Washington is gearing up for President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address, to be delivered Tuesday at the U.S. Capitol. The White House has already revealed major themes the president will discuss, and Republicans have telegraphed how they will respond.
Obama’s agenda for his sixth year in office includes a sharp focus on the growing gap between rich and poor Americans, according to White House spokesman Jay Carney.
“The president sees this as a year of action, to work with Congress where he can and to bypass Congress where necessary to lift folks who want to come up into the middle class,” Carney told reporters during the White House press briefing.
Republicans agree on the need for greater economic opportunity, but say the president stands in the way. Saturday, Senator Roy Blunt gave a preemptive rebuttal to the State of the Union address.
“What President Obama fails to acknowledge is that Americans are hurting as a result of his own policies," Blunt said. "This administration’s agenda to create more government, more spending, more taxes, and more debt has created an inequality crisis of opportunity in our country. Those policies have been disproportionately hurtful to the poorest among us for the past five years.”
Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, a critic of the federal activism Obama champions, will deliver the Republican response to the president’s address.
“When Washington is the biggest obstacle to economic growth, we have a problem," Rogers said.
The White House countered by saying the Republican criticism is misguided, and ignores recent history.
“A lot of people were thrown into poverty by the worst recession since the Great Depression, which was in full bloom when President Obama was sworn into office," Carney noted.
Few observers expect the president’s address to jump-start bipartisan action in a polarized Congress. At the very least, it will preview political battle lines and rhetorical markers for the year ahead, an election year in which all House seats and one-third of the senate will be contested.