With the March 1 sequestration cuts on the horizon, President Obama's address to the 113th Congress and the nation tonight is likely to be focused around economic issues plaguing the middle class. Through a mixture of strengthened resolve after an electoral landslide in 2012 and intense ongoing partisan battles regarding the bold agenda outlined in his inauguration speech, President Obama's speech tonight will help further solidify his domestic policy priorities in a way he had avoided in his first term. Here's what to watch for tonight:
1. Increased Revenue vs. Spending Cuts:
Photo Credit: Chuck Kennedy
President Obama will have to address the ongoing intense partisan animus regarding budgetary concerns, and his post-speech spin room may try to paint the Republicans as unwilling to negotiate to save the jobs of thousands of federal workers. The fiscal cliff battle between Obama and the House Republicans at the end of 2012 has left the Republicans reeling, and they have sworn to strike down all other attempts at increasing revenue. President Obama has asked Congress for more time to develop a balanced plan of spending cuts and increased revenue through closed tax loopholes – such as those to owners of private jets or subsidies to oil companies. However, Republicans are going to come back fighting a lot harder against this round of negotiations.
Photo Credit: Daniel Schwen
The slow recovery of the U.S. economy and jobs creation is going to be this White House's priority, and President Obama will present a wide swath of proposals aimed at helping the middle class. These measures will include a new push for infrastructure projects aimed at reviving construction, similar to the ones that marked President Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal. In an environment where Republicans are prepared to strike down anything proposed by President Obama, these infrastructure projects will have an unnaturally tough time passing through Congress. A former Obama press secretary says "There are a surprising number of Republicans who seem to think that elections don’t matter, who are ready to block widely popular agenda items that the American people voted for in November."
3. Entitlement Programs:
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As the sequestration battle continues, Republicans expect President Obama to ensure spending cuts, especially through reductions to many entitlement programs like Medicare. President Obama addressed this point in his inauguration speech, saying entitlements were not a drain on society but rather assistance that pushes all members of society towards their American dream. The White House is preemptively pushing back, saying yesterday that raising the Medicare age is out of the question.
4. Manufacturing and Clean Energy:
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President Obama is likely to re-emphasize his campaign pledge of creating 1 million manufacturing jobs in the U.S., providing government backing to double U.S. exports, and start investing in 'advanced' manufacturing techniques. This last point harkens back to clean energy priorities during his first term that were relentlessly attacked by Republicans and oil companies alike during the 2012 campaign.
Image Credit: Defend the Dream
Following up on his pledge to equip all Americans for their American dreams, President Obama will emphasize access to early childhood education as a legislative priority for his second term. He will back up this pledge by possibly asking for universal pre-school on Thursday, when he travels to the College Heights Early Childhood Learning Center in Atlanta.
Other areas he is likely to touch upon are the ongoing debates over gun control and immigration which have taken center stage in recent weeks. However the focus will remain on economic policy initiatives and the revival of the American middle class.