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.

Are you viewing this story on our mobile or tablet app? Click here to read this story on our full site to see our interactive items and tweets.

  • Discuss
  • Print

Related Stories

Comments » 15

Konfuzius writes:

"Information" State of the Union he would provide. And recommend "measures" which he considered necessary. At least, that have been placed upon the President by the Constitution America's founding fathers.
But when GREAT President Barack Obama performed more than two centuries later, this Tuesday evening before the two Houses of Parliament and well 50 million Americans live switched in, as he has more in his mind.

He is tired of the YES butter GOP congress members with their right wing fanatics out of control. He is ready to govern. Ready to do. And that is good for America.

GREAT President Barack Obama made it crystal clear:

"I offer tonight a series of concrete and practical measures to accelerate economic growth, strengthen the middle class and create new opportunities for advancement Some proposals require parliamentary action -., And I am open to working with all of you - but America is not stand still and I do not. wherever and whenever possible, I will therefore take the necessary steps without your legislation."

That is not a State of the Union speech - it is a "declaration of war" to congress. Maybe just to the GOP ruined, target-less and without any political potency. Second political class in America. Maybe third.

GREAT President Barack Obama is back as fighter for the future of America. For a modern America.
Nothing else. Finally he will win.
The good force is with him.
I wish him power and luck.

Konfuzius writes:

in response to Fegelein:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I can not believe that just one American give something about the opinion of somebody who decided to blog under the name of SS General Otto Hermann Fegelein and put Otto Hermann as his identity on this blog.
On top he committed under his previous blogger name Genius that he is a Hitler fan.

Sparky100 writes:

Fegelein, when will you realize O'Bummer and Klaus have no use for real facts, they just keep drinking the Kool-Aid. Watch Klaus will blame all these items on Bush.

1.The Number Of Americans That Have Joined The Food Stamp Program Since

Obama Took Office: 19.4 Million.

2.The Number Of People Unemployed At The End Of Obama’s Fifth Year As
President: 10.4 Million.

3.The Number Of People Working Part-Time That Would Like To Work Full-Time: 7.8 Million.

4.The Number Of People That Have Entered Poverty Since 2008: 6.7 Million.

5.Americans Who Received Cancellation Notices For Their Health Plans

Due To ObamaCare After Obama Promised They Could Keep Their Plans In His 2010 State Of The Union Address: 5 Million.

6.The Number Of Americans Struggling With Long-Term Unemployment Of 27 Weeks Or Over: 3.9 Million.

7.The Increase In Americans Struggling With Long-Term Unemployment Since Obama Became President: 1.2 Million.

8.Construction Jobs (aka “Shovel-Ready Jobs”) Lost Since Obama Took Office: 721,000.
9.Manufacturing Jobs Lost Since Obama Took Office: 528,000.
10.The Number Of People That Left The Labor Force In December: 347,000.
11.The Debt Per Capita For Americans At The End Of 2013: $54,688.
12.Average Student Debt For A College Graduate: $29,400
13.The Increase In Debt Per Capita For Americans Since Obama Took Office: $19,661

14.The Decline In Median House Hold Income Since Obama Became President: $3,827.

15.Increase In Family Health Care Premiums Under Obama, Despite His Claim

That ObamaCare Would Reduce Premiums During His 2010 State Of The Union

Address (Subsidies Being Irrelevant): $3,671.

16. The Last Time The Labor Force Participation Rate Was At Its Current level: 1978.

17.Increase In The Average Price Per Gallon Of Gas Since Obama Took Office: 79%.

18.The Percent Of Unemployed That Are 18-34 Year Olds: 46%.

19.Average Number Of Weeks Someone Will Be Unemployed: 37.

20.Poverty Rate In 2012 – An Increase From 13.2 Percent The Year Before

Obama Became President: 15%.

21.The Number Of Times Obama Has Pivoted To The Economy: 14.

22.The Number of New Ideas Expected From Obama’s 2014 State Of The Union Address: 0.

Just drink up.

Konfuzius writes:

Two right-wing fascists GOP member share their opinions. That is democracy. In other countries they go in jail.
America is great!

1Paradiselost writes:

Interesting list, However to be creditable, please disclose the source of your facts!

Ruger writes:

Again we see pathetic name-calling from liberals on this site, the trademark of the left. Understanding simple facts seem so hard for them. We have laws that are being selectively enforced. If someone with an "R' beside their name did these things, they would be outraged...

http://washingtonexaminer.com/attorne...

“President Obama has not only failed to uphold several of our nation’s laws, he has vowed to continue to do so in order to enact his unpopular agenda,” DeSantis said in a the press release. “The president assured the public that his administration would be the most transparent in history, and while the president has fallen woefully short on this promise, my bill will be a step in the right direction. The American people deserve to know exactly which laws the Obama administration is refusing to enforce and why.”

The bill is called the Faithful Execution of the Law Act, an allusion to Article II, Section 3 of the Constitution, which obligates the president to “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.”

Ruger writes:

in response to 1Paradiselost:

Interesting list, However to be creditable, please disclose the source of your facts!

Has been posted before, did you miss this?

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

There are 3 unemployed people for every job opening

http://www.thenewamerican.com/economy...

Welfare Hits Record Levels After 50 Years of War on Poverty

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2014-01...

People Not In Labor Force Soar To Record 91.8 Million; Participation Rate Plunges To 1978 Levels

1Paradiselost writes:

Ruger.. Thanks for your facts! and where you found them.. your very credible.

The question is what the source for the facts posted above. As anyone can tell it was a cut and paste job. Shouldn't the person or group who took the time to do the fact checks be credited?

AS the saying goes... You are entitled to your own opinion, but you are not entitled to your own facts.

Tom_Massie writes:

1Paradise,

Honestly now, what are the facts about the Obama's? A tremendous amount of money has been spent on hiding their educational and other records from the public. Don't you think that this is something we should all know about?

1Paradiselost writes:

Tom .... I think all facts are important, even about someones educational qualifications.

In the above post I see 22 reasons why Obama is a terrible president. It's not reasonable to ask who compiled the list, is it?

Don't you agree if more Germans questioned their press during the 1930's, Maybe the war during the 1940's need not be fought?

MIOCENE1 writes:

(to do) "whenever and wherever" necessary to narrow economic disparities between America's rich and poor"

Why don't some of you GOOD CHRISTIANS let the teachings of Jesus Christ settle the matter.

Check out what Christ said about disparities between the rich and the poor:

"Sell everything you have and give it to the poor" Matthew: (chap 19-21);
-and from The teachings of the 12 Apostles: 4:8. "thou shall make thy brother partake in all things, and shall not say that anything is thy own".

-And Jesus answered, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." (matthew 19-21)

Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." (matthew 19-24)

So if you are a Christian, and we live in a Christian country as so many claim; then you had better support Obama; because Obama is actually doing the work of CHRIST!

For in the words of Christ:
"woe to you hypocrites; for outwardly you appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy" (Matthew 23:27)

Better watch out if you‘re hoping to go to heaven. For Jesus hates hypocrites more then he hates Atheists.

MIOCENE (PAREIDOLIA)

1Paradiselost writes:

in response to MIOCENE1:

(to do) "whenever and wherever" necessary to narrow economic disparities between America's rich and poor"

Why don't some of you GOOD CHRISTIANS let the teachings of Jesus Christ settle the matter.

Check out what Christ said about disparities between the rich and the poor:

"Sell everything you have and give it to the poor" Matthew: (chap 19-21);
-and from The teachings of the 12 Apostles: 4:8. "thou shall make thy brother partake in all things, and shall not say that anything is thy own".

-And Jesus answered, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." (matthew 19-21)

Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." (matthew 19-24)

So if you are a Christian, and we live in a Christian country as so many claim; then you had better support Obama; because Obama is actually doing the work of CHRIST!

For in the words of Christ:
"woe to you hypocrites; for outwardly you appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy" (Matthew 23:27)

Better watch out if you‘re hoping to go to heaven. For Jesus hates hypocrites more then he hates Atheists.

MIOCENE (PAREIDOLIA)

These are your neighbors your talking about.

Are you saying people who live here are hypocrites, selfish, greedy, stingy, self serving misers?

Oh, Did forget bigots?

MIOCENE1 writes:

in response to Sparky100:

Fegelein, when will you realize O'Bummer and Klaus have no use for real facts, they just keep drinking the Kool-Aid. Watch Klaus will blame all these items on Bush.

1.The Number Of Americans That Have Joined The Food Stamp Program Since

Obama Took Office: 19.4 Million.

2.The Number Of People Unemployed At The End Of Obama’s Fifth Year As
President: 10.4 Million.

3.The Number Of People Working Part-Time That Would Like To Work Full-Time: 7.8 Million.

4.The Number Of People That Have Entered Poverty Since 2008: 6.7 Million.

5.Americans Who Received Cancellation Notices For Their Health Plans

Due To ObamaCare After Obama Promised They Could Keep Their Plans In His 2010 State Of The Union Address: 5 Million.

6.The Number Of Americans Struggling With Long-Term Unemployment Of 27 Weeks Or Over: 3.9 Million.

7.The Increase In Americans Struggling With Long-Term Unemployment Since Obama Became President: 1.2 Million.

8.Construction Jobs (aka “Shovel-Ready Jobs”) Lost Since Obama Took Office: 721,000.
9.Manufacturing Jobs Lost Since Obama Took Office: 528,000.
10.The Number Of People That Left The Labor Force In December: 347,000.
11.The Debt Per Capita For Americans At The End Of 2013: $54,688.
12.Average Student Debt For A College Graduate: $29,400
13.The Increase In Debt Per Capita For Americans Since Obama Took Office: $19,661

14.The Decline In Median House Hold Income Since Obama Became President: $3,827.

15.Increase In Family Health Care Premiums Under Obama, Despite His Claim

That ObamaCare Would Reduce Premiums During His 2010 State Of The Union

Address (Subsidies Being Irrelevant): $3,671.

16. The Last Time The Labor Force Participation Rate Was At Its Current level: 1978.

17.Increase In The Average Price Per Gallon Of Gas Since Obama Took Office: 79%.

18.The Percent Of Unemployed That Are 18-34 Year Olds: 46%.

19.Average Number Of Weeks Someone Will Be Unemployed: 37.

20.Poverty Rate In 2012 – An Increase From 13.2 Percent The Year Before

Obama Became President: 15%.

21.The Number Of Times Obama Has Pivoted To The Economy: 14.

22.The Number of New Ideas Expected From Obama’s 2014 State Of The Union Address: 0.

Just drink up.

Republicans could have prevented most of this if they started planning 20 years ago.

Unfortunately we already made the choice for a a welfare America when we allowed millions of poor to enter our country from South of the border over the last 20 years.

These mostly dependent people tend to have large numbers of children; born to families ALREADY on Medicaid; leading to millions more dependent upon the Federal Government.

Added to this is the Catholic Churchs' condemnation of birth control in the immigrant Catholic Community; and the GOP's war on Planned Parenthood; which supplies contraceptives to the poor.

Remember what the conservative priorities on Fox News were during the Clinton Administration?
Anti abortion, creationism, prayer, god, planned parenthood, marriage amendments, family values and stem cell research.

As a result of these PRIORITIES, the seeds of Socialism were being laid long ago.

This is why your money is going to pay for the medical, food, education, and housing of millions in a socialist state.

What were YOUR concerns 15 years ago SPARKY?
Sex in the Oval Office?
Fine! Now live with the socialism you let creep into America as a result of you having your head buried in the ostrich hole of morality.

It's too late.
Fox News and the GOP, who should have been "watching out for us" way before Obama came on the scene let us down; by trading in its traditional role of fiscal responsibility and prudent foreign policy; for social and religious conservatism.

Conservatives got EXACTLY what was coming to them.

MIOCENE (PAREIDOLIA)

Ruger writes:

in response to Fegelein:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I believe this is the fourth MSNBC employee fired for hateful comments in the last couple of months, we have come to expect this behavior from left wing news sources. Sad.

Ruger writes:

in response to Fegelein:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Nice link with many sources, some are from left leaning news sources. As I stated earlier in this thread, they still will not accept personal responsibility for the failures of liberal policies. Expect more name calling and denial of reality in the near future...

Share your thoughts

Comments are the sole responsibility of the person posting them. You agree not to post comments that are off topic, defamatory, obscene, abusive, threatening or an invasion of privacy. Violators may be banned. Click here for our full user agreement.

Comments can be shared on Facebook and Yahoo!. Add both options by connecting your profiles.

Features