited about the State of the Union this year. For one thing,
    the economy is not likely to collapse. The number of pink slips being handed out by America’s corporations probably won’t be 8 or 9 hundred thousand next month. But, by the time the applause dies down, the billionaires will be several million dollars richer, and several thousand more of the poor, who must be out of their apartments by the first, will have most everything they own either in storage, or in their parent’s basements, or garages. I’ll probably tune in. The President is one of the finest speakers in a generation. I only wish he was speaking about those things, he had to stop speaking about, because they aren’t going to happen. If I had the chance, I would suggest President Obama use a couple of those big sized illustration tablets, like Alan Greyson used to describe the GOP’s healthcare plan. You remember? “Don’t Get Sick!” “Or if You Do, Die Quickly!” One of those. And on one he could list all of the things he has asked Congress to pass, but they’ve failed to do so. Close the gulag at Guantanamo Bay Cuba. Pass a jobs bill, to take the slack out of the job market, and raise the minimum raise, and put some demand back into this pathetically, anemic economy. And demand corporations, who’s profits are soaring, to pay their fair share, so this doesn’t need to be entirely paid for with borrowed money. And go down this list, one at a time. Eliminate subsidies, and close loopholes for companies who’s record breaking profits prove they don’t need them. Immigration reform, reasonable gun control, quit denying the environmental issue of our time, and address climate change. Renegotiate unfair trade policies, and this time, with our own labor force in mind. List campaign finance reform, because we’re losing our democracy, just like we’re losing our middle class, and jobs. Then, on the other easel he could list all the reasons, why practically none of those things that should be done, will not be done. He could start with the Senate. And talk about how the filibuster has allowed that esteemed body to collude, and stop the kind of legislation that would help rebalance some of the inequity between the rich, and everyone else. The
    one that killed the public option he talked about in his first campaign. The healthcare plan Americans voted for, but were denied by members of the Democratically controlled Senate. Who decided protecting the insurance cos. for profit hospitals, and big pharma were more important than universal healthcare. He should point out very clearly,that while he is President, he strongly believes Presidents should be held to account.
    However, the American public itself, is not without blame, in creating the dysfunctional government they now view with such disdain. That the House, they saw fit to put in obstructionist’s hands, are not only able to crush any of his proposals. They have done so since the voters put them in in charge. This is where the President should have to wait for several minutes for the applause to die down. But won’t need to, because of how screwed up the politics are. He really should point out, since the voters, as is their Right, elected several dozen extremists, they have shut down the government, and called into question the full faith, and credit of the U.S. Government. Intentionally conspired to slow the recovery for political advantage. And all this, between long intervals, where they did absolutely nothing at all. Except to make appearances on cable news programs, to remind Americans how deep in debt we are. Or, how bad the economy is. And, that they desired an additional tax cut for corps. and the richest of the rich so much, they were, and remain willing to do whatever it takes, or hurt whoever it might hurt, destroy whatever they must, destroy to accomplish this single minded objective. Then, President Obama should remind Americans, after he’s mentioned the
    gerrymandering, that there is another election coming up before the next State of the Union. And if voters liked what they’ve seen so far out of the GOP led House. They’ll have an opportunity to encourage more of that kind of governance, by handing the Senate over to Republicans this fall. In which case I would suggest he tell the American people that he’ll remain as their President, and be on stand by to address emergencies and what not. And he’ll still veto bills that let the poor starve, or the elderly, and disabled, be kicked out of nursing homes. But, the Country by now, knows where he stands. And if they agree, they’ll need to vote
    accordingly. Meanwhile, Congress has his Administration’s requests
    for all the things I have listed on this easel. And the other one to my left.
    Well, that’s pretty much up to you, the voters. Call, and write your
    Congress, and let them know how you feel. Meanwhile, he should tell
    them, I’ll be working on my golf game, and enjoying the company of friends, and family until further notice. Oh, and of course, God Bless the United States of America! That, I would love to watch!

    • Sand_Cat

      God, you must actually think the speech has some relationship to reality!
      Seriously, excellent post, but – as you obviously realize – one not likely to be heeded.

      • charleo1

        Exactly! To paraphrase Chevy Chase. That’s why he’s
        the President, and I’m not. A circumstance I consider
        a good thing.

  • idamag

    It has been a tradition for the President of the United States to address the nation. This is the first congress that felt the necessity to rebut the “State of the Union Address.” It makes them look like a bunch of ill educated yahbuts.

  • If you want to know what’s coming in this speech, look to the past, to Ike.

    • daniel bostdorf

      Obama is certainly not condemned to repeat the past….The GOP obstruc all his policies is what will be repeated…and that is the lesson..

      This was an ad for your blog…

  • daniel bostdorf

    What to expect from Obama?

    “…the State of the Union address serves as a subtle warning of what may come if the Republican Party fails to move to the very “political center”….”

    Obama will emphasize jobs, a real war on poverty, immigra

    tion reform, a LIVEABLE minimum wage, making our economy a peace based economy by getting rid of 2 wars…

    He also has to admonsih those in the GOP that feel it is OK to obstruct the peoples busienss with highly exetreme partisan politics of the extreme right thinking in the GOP…

    How about your thoughts on your expectations, not political theories…and off topic stuff???

  • daniel bostdorf

    Ok—here is NPR’s take on this:

    Here are five things to expect from the president in his fifth State of the Union speech:

    Income inequality — Obama has made the populist issue of the ever-growing income gap between the superrich and everyone else the overarching theme of his second term. So this message will get major minutes Tuesday — especially since Democrats see it as helpful to their goal of keeping the Senate.

    Democrats have pushed for two congressional actions they say would help struggling Americans in the near term — increasing the minimum wage and further extending long-term jobless benefits. Republicans have resisted both policies. Expect the president to argue that Congress needs to move forward on both and soon. Meanwhile, the president is likely to talk about the actions he can take on his own, like his recently announced Promise Zones initiative to ease some federal rules to encourage job creation in low-income communities.

    Congress-tested themes — Michael Waldman, who directed former President Clinton’s speechwriting shop, expects that Obama’s speech will have the same road-tested quality SOTUs typically have. Presidents who hope to get anything done with Congress try to avoid surprises.

    “A State of the Union speech, whether something goes in the speech or not, is not just about what sounds good to the audience, but political choices like, ‘If we do that, it might make it harder to pass what we want,’ ” said Waldman, who’s now president of the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University. “It’s a negotiation with Congress often about what goes in the speech. Clinton used to talk with [Speaker Newt] Gingrich all the time about what would be in the speech.”

    Immigration — This will provide a chance for the president to talk up the bipartisan possibilities that 2014 could bring. House Speaker John Boehner has raised the idea of a Republican approach to overhauling the nation’s immigration laws instead of the comprehensive bill that passed the Senate and which Obama supports. Despite those differences, with both Democrats and many Republicans eager to do something on immigration this year, this could be one of the rare moments where we see applause on both sides of the aisle.

    But expect the president to proceed with care, says Waldman, who assumes the president really wants a new immigration law passed this year. The president has to “raise the temperature” enough to show he’s willing to spend whatever political capital he has left on getting it done — and enough so that if it doesn’t happen, blame can be more easily affixed on Republicans. Yet he can’t raise the heat so high as to drive away too many of the House Republicans who will be needed for passage. Obama recently changed his White House team on Capitol Hill in order to improve his chances of threading the needle.

    Affordable Care Act — In past SOTU speeches, the president hasn’t mentioned the “Affordable Care Act” by name. But with the worst of the fiasco of the federal website rollout behind him and the need to sign up as many young “invincibles” as possible for the economics underlying the law to work, Obama can be expected to make a pitch to those who haven’t signed up for coverage: Do it soon.

    Afghanistan and Iran — Foreign policy and national security typically get much less time than domestic affairs in the SOTU. But that doesn’t diminish the importance of what the president will say on those issues. U.S. troops will end the nation’s 13-year military odyssey in Afghanistan this year, something Obama will no doubt remind his audience of. He’ll note that he’s the president who ended two wars — the other in Iraq — that he inherited.

    Iran is trickier, though. The president wants Congress to avoid imposing new sanctions that could throttle current negotiations. It’s another issue on which he will need to tread carefully.

  • Robert Roberto

    He is going to eliminate food stamps once and for all.

    • daniel bostdorf

      . . . .

  • Robert Roberto

    Ladies and Gentleman I am about to lie to you one more time.

    • daniel bostdorf

      . ..