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

    Hope Remains for Rio Olympic Games

    Facing a host of problems, Rio prepares for holding the games but experts say some risks, like Zika, may not be as grave as initially thought

    IS Use of Social Media to Recruit, Radicalize Still a Top Threat to US

    Despite military gains against IS in Iraq and Syria, their internet propaganda still commands an audience; US officials see 'the most complex challenge that the federal government and industry face'

    ‘Time Is Now’ to Save Africa’s Animals From Poachers, Activist Says

    During Zimbabwe visit, African Wildlife Foundation President Kaddu Sebunya says poaching hurts Africa as slave trade once did

    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.
    Ivorian Chocolate Makers Promote Locally-made Chocolatei
    X
    July 29, 2016 4:02 PM
    Ivory Coast is the world's top producer of cocoa but hardly any of it is processed into chocolate there. Instead, the cocoa is sent abroad to chocolate makers in Europe and elsewhere. This is a general problem throughout Africa – massive exports of raw materials but few finished goods. As Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, several Ivorian entrepreneurs are working to change that formula - 100 percent Ivorian chocolate bar at a time.
    Video

    Video Ivorian Chocolate Makers Promote Locally-made Chocolate

    Ivory Coast is the world's top producer of cocoa but hardly any of it is processed into chocolate there. Instead, the cocoa is sent abroad to chocolate makers in Europe and elsewhere. This is a general problem throughout Africa – massive exports of raw materials but few finished goods. As Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, several Ivorian entrepreneurs are working to change that formula - 100 percent Ivorian chocolate bar at a time.
    Video

    Video Tesla Opens Battery-Producing Gigafactory

    Two years after starting to produce electric cars, U.S. car maker Tesla Motors has opened the first part of its huge battery manufacturing plant, which will eventually cover more than a square kilometer. Situated close to Reno, Nevada, the so-called Gigafactory will eventually produce more lithium-ion batteries than were made worldwide in 2013. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Polio-affected Afghan Student Fulfilling Her Dreams in America

    Afghanistan is one of only two countries in the world where children still get infected by polio. The other is Pakistan. Mahbooba Akhtarzada who is from Afghanistan, was disabled by polio, but has managed to overcome the obstacles caused by this crippling disease. VOA's Zheela Nasari caught up with Akhtarzada and brings us this report narrated by Bronwyn Benito.
    Video

    Video Hillary Clinton Promises to Build a 'Better Tomorrow'

    Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton urged voters Thursday not to give in to the politics of fear. She vowed to unite the country and move it forward if elected in November. Clinton formally accepted the Democratic Party's nomination at its national convention in Philadelphia. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more.
    Video

    Video Trump Tones Down Praise for Russia

    Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is toning down his compliments for Russia and Vladimir Putin as such rhetoric got him in trouble recently. After calling on Russia to find 30.000 missing emails from rival Hillary Clinton, Trump told reporters he doesn't know Putin and never called him a great leader, just one who's better than President Barack Obama. Putin has welcomed Trump's overtures, but, as Zlatica Hoke reports, ordinary Russians say they are not putting much faith in Trump.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora