President Obama in State of the Union: ‘America Does Not Stand Still’
Declaring 2014 a "year of action" as he unveiled a series of relatively meager executive actions, President Barack Obama vowed in his State of the Union address Tuesday night to sidestep Congress "whenever and wherever" he can in order to push through his agenda.
Obama told lawmakers he's still willing to work with Congress, but will take the necessary steps to reduce the wage gap between rich and poor.
Specifically, the president focused on the need to boost middle class while improving economic mobility.
"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," The Associated Press reported.
In his hour-long address, Obama vowed to flex his political powers in an effort to Obama promised to flex his power to accomplish tasks that gained little traction after they were initially proposed a year ago. The president said he will continue to push for an across-the-board increase in the federal minimum wage and to revival an immigration overhaul that has been stalled.
"When people come here to fulfill their dreams - to study, invent, and contribute to our culture - they make our country a more attractive place for businesses to locate and create jobs for everyone. So let's get immigration reform done this year," Obama said
He also spoke of the need to expand access to early childhood education programs. As for new legislation, the president called for expanding an income tax credit for workers without children.
"What I offer tonight is a set of concrete, practical proposals to speed up growth, strengthen the middle class, and build new ladders of opportunity into the middle class," Obama said Tuesday night. "Some require congressional action, and I'm eager to work with all of you. But America does not stand still - and neither will I. So wherever and whenever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families, that's what I'm going to do."
Briefly addressing the situation in the Middle East, Obama pointed out that when he took office, nearly 180,000 Americans were serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"Today, all our troops are out of Iraq. More than 60,000 of our troops have already come home from Afghanistan. With Afghan forces now in the lead for their own security, our troops have moved to a support role.Together with our allies, we will complete our mission there by the end of this year, and America's longest war will finally be over," Obama said.
Obama's speech came as he sought to re-energize his second term as his approval rating dips and the Democratic Party faces the possibility of losing control of the Senate following the next general election in November. The president lost ground with the start of the Affordable Care Act and subsequent issues with the program's website. This term will give Obama his best chance to push through his agenda.
Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers gave the Republican response to the State of the Union.
"Tonight, the president made more promises that sound good, but won't solve the problems actually facing Americans. We want you to have a better life. The president wants that, too. But we part ways when it comes to how to make that happen. ... (The) Republican vision (is) tonight I'd like to share a more hopeful, Republican vision. One that empowers you; not the government. It's one that champions free markets -- and trusts people to make their own decisions; not a government that decides for you. It helps working families rise above the limits of poverty and protects our most vulnerable. And it's one where Washington plays by the same rules that you do."
Here's how Michigan's Congressional delegation saw Obama's speech.
U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, D-Michigan:
“The president tonight made an uplifting call for action to support American families by promoting job growth and raising wages. He spoke eloquently of the need for Congress to act quickly to increase the minimum wage. The president was surely right to call for urgent action to restore emergency unemployment benefits; it is shocking that we have not yet restored this lifeline for more than 1.5 million Americans. And he is right that the growing income chasm between the wealthiest Americans and working families is a problem that requires urgent attention. The president is right to act on these problems where he can, and to call on Congress to act where legislation is required. He is fulfilling his obligations, and now we must fulfill ours.”
U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Michigan:
“We can’t have a strong middle class unless we make things and grow things here in America. President Obama is right about the importance of agriculture to our economy. Congress can help American farmers, ranchers and businesses further boost Agriculture exports and create more jobs by passing our bipartisan farm bill in the coming days."
U.S. Rep. Justin Amash, R-Cascade Township:
"Every problem this country faces has the same solution: more government. An economy that won't grow? Time for a new government mandate. Families dropped from their health insurance? Double down on Obamacare. It's not a virtue to be consistent when your solutions aren't working. In the final years of his presidency, I hope President Obama and Members of Congress muster the courage and imagination to rethink some of the policies that have pushed our country off track. It's time to set aside the partisanship and unite again behind the founding principles that made our country great: limited government, economic freedom, and individual liberty."
U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph:
“I was pleased with the President’s tone, which did not take the heavy partisan line that some expected. Yes, we can build on some of the bipartisan successes we have seen over the last couple months on the budget and farm bill as we look to immigration and real tax reform. I was encouraged to hear the President again talk about his commitment to lower tax rates and promote job growth and innovation here at home. We need a year of action – not dysfunction.”