President Obama Lays Out Agenda
Riding the wave of his re-election, President Barack Obama hit upon themes of the economy, energy, climate change and gun control in his State of the Union address delivered to a joint session of Congress.
Obama declared in the speech that the state of the union is stronger and ticked off the reasons he believes that to be the case. He laid out what former political advisor David Gergen tweeted to be a "very ambitious agenda, using (the) federal government to address problem after problem."
"After a decade of grinding war, our brave men and women in uniform are coming home. After years of grueling recession, our businesses have created over six million new jobs. We buy more American cars than we have in five years, and less foreign oil than we have in 20. Our housing market is healing, our stock market is rebounding, and consumers, patients and homeowners enjoy stronger protections than ever before," declared Obama to cheers which interrupted his speech 78 times according to CNN's count.
Obama said that 34,000 American troops in Afghanistan will come home. "And by the end of next year, our war in Afghanistan will be over.," declared Obama.
DEALING WITH THE NEXT DEFICIT BATTLE
He appealed to both sides of the aisle to come up with solutions to the deficit and the looming March 1 deadline that would see a trillion dollars worth of mandated cuts go into effect. Obama encouraged compromise in coming up with a combination of tax reforms and entitlement reform to solve the federal deficit. "The politics will be hard for both sides. None of us will get 100 percent of what we want. But the alternative will cost us jobs, hurt our economy, and visit hardship on millions of hardworking Americans."
Obama addressed the issue of jobs and asked Congress to pass the remainder of his American Jobs Act he says will create 1 million new jobs and not increase the deficit. "Our first priority is making America a magnet for new jobs and manufacturing," said Obama, who said that America has added 500,000 manufacturing jobs in the past 3 years.
The president proposed the creation of more manufacturing hubs "where businesses will partner with the Departments of Defense and Energy to turn regions left behind by globalization into global centers of high-tech jobs. And I ask this Congress to help create a network of 15 of these hubs and guarantee that the next revolution in manufacturing is Made in America."
INCREASE IN THE MINIMUM WAGE
Obama invoked his Republican opponent in the election in proposing a minimum wage increase to $9 an hour. "So here's an idea that Gov. Romney and I actually agreed on last year: let's tie the minimum wage to the cost of living, so that it finally becomes a wage you can live on."
Obama believes that increasing the minimum wage is a win-win for everyone. "It could mean the difference between groceries or the food bank; rent or eviction; scraping by or finally getting ahead. For businesses across the country, it would mean customers with more money in their pockets," said Obama.
Obama proposed a program called "Fix-It-First" that would help fix America's aging infrastructure which would utilize a program to attract private capital so the cost is not solely shouldered by taxpayers. "Let's prove that there is no better place to do business than the United States of America. And let's start right away," said Obama.
CLIMATE CHANGE & ENERGY
Citing Superstorm Sandy and drought, President Obama took up the mantle of climate change and threatened to use executive orders to make progress on the issue. If Congress cannot, "We can choose to believe that Superstorm Sandy, and the most severe drought in decades, and the worst wildfires some states have ever seen were all just a freak coincidence. Or we can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment of science - and act before it's too late," declared Obama.
The president said if Congress cannot agree on actions on climate change, "I will direct my cabinet to come up with executive actions we can take, now and in the future, to reduce pollution, prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change, and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy."
Obama also proposed moving away from oil & gas as America's primary sources of energy. He proposed "using some of our oil and gas revenues to fund an Energy Security Trust that will drive new research and technology to shift our cars and trucks off oil for good. If a nonpartisan coalition of CEOs and retired generals and admirals can get behind this idea, then so can we."
"THEY DESERVE A VOTE"
The president ended the speech on a topic that has come to the forefront of his administrative goals. He used the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut and the shooting death of Hadiya Pendleton, a 15-year-old Chicago girl who performed at his inauguration, to ask Congress to at least consider his gun control measures.
"Each of these proposals deserves a vote in Congress. If you want to vote no, that's your choice. But these proposals deserve a vote. Because in the two months since Newtown, more than a thousand birthdays, graduations and anniversaries have been stolen from our lives by a bullet from a gun," said Obama.
To cheers from Congress, Obama ticked off recent shootings to bring his point home his point.
"Hadiya's parents, Nate and Cleo, are in this chamber tonight, along with more than two dozen Americans whose lives have been torn apart by gun violence. They deserve a vote. Gabby Giffords deserves a vote. The families of Newtown deserve a vote. The families of Aurora deserve a vote. The families of Oak Creek, and Tucson, and Blacksburg, and the countless other communities ripped open by gun violence - they deserve a simple vote."