These points don't sum up everything, but they are what I consider the most important.
President Obama’s State of the Union speech was a fairly mixed bag. On the one hand, much of the speech reiterates points Obama has made in past state of the union speeches. On the other hand, there were some key points Obama made that I think are important to mention, the first point in particular.
The speech offered many solid points to work with, but for the sake of brevity I have narrow it down specifically to three points. These points by no means sum up everything Obama tried to get across, but they are what I consider the most important.
Obama will seek to complete his agenda, with or without Congress.
This is perhaps the most important point of the speech, so it’s only proper it be listed first. Obama used the crux of his speech to outline a very strong message to the Republican opposition. The President is tired of the GOP blanket blocking his agenda. If Obama can’t get what he wants through Congress, then he will use whatever legal authority he has to complete his goals without Congress.
This point perhaps is what sets apart this speech from ones before, as Obama is drawing a clear line in the sand to the Congressional GOP. Either they stop the unrestricted blocking of Democratic sponsored legislation, or Obama will do whatever is in his power to bypass the Republican opposition. This process has already begun, as Obama has finally been able to fill his judicial appointments after nearly three years of unrestricted filibustering. In short, the days of unlimited Republican derailing of Obama’s agenda are over.
As Ted Cruz got on TV and said that Obama should “apologize” to the American people for the bungled healthcare roll-out, Obama instead used his speech to double-down on his signature healthcare law and deride Republicans for their futile efforts at repealing the law. Obama hit at Republican Congressmen hard for their 40 plus attempts at repealing the law.
Rather than back away from the healthcare issue, Obama took the issue dead on and used it as a means of showing the Republican’s petty nature towards their operations in Congress. After its rough start, it was important that Obama defend the ACA. Obama tackled the issue with confidence and centered his focus on Republican inaction and lack of viable alternatives.
Raising the Minimum Wage.
Though, many commentators may view this as a minor aspect of the speech, I see Obama’s continued push for raising the minimum wage as perhaps among the most important aspects of the speech. Obama’s executive order decision to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour for workers under federal contract has not gotten a lot of traction in the public or Congress.
It was important that Obama used his speech to continue the fight for a higher minimum wage. While Republicans will claim that raising the wage would hurt employers, Obama argued that raising the wage would benefit the economy as a whole with more money in the pockets of the average worker to spend.
In essence, using the SOTU speech to tout the issue should help give it a boost. Especially if the Democrats in Congress are going to seriously push for legislation on this matter. In an election year, and with 50% of tea party backers supporting a raise to the minimum wage, now’s the time to push for action.
By no means were these three points the only important ones in the speech. Obama also called for creating new jobs and rebuilding infrastructure. He called for the creation of a new federal retirement savings account, ending tax breaks for oil companies, equal pay for equal work, reworking the corporate tax code, as well as setting new fuel efficiency standards.
The three points listed, especially the first one, defines Obama’s speech the most in my opinion. Especially in regards to Obama’s relations with the Republicans in Congress. Obama is willing to work with them, but not at the cost of sacrificing his agenda. According to MSNBC, of the more than 50 things Obama asked congress for in his 2013 State of the Union speech, congress passed just two of them.
If Republicans won’t play fair, then Obama will go around them to complete his goals. This is an aspect to Obama I have wanted to see emerge. Obama has to ditch the idea of working with Congressional Republicans, and instead needs to do whatever is in his power to pass his goals and help Democrats take back the House.
The State of the Union speech repeated many things heard before, he has to repeat them because thanks to Republican obstruction, not much has been done. The speech may get him nothing, just like the years before, but threatening to go around a congress with an approval rating of 13% might at least get his party some votes in November.