CAPITOL HILL —
Later Tuesday, U.S. President Barack Obama will seek to advance his agenda when he delivers his annual State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress.
The White House is touting themes the president will mention in the nationally televised speech, but is providing few specifics on domestic and foreign policy matters.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said the speech was still being worked on late Monday, and that Obama is eager to make his case to lawmakers and the nation as a whole.
“The president will offer in his address his vision and his agenda for moving the country forward, and the steps we can take to expand opportunity for all Americans, and the things we can do here to make sure that in America hard work is rewarded, responsibility is rewarded, and that everyone gets a shot at the opportunity that this country offers,” he said.
President Obama's Previous State of the Union Addresses
2009: Not technically a State of the Union, Obama said years of irresponsibility and short-term thinking had brought a "day of reckoning."
2010: Obama urged Americans to work together to solve the damaged economy and pledged to remove U.S. combat troops from Iraq.
2011: Obama proposed a partial government spending freeze and said the U.S. stands with the people of Tunisia, whose protests drove their president out of the country at the start of the Arab Spring.
2012: Obama outlined a new economic blueprint and highlighted progress in Afghanistan and the killing of Osama bin Laden.
2013: Obama detailed the drawdown of U.S. troops from Afghanistan.
Obama is expected to call for action to combat the growing gap between rich and poor Americans, and to expand and protect the middle class. To that end, the president will urge compromise and bipartisanship in a politically divided Congress, but also is expected to highlight his ability to act on his own through executive order.
Already, Republicans are casting Obama’s agenda as the cause of, not the solution to, America’s economic woes.
The Republican response to the State of the Union address will be delivered by Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers. She is expected to restate her party’s contention that it is the president’s signature health care law, the federal government’s over-regulation of business, and Washington’s fiscal woes that are inhibiting job creation and economic progress.
On Monday, Jay Carney declined to provide any specific foreign policy items in Obama’s speech. Republican Senator Susan Collins told VOA there is one global concern in particular she wants the president to discuss.
“Iran is probably number one on my list, given the threat that a nuclear-armed Iran poses to the security, not only of the Middle East, but to our security as well," she said. "I am very concerned about the direction of the negotiations that the administration has undertaken, because it appears it would allow the Iranians to continue to enrich uranium.”
Domestic viewership of the State of the Union address has steadily declined in recent years, but White House spokesman Carney described the speech as “an enormous opportunity” for any president to talk to legislators and millions of Americans.
The speech and the Republican response likely will set the tone in Washington for 2014 - an election year in which all House seats and one-third of the Senate will be up for grabs.