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

CHARLES DHARAPAK/ASSOCIATED PRESS
President Obama gives his State of the Union address on Capitol Hill.
Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014 11:55 PM
Last updated Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014 12:25 AM
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WASHINGTON — Seeking to energize his sluggish second term, President 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.

First lady Michelle Obama joins the crowd in applauding Army Ranger Sgt. 1st Class Cory Remsburg, who was acknowledged during President Obama's State of the Union address.  J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE/ASSOCIATED PRESS
J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE/ASSOCIATED PRESS
First lady Michelle Obama joins the crowd in applauding Army Ranger Sgt. 1st Class Cory Remsburg, who was acknowledged during President 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 hourlong 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 2104 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.

Obama’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.

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dickworth1
954
Points
dickworth1 01/29/14 - 04:38 am
3
3
socialist obama
Unpublished

3 more years and counting and then the socialist can move to be gone.

myfather15
56916
Points
myfather15 01/29/14 - 06:01 am
3
4
Gone? Not, without a fight!!

He has promised to flex his Presidential muscle and he is going to make good on this promise!! In the next three years, we are going to see the RADICAL in Obama, come out in full view!! Yes, he is a radical left wing activist!! He has been in check, but now there is nothing to lose!! The things we've seen him do so far, are nothing compared to what's coming!!

People just don't realize how committed they are to achieving their radical progressive dream!! The RADICAL left of this Country are terrorists!! I'm not talking about the average joe liberal out here; most of them are just deceived by the left leadership and their false compassion!! I'm talking about the GEORGE SOROS, William Ayers, Bernadine Dorhn, Frances Fox Piven, Saul Alinsky, Warh Churchill, Nancy Pelosi, Van Jones type liberals!! These people are indeed radicals!! Many have actually CALLED for violence. They will NOT be satified with going back in any way shape or form!! When Joe Biden was saying the other day "We will not go back!!" He was NOT just referring to the ACA!! They are working to establish control of our system of government!! They DO NOT respect the Constitution and have admitted it's an "outdated" document!! Read the Cloward and Piven strategy and "Rules for Radicals".

I just spoke with Marine I served with in the 90's, who is now a Sergeant Major!! He is an outspoken conservative and often puts conservative comments on facebook, twitter and other social networks. Of course he never bashes the President, because that WOULD be inappropriate for a military leader; but he none the less makes many conservative statements. He has spent 26 years in the Marines and has served honorably!! He was one of the finest, most motivated Marines I ever served under; scored perfect scores on all his PT tests. He was one of the fastest Marines every to obtain the rank of Sergeant Major!!

He told me they are forcing him out; making him retire when he does NOT want too!! He told me they only thing they would tell him is basically that his time is over!! He also told me this is happening to a LOT of conservative minded leaders in the military, including many commissioned officers!!

The Soros's and Piven's are in their 80's and many of the radicals are getting older!! They deeply desire to see their dreams realized in THEIR lifetime!! They've struggle so hard for it!! They now have the most liberal member of the Senate as their President!! But he can't get reelected!! They will not go down without a fight!!

RunningMan
346
Points
RunningMan 01/29/14 - 06:34 am
3
6
More of the Same

The marines cannot force anyone out of the military for their views. Complete nonsense. Just like they cannot force you out because you are gay. Please folks get real. If that is the case, get out and sue because of breach of contract. Thanks to you all I am convinced the President is doing a great job, particular given the opposition. Wow, I needed this stuff for a laugh this morning. Now its time to go to work and enjoy the snow for a little while. Wow!!!

myfather15
56916
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myfather15 01/29/14 - 06:53 am
4
3
Runningman

Sleep on!! When will you learn the government can do whatever they WANT to do!! All they have to do is find some OTHER reason to get rid of you!! Of course their not going to tell you "You can't stay in because of your political views". Do you really believe they are THAT STUPID??You MIGHT want to read the other article about SPYING!! Why are they going through regular citizens social media accounts, emails, apps, and even text messages?? Please tell me!! To make us Safe? THAT is the biggest laugh of the day!!

But, I suppose you're one of these that don't believe Snowden, huh? Nothing he says has any truth to it, but EVERYTHING Obama says is true!! That sound about right?

Believe what you want to believe, that's the way this Country works!! But it's also the REASON the government gets away with so much!! I'm not blindly committed to ANY political party or any human being!! I just see the writing on the wall!! I'm not so blind I can't see what they're doing!! I see that they are following radical left wing stategy to a TEE!!! Have you read the Cloward&Piven strategy for bringing down the United States? Have you read "Rules for Radicals"? If you have, can you honestly tell me they aren't following it, perfectly? For Petes Sake People!! They have written books about it, out in the open!! Then they follow it to a tee; and people will still say "That's ridiculous, nothing is going to happen." Absolutely astonishing!! That's like me telling you "I'm going to punch you in the face." Then I punch you in the face and you're standing there with your nose bleeding saying "What happened?" Really?

It's because of people with this attitude, they continue to get worse!! I understand that Americans do WANT to believe there are radicals to want to completely change this Country!! I completely understand their feelings. We just don't WANT to believe bad things are coming!! But to deny the existence of the radical movement in this Country, is naive at best!! If you study and LEARN about George Soros and still believe that communism isn't working against us, you're completely asleep at the wheel!! But SLEEP ON!! When you wake up, it will be too late!!

RunningMan
346
Points
RunningMan 01/29/14 - 07:29 am
3
6
MyFather

You simply like to write too much to understand the issues. Anyone who thinks that someone can be forced out of the Marines because of their conservative beliefs are indeed dreaming. I have been there and done that, and know that is simply impossible. Preach this nonsense elsewhere, but not here. Your conservative beliefs are clouding you common sense. Take a step back and look at the bigger picture and maybe the light will come on.

Bizkit
35651
Points
Bizkit 01/29/14 - 08:08 am
3
2
I hope he goes crazy acting

I hope he goes crazy acting like a dictator because he will be impeached. My bet the Supreme Court will do as the executive and flex their pens too.

griff6035
4286
Points
griff6035 01/29/14 - 08:30 am
2
2
Supreme Court

We better hope and pray that none of the Conservative Justices Die or Retire in the next three years, or that the Republicans take the US Senate this November.

Bizkit
35651
Points
Bizkit 01/29/14 - 09:29 am
2
2
If they take the Senate I

If they take the Senate I know Obama will have a hissy fit and still try executive fiat and veto-but with Rep controlling both houses they can override his veto.

stuaby
4919
Points
stuaby 01/29/14 - 12:29 pm
2
2
The democrats are just going

The democrats are just going to keep running plays from their playbook.

Raise the minimum wage! People need help out there!
Build roads and bridges!
Let's spend more for ________ research!
Save the planet!
Let's do ______ for the children!
Down with the rich!
Let's give more money to people who ________ .

All while sabotaging the free enterprise system and doing ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to spur economic growth. Thus making more and more people buy into the rhetoric.

myfather15
56916
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myfather15 01/29/14 - 02:32 pm
2
1
Runningman

Again, believe what you want; that's the way it works!! I can only tell you what HE told me!! Did they tell him that's the reason? Of course not!! But HE told me that he felt this WAS the reason!! He even said he caught a LOT of flack for his views, while serving!!

I've been there and done that as well. I served in the Marines under Bill Clinton!! Even at that time, conservative views were not the most welcomed expressions!! I experienced it!! I'm sure it has got worst under this administration!! But once again, noone on here has to believe me or even read my comments; those are your choice!! I put my voice out here and you put yours. We both witenss our beliefs and let the chips fall where they will!! Have a good day.

corgimom
38545
Points
corgimom 01/29/14 - 05:25 pm
1
2
Myfather, there is nothing

Myfather, there is nothing more conservative, as a whole, than the US Military. That has been proven, time and time again.

The biggest makeup of the military are people from small towns, especially the South, and no, they are not liberal. Republicans are pro-military and the majority of military are Republican. They know what party is more supportive of them.

There's a RIF going on, and when that happens, people get put out right and left, and it doesn't matter what their political views are, where or how they express them, and who would believe nonsense like that?

And maybe the problems you had wasn't your views so much as the way you express them, did you ever think of that?

He's entitled to his opinion, but they obviously told him something else that you don't want to post here, because that wouldn't support what you are saying.

Read what Running Man wrote at 7:29 this morning, what he said was absolutely true.

InChristLove
22485
Points
InChristLove 01/29/14 - 05:32 pm
2
1
(corgimom) "Myfather, there

(corgimom) "Myfather, there is nothing more conservative, as a whole, than the US Military. That has been proven, time and time again. "

Corgimom, do you have stats to back this up. In the past I might agree with you but today, I'd say the military is probably split and leans a little to the left . The young men and women joining today are more liberal and with homosexuals being to be open, most of them are on the liberal side.

corgimom
38545
Points
corgimom 01/29/14 - 06:25 pm
1
2
For your information,

For your information, myfather, Bernadine Dohrn wasn't a liberal. And she didn't CALL for violence, she WAS violent.

She was a radical, dangerous, violent criminal terrorist, she went way beyond being liberal.

You have no idea what it was like to live in the 60's, when those crazy nutcases were bombing places. Nowhere was safe, it was domestic terrorism.

The Weather Underground and SDS- home grown terrorists. In no way could you call them liberals, they were anarchists.

owensjef3
5639
Points
owensjef3 01/29/14 - 07:47 pm
2
2
Wow a police officer that
Unpublished

Wow a police officer that thinks like that.

corgimom
38545
Points
corgimom 01/29/14 - 10:02 pm
1
1
I know who he is, I figured

I know who he is, I figured it out a few months ago. He has posted so much personal information on here, it wasn't hard to do. And I'm no computer whiz or Internet hacker, I know very little about the Internet and I just poke around it, but if I can do it, so can anybody else. I worry about him, but he's a grown man and it's his decision as to what to post on here, it's not my business. And if it comes back to haunt him, that's his business too.

InChristLove
22485
Points
InChristLove 01/30/14 - 05:27 am
1
0
Corgimom, you concern is

Corgimom, you concern is over-whelming but thanks. I'm afraid ginger-ale will not correct what ails me. Soda doesn't remedy indignation.

As for asking me about being a perfect Christian, thanks for the compliment but I'm far from perfect and do believe I have stated so many times. You must not be paying attention. I do believe I could introduce you to someone who is perfect though, but according to you, you've already met the One. Just sad that His teachings haven't rubbed off on you.

As for asking Myfather15 about being an excellent Christian, I do believe he has stated several times also that he isn't perfect, but It appears he has done quit a bit of studying of the scripture. By the way, I don't recall the need to gather knowledge about being an excellent Christian. I believe I only stated that you profess to be so, since you're so excellent about telling others how to be. Must be my mistake. Seeing how no one would lie on these blog (in your opinion) and we all take everyone at their word. Why would they lie about what they have achieve? Right?

myfather15
56916
Points
myfather15 01/30/14 - 04:02 pm
1
0
I'm done here

Can't have a discussion with those who already know everything. Continue on.......

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