Obama vows to flex presidential powers in State of the Union speech

In this Feb. 12, 2013, file photo, President Barack Obama gives his State of the Union address during a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington. Struggling to generate second-term momentum, Obama will confront a politically divided Congress with a demand to expand economic opportunity in America, asserting in his State of the Union address Tuesday that he will take action on his own if lawmakers fail to help shrink the income gap between the rich and the poor. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, Pool, File)

In this Feb. 12, 2013, file photo, President Barack Obama gives his State of the Union address during a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington. Struggling to generate second-term momentum, Obama will confront a politically divided Congress with a demand to expand economic opportunity in America, asserting in his State of the Union address Tuesday that he will take action on his own if lawmakers fail to help shrink the income gap between the rich and the poor. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, Pool, File)

Wordle: 2014 Obama State of the Union

— Seeking to energize his sluggish second term, President Barack Obama vowed Tuesday night in his State of the Union address to sidestep Congress "whenever and wherever" necessary to narrow economic disparities between America's rich and poor.

Text of Obama's State of the Union address

He unveiled an array of modest executive actions to increase the minimum wage for federal contract workers and make it easier for millions of low-income people to save for retirement.

"America does not stand still and neither do I," Obama declared in his prime-time address before a joint session of Congress and millions of Americans watching on television.

Draped in presidential grandeur, Obama's hour-long address served as the opening salvo in a midterm election fight for control of Congress that will quickly consume Washington's attention. Democrats, seeking to cast Republicans as uncaring about the middle class, have urged Obama to focus on economic mobility and the gap between the wealthy and poor. His emphasis on executive actions was greeted with shouts of "Do it!" from many members of his party.

Declaring 2014 a "year of action," Obama also sought to convince an increasingly skeptical public that he still wields power in Washington even if he can't crack through the divisions in Congress. Burned by a series of legislative failures in 2013, White House aides say they're now redefining success not by what Obama can jam through Congress but by what actions he can take on his own.

Indeed, Obama's proposals for action by lawmakers were slim and largely focused on old ideas that have gained little traction over the past year. He pressed Congress to revive a stalled immigration overhaul, pass an across-the-board increase in the federal minimum wage and expand access to early childhood education — all ideas that gained little traction after he proposed them last year. The president's one new legislation proposal calls for expanding an income tax credit for workers without children.

Republicans, who saw their own approval ratings fall further in 2013, have also picked up the refrain of income inequality in recent months, though they have cast the widening gap between rich and poor as a symptom of Obama's economic policies.

"Republicans have plans to close the gap, plans that focus on jobs first without more spending, government bailouts and red tape," said Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., in the Republicans' televised response to the president's speech. "We hope the president will join us in a year of real action, by empowering people, not making their lives harder with unprecedented spending, higher taxes, and fewer jobs."

The economy and other domestic issues, including health care, dominated the president's address. He touched only briefly on foreign policy, reiterating his threat to veto any new sanctions Congress might levy on Iran while nuclear negotiations with the Islamic republic are underway and touting the drawdown of American troops from Afghanistan this year.

In an emotional high point, Obama singled out Cory Remsburg, an Army Ranger who was a guest of first lady Michelle Obama. Remsburg, who was nearly killed in Afghanistan during one of his 10 deployments, rose slowly from his seat and was greeted by long and thunderous applause from the president and lawmakers.

Even as Washington increasingly focuses on income inequality, many parts of the economy are gaining strength, with corporate profits soaring and the financial markets hitting record highs. But with millions of Americans still out of work or struggling with stagnant wages, Obama has found himself in the sometimes awkward position of promoting a recovery that feels distant for many.

"The cold, hard fact is that even in the midst of recovery, too many Americans are working more than ever just to get by, let alone get ahead," Obama said. "And too many still aren't working at all."

The president garnered some of his loudest applause — at least from Democrats — when he took on lawmakers who oppose his signature health care law, which floundered in its initial rollout last fall. Obama said that while he doesn't expect to convince Republicans on the merits of the law, "I know that the American people aren't interested in refighting old battles."

The president's speech drew an eclectic mix of visitors to the House chamber. Among those sitting with Mrs. Obama were two survivors of the Boston Marathon bombing, as well as Jason Collins, an openly gay former NBA player. Republican House Speaker John Boehner brought business owners from his home state of Ohio who say Obama's health care overhaul is hurting their companies. Willie Robertson, a star of the television show "Duck Dynasty," also scored a seat in the House gallery, courtesy of the Republicans.

Though Obama sought to emphasize his presidential powers, there are stark limits to what he can do on his own. For example, he unilaterally can raise the minimum hourly wage for new federal contractors from $7.25 to $10.10, as he announced, but he'll need Congress in order to extend that increase to all of America's workers.

The executive order for contractors, which Obama will sign in the coming weeks, is limited in its scope. It will not affect existing federal contracts, only new ones, and then only if other terms of an agreement change.

Republicans quickly panned the executive initiative as ineffective. Said Boehner: "The question is how many people, Mr. President, will this executive action actually help? I suspect the answer is somewhere close to zero."

White House officials countered by saying many more working people would benefit if Congress would go along with Obama's plan to raise the minimum wage across the board.

"Give America a raise," Obama declared.

Among the president's other executive initiatives is a plan to help workers whose employers don't offer retirement savings plans. The program would allow first-time savers to start building up savings in Treasury bonds that eventually could be converted into traditional IRAs. Obama is expected to promote the "starter" accounts during a trip to Pittsburgh on Wednesday.

The president also announced new commitments from companies to consider hiring the long-term unemployed, the creation of four "manufacturing hubs" where universities and businesses would work together to develop and train workers, new incentives to encourage truckers to switch from dirtier fuels to natural gas or other alternatives and a proposed tax credit to promote the adoption of cars that can run on cleaner fuels, such as hydrogen, natural gas or biofuels.

The president's go-it-alone strategy is in many ways an acknowledgment that he has failed to make good on two major promises to the American people: that he would change Washington's hyper-partisanship and that his re-election would break the Republican "fever" and clear the way for congressional action on major initiatives.

Some Republicans have warned that the president's focus on executive orders could backfire by angering GOP leaders who already don't trust the White House.

"This isn't the American way, courts have not supported his past attempts, and he only does damage to the American people's confidence in government when he doesn't work with Congress to pass real reforms," said Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., the chairman of the House Oversight Committee.

Obama isn't abandoning Congress completely. He made a renewed pitch for legislation to overhaul the nation's fractured immigration laws, perhaps his best opportunity for signing significant legislation this year. But the odds remain long, with many Republicans staunchly opposed to Obama's plan for creating a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million people already in the U.S. illegally.

Seeking to give the GOP some room to maneuver, Obama did not specifically call for a citizenship pathway Tuesday, saying only, "Let's get it done. It's time."

Opening a new front with Congress, the president called for an extension of the earned-income tax credit, which helps boost the wages of low-income families through tax refunds. Obama wants it broadened so that it provides more help than it does now to workers without children, a view embraced by some Republicans and conservative economists.

Obama singled out Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, who has proposed replacing the tax credit with a federal wage supplement for workers in certain low-paying jobs. Unlike Obama, however, Republicans have suggested expanding the tax credit as an alternative to increasing the minimum wage.

Pivoting briefly to foreign policy, Obama reaffirmed that the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan will formally conclude at the end of this year. But he said a small contingent of American forces could be left behind if the Afghan government quickly signs a bilateral security agreement, a prospect that looks increasingly uncertain.

The president also warned lawmakers in both parties against passing new economic sanctions against Iran while the U.S. and international partners are holding nuclear negotiations with the Islamic republic. He renewed his commitment to veto sanctions legislation if it passes, arguing that a new round of penalties would upend the sensitive diplomacy.

AP Interactive: President Barack Obama delivered his annual address to Congress, a Washington ritual for a president to outline his vision for the country

___

Associated Press writers Josh Lederman, Jim Kuhnhenn, Nedra Pickler and Henry C. Jackson contributed to this report.

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Comments » 22

WeThePeople2016 writes:

Pre-emptive post--executive orders

Nixon 346
Ford 169
Carter 320
Reagan 381
Bush 41 166
Clinton 364
Bush 43 291
Obama 167

Some here will, quite naturally, be calling Obama a tyrant for utilizing a power used by every single President since Washington.

That is definitely not the case as the facts above prove, and puts into proper perspective.

The Republicans constantly criticize him because things are not improving fast enough.

The Republicans have openly stated their intent to stop anything he wants to do.

Obama will use Executive Orders to try and do what we all should want to see happen---improvement in the lives of Americans.

If the actions are not helpful, Republicans will still have to wait until 2017 to return to doing things their way--as they did from 2001-2009.

If you liked 2006-2008 better than you liked 2009-now, nothing he does will change your mind.

I didn't like 2006-2009 better. I hope what he does is effective.

Voice-of-America writes:

4 Years ago Today...

Obamacare- "Would Preserve the Right of Americans who have Insurance Plans to keep their Doctor and their Plans"-- President Barrack Obama- 2010 State of the Union Address.....

Gee!...What Lies will he tell Tonight??...............

So Funny to see his limp liberal minions on this blog scrambling to cover and make excuses for him!......

Pitoq writes:

in response to Voice-of-America:

4 Years ago Today...

Obamacare- "Would Preserve the Right of Americans who have Insurance Plans to keep their Doctor and their Plans"-- President Barrack Obama- 2010 State of the Union Address.....

Gee!...What Lies will he tell Tonight??...............

So Funny to see his limp liberal minions on this blog scrambling to cover and make excuses for him!......

Get over it. You are what your brain looks like on Fox. Limp Liberals??? I would love to know just how "tough" a conservative you are.

donsense writes:

The greatest fear of the Conservative is equality.

volochine writes:

Once again, the President reaches his hand out to Republicans to work together. To watch Republicans sit on their butts about positive changes....pre-existing conditions....equal pay for women...etc.

Today's republican party is so biased and corrupt, I had to leave.

Never trust today's Republican. They have to lie to get elected.

wentfishn writes:

in response to volochine:

Once again, the President reaches his hand out to Republicans to work together. To watch Republicans sit on their butts about positive changes....pre-existing conditions....equal pay for women...etc.

Today's republican party is so biased and corrupt, I had to leave.

Never trust today's Republican. They have to lie to get elected.

They all lie ! But I guess you didn't know that, sorry to bust your bubble.

renkwiat writes:

in response to WeThePeople2016:

Pre-emptive post--executive orders

Nixon 346
Ford 169
Carter 320
Reagan 381
Bush 41 166
Clinton 364
Bush 43 291
Obama 167

Some here will, quite naturally, be calling Obama a tyrant for utilizing a power used by every single President since Washington.

That is definitely not the case as the facts above prove, and puts into proper perspective.

The Republicans constantly criticize him because things are not improving fast enough.

The Republicans have openly stated their intent to stop anything he wants to do.

Obama will use Executive Orders to try and do what we all should want to see happen---improvement in the lives of Americans.

If the actions are not helpful, Republicans will still have to wait until 2017 to return to doing things their way--as they did from 2001-2009.

If you liked 2006-2008 better than you liked 2009-now, nothing he does will change your mind.

I didn't like 2006-2009 better. I hope what he does is effective.

If you base it simply on numbers, you are correct. The difference between most prior executive orders and President Obama's executive orders centers around substance. Most of the prior orders...and I just perused Bush and Clinton...do not try to circumvent laws passed by the two houses of congress. Most are, fairly, innocuous. However, President Obama seems to use his power of executive order to get around provisions of laws passed by congress. This is an abuse of power, plain and simple.

And, don't give me the "party of No" line. I don't affiliate myself with either party. I am, truly, sick of both of them. However, the true "no" individual here is Harry Reid. The House has sent over 43 bills to amend/update the ACA to make it better and Reid rufuses to even take them to the floor of the Senate. Most likely, they would all fail. However, he is denying the other Senators the right to make that decision for themselves. What is he afraid of? He's afraid that something will pass that the President doesn't like, because the President has been pulling his strings for a long time. And, should something pass that the President doesn't like he doesn't want to veto it and look like the "bad" guy...because he's the "cool" President.

WeThePeople2016 writes:

in response to wentfishn:

They all lie ! But I guess you didn't know that, sorry to bust your bubble.

I can surely agree with that, but the majority here seem to think it is only Obama and incessantly quote the most famous one that we have heard about. But in a search for the truth, not all liars are created equal,and are we to assume that the Romney/Ryan team would have been much different.??

Sometimes we do have to go to PolitiFact to sort things out for us...

"Here’s an interesting thing to ponder. When you have a look at the Politifact rulings on statements made by President Obama & Vice President Biden vs. the statements made by Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, it becomes immediately OBVIOUS who lies the most.

For statements that were ruled to be “True” and “Mostly True”, it’s Obama and Biden at 45.0%, Romney and Ryan at 29.1%....

"When it comes to “False”, “Mostly False” and “Pants on Fire”, it’s Romney and Ryan at 43.9% and Obama and Biden at 28.8%. In fact, Romney and Ryan have over FOUR TIMES AS MANY “Pants of Fire” lies as the President and Vice President. Mitt Romney himself has well over half of the total amount of “Pants of Fire” lies (58.6%) of all the candidates combined!"

And while some lies are actually intended to help improve the lives and opportunities for those who do not have enough, others are purely for political purposes, and are to help those who have planty.

And if you don't trust me to post the actual, factual data, and cannot take the time to do your own research, here is the source...

http://www.eclectablog.com/2012/10/po...

Ignorance-iz-bliss writes:

Why are people still arguing over the president?? He won two elections...Bush and his cronies stole the first election... people moved on !! Nobody fought him and his policies for 8 years because of it....

WeThePeople2016 writes:

I would hope that the President --of either Party--could use his "Bully Pulpit" opportunity at the SOTUA to address the huge problem of absentee fathers, mothers who willingly accept that, and what the society they are creating is doing to the "next generation" that they are raising.

Something like "It is NOT the Government's job to raise your kids for you, financially or in being a role model.

The thought came to mind again watching "People's Court' when Naple's own Judge Judy asked one of the litigants about her THREE children by TWO different father's, none of whom are providing any financial support.

Judge Judy then also made it clear to that Mother that her kids are growing up in the worst type of role model situation imaginable.

Maybe Judge Judy could have been given just 5 minutes as a guest contributor--not those who just sit in the balcony--it would be precedent setting, and sometimes you just need to hear it from a different source--no matter which Party's President is at the podium.

Any non-citizen "couples" or individual-- found to be in this situation should be considered for immediate deportation--

With all the access there is to contraception knowledge and devises, we should be able to erase "baby mama" from the Urban Dictionary

That's my "Liberal" rant of the day.

attaboy writes:

in response to donsense:

The greatest fear of the Conservative is equality.

Greatest liberal fear...running out of someone else's money: enjoy
http://www.youtube.com/embed/RBqjZ0KZ...

Ruskin writes:

FACT CHECK: Obama's planned executive orders would accomplish less than meets the eye.

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2014/...

WeThePeople2016 writes:

in response to Ruskin:

FACT CHECK: Obama's planned executive orders would accomplish less than meets the eye.

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2014/...

Ah--FoxNews--the usual source

But from neutral Politifact, we see their rating of the 5 major issues as being

2 True
1 Mostly True
2 Half True

http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-met...

And in the Official Republican response, we see only ONE of her comments rated....

"More people stopped looking for jobs than found one"....

Half True

Guess nothing else she had to say was even including any facts....

...Surprising they didn't bring up the Lewinsky scandal, a key Fact in their current debate of key issues

Beachbaby writes:

in response to Ruskin:

FACT CHECK: Obama's planned executive orders would accomplish less than meets the eye.

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2014/...

Ah yes, Fixed News, opium for those addicted to right wing rhetoric.

WeThePeople2016 writes:

in response to attaboy:

Greatest liberal fear...running out of someone else's money: enjoy
http://www.youtube.com/embed/RBqjZ0KZ...

This the first generation of critics to refer to government taxes of any kind, at any rate to be stealing "other people's money"--obviously a new talking point popularized by FoxNews

I never realized that my kids were being educated unfairly with "other people's money" when they were in school---How about the members of Congress getting insurance with "other people's money"?? I bet Radel got his. And they even run Arlington Cemetery with that "other people's money".

Of course, those most fond of that term do love the Lottery programs, relying on this regressive "tax on the poor" to fund critical government services.

Ruskin writes:

Just in case you missed the State of the Union address last night.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YgGP6D...

Ruskin writes:

in response to Beachbaby:

Ah yes, Fixed News, opium for those addicted to right wing rhetoric.

I bet you din't even read it. You could be the liberal poster child, B-Baby.

Ruskin writes:

in response to WeThePeople2016:

Ah--FoxNews--the usual source

But from neutral Politifact, we see their rating of the 5 major issues as being

2 True
1 Mostly True
2 Half True

http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-met...

And in the Official Republican response, we see only ONE of her comments rated....

"More people stopped looking for jobs than found one"....

Half True

Guess nothing else she had to say was even including any facts....

...Surprising they didn't bring up the Lewinsky scandal, a key Fact in their current debate of key issues

You, Obama and the rest of the liberals are still whining about Bush 5+ years later. Go figure!

WeThePeople2016 writes:

in response to Ruskin:

You, Obama and the rest of the liberals are still whining about Bush 5+ years later. Go figure!

As I have tried to make clear to you on several occasions, the economic decisions of past President DOES have impact long beyond their actual time of office--and you cannot accept ANY cause and effect reasoning which preceded 1/20/2009--ths type of response by you does NOTHING to further meaningful debate--so please just live alone in your mini scope of what you like to think of as analysis.

Here's a history tidbit for you--the Stock Crash in 1929 and the Great Depression was not JUST Hoover's fault.

Much like today, it was the result of more than a decade of Republican economic thought. Non one has ever blamed Wilson and his 8 years in office, nor Roosevelt's 13 years which followed.

learn to think outside the box

volochine writes:

"Obama and the rest of the liberals are still whining about Bush 5+ years later. Go figure!
..."

Ruskie, we wouldn't be in this hell if not for Bush 43.

When I watched the Republican House Member from Staten Island threaten to throw a NY Channel 1 reporter off the balcony, on camera, was mind-blowing. His exact comment was, "You are not a man. I will break you in half. You are a boy."

Grimm teachings.

Ruskin writes:

Believe whatever you choose, kookla's

http://powderedwigsociety.com/2014/01...

WeThePeople2016 writes:

in response to Ruskin:

Believe whatever you choose, kookla's

http://powderedwigsociety.com/2014/01...

Now your message is conflicted--I would not have suspected that you support a society of cross dressing men,.

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