News / USA

Obama Speech to Focus on Economy, Political Cooperation

President Barack Obama works on his State of the Union Speech with Director of Speechwriting Jon Favreau in the Oval Office, Jan. 24, 2011.
President Barack Obama works on his State of the Union Speech with Director of Speechwriting Jon Favreau in the Oval Office, Jan. 24, 2011.

U.S. President Barack Obama is scheduled to deliver his State of the Union Address to the nation on Tuesday. Mr. Obama says his speech will focus on efforts to create jobs and increase U.S. global competitiveness, while taking steps to reduce the government's budget deficit spending and the national debt.  

In contrast with his first State of the Union Address early last year, the president faces a markedly changed political landscape, with Republicans holding a strong majority in the House of Representatives. 

Though largely symbolic, a House vote last week to repeal Mr. Obama's landmark health care law signaled what political analysts see as the start of a two-year effort by Republicans to weaken him and his fellow Democrats on the way to the 2012 general election.

Issues

STATE OF THE UNION TRIVIA

Did you Know?

  • The 221 year-old tradition is a requirement found in Article 2 Section 3 of the US Constitution and asks that the president "give to the Congress information on the State of the Union"
  • One member of the Cabinet is not present so that in case of an emergency, the line of succession is preserved
  • President Franklin Roosevelt coined the phrase "State of the Union"; before that the address was known as the "Annual Message" to Congress

    The first radio broadcast of the speech was under President Calvin Coolidge in 1923

    The first televised address was under President Harry Truman in 1947

    The first Internet broadcast of the speech was under President George W. Bush in 2002

In a message to supporters over the weekend, the president previewed what he said would be a main topic of his State of the Union speech -- the need, despite some improvements in the economy, to put Americans back to work.  

"My principal focus, my number one focus, is going to be making sure that we are competitive, that we are growing and we are creating jobs not just know but well into the future," said President Obama.

The president is expected to return to a theme he sounded frequently last year -  the need to maintain investments in education, scientific and technical innovation, and public infrastructure.   

Decisions

But as White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters on Monday, Mr. Obama will be blunt about hard decisions ahead, requiring cooperation between Democrats and Republicans, to reduce the federal budget deficit and bring down the national debt in the long term.

"We're not going to have a debate in Washington about whether we need to make some changes and whether we need to control our spending," Gibbs said. "We're going to have, hopefully, a bipartisan discussion and work together on how we go about doing that."

White House aides say the president probably will not make any specific commitments on the question of cutting spending on so-called "entitlement" programs, such as the Social Security system.  That was one recommendation by a bipartisan presidential commission.

Compromise

Analysts say that although President Obama is building a new centrist image for himself, managing to forge significant compromises with Republicans last year on taxes and help for the unemployed, the path will not be easy.

Appearing on NBC television's Meet the Press program, House Republican Majority Leader Eric Cantor suggested that Mr. Obama's talk about investments actually means more spending when the goal should be to cut government outlays.

"We've got to do what families in this country are doing, what businesses are doing," said Cantor. "You have got to learn to do more with less. You can't afford to sustain this level of borrowing and spending."

Opposition

Republicans vow to hold government spending to 2008 levels.  Just before the State of the Union Address,  they are expected to hold a vote on a non-binding resolution to require such reductions for discretionary, non-security programs.

On efforts by Republicans to dismantle the health care law, Democrats in the Senate are determined to use any debate to underscore what that would mean for Americans.

Democratic Senator Charles Schumer appeared on CBS television's Face the Nation program.

"We will require them to vote on the individual protections in the bill that are very popular and that even some of the new Republican House members have said they support," Schumer said.

Budget

The main battle involving spending, where President Obama and Republicans are concerned, begins next month when the administration submits what Press Secretary Gibbs calls "a very detailed" budget to Congress.  

Gibbs expanded on the message the president will bring to Congress and the nation on Tuesday.

"I don't think anybody in this town or anybody in this country expect us not to wake up and still have some differences," Gibbs said. "That is why you have a democracy and why you have the system we have.  That is not to say though that as we are having some of those debates and discussions that we can't look at what unites rather than divides us and see if we can't make some progress on that."

Popularity

President Obama goes into the State of the Union address with a significant improvement in his public approval ratings, with several polls showing his support at or several points above 50 percent.

His remarks after the shootings in Tucson, Arizona, in which he urged that national debate not take place on the "usual plane of politics, point-scoring and pettiness" positively impacted perceptions of his leadership.  But polls show ongoing skepticism about his handling of the economy.

Among those expected in the House of Representatives chamber observing the president's speech will be Daniel Hernandez, the man credited with saving the life of wounded Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, and the family of Christina Taylor Green, the nine-year-old girl who was among six people killed in the Arizona shooting.

In support of the goal of increased cooperation, some Democrats and Republicans will sit together during the speech.   Among them will be South Carolina Republican Representative Joe Wilson, who heckled Mr. Obama by shouting "you lie" during the president's 2009 speech on health care.

International affairs

On foreign policy, President Obama is expected to speak, as Gibbs described, about the war in Afghanistan and where progress is being made.  He is also expected to reiterate U.S. determination to defeat and dismantle al-Qaida and other extremist groups.

The United States and NATO have agreed on a 2014 date for transferring all security responsibilities in Afghanistan to Afghan forces.  Mr. Obama is likely to pay tribute to the sacrifices of American soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq, and reiterate the objective of beginning a U.S. troop drawdown from Afghanistan in July of this year.   

* Watch this White House video to get a glimpse of how the process works -- and how President Obama is approaching tonight's speech.

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Srebrenica Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs countermeasure at UN More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prisoni
X
Heather Murdock
July 01, 2015 8:59 PM
As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs