Politics

January 25

In address, Obama to focus on economic opportunity

The State of the Union offers the president Obama an opportunity to start fresh after a year where his legislative agenda stalled, his signature health care law floundered and his approval rating tumbled.

By Julie Pace
The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

One area where Obama is expected to say he still needs Congress is overhauling the nation’s patchwork immigration laws. The effort gained momentum last year when the Senate passed a landmark bill, but the legislation stalled in the Republican-led House. While passage of a comprehensive immigration law would mark a significant achievement for the president, he’s expected to be largely restrained in his public efforts in order to give GOP lawmakers room to maneuver on an issue that had proven to be politically challenging for the party.

The president is also expected to tout the so-called Obamacare health law, which has rebounded somewhat after a disastrous launch in October. The administration announced Friday that about 3 million people have enrolled in federal- and state-run health insurances exchanges, though the percentage of young, healthy people signing up will likely need to increase by the March 31 deadline in order to keep costs down.

Republicans have their own ideas for what they’d like to see Obama outline Tuesday. Brendan Buck, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, said the GOP wish list includes “expanding trade, approving the Keystone pipeline and promoting education and skills training for those still struggling in this economy.”

The traditional State of the Union response from the president’s opposing party will be delivered this year by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., the highest-ranking Republican woman in the House. The move appears to be in part an effort by Republicans to ratchet up their appeals to women, who have sided with Democrats in large numbers in recent presidential elections.

While Obama is currently balancing several high-profile foreign policy matters, international issues are expected to get only a brief mention in Tuesday’s speech. The president is expected to note that the long war in Afghanistan will formally end later this year, though he’s not expected to announce any decisions on whether to keep some American troops there after 2014.

Obama will also tout progress in nuclear negotiations with Iran, which are scheduled to resume in February, and may press Congress to hold off on a new package of economic sanctions while the talks are in progress. The president has cast the negotiations as the best chance for peacefully revolving the international community’s nuclear dispute with Iran, but even he has said the odds of reaching a comprehensive agreement are only 50-50.

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