Obama to give last State of Union on Tuesday


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Obama to give last State of Union on Tuesday


A look at some of what President Barack Obama has proposed during past State of the Union addresses, and how successful he was in getting them enacted.


Proposal: Hold banks accountable for “reckless decisions.”

Result: Bank of America, Wells Fargo, JP Morgan and others paid billions of dollars in cash and non-cash relief to homeowners over alleged foreclosure abuses during the financial crisis. Congress also passed a banking reform law that aimed to reform Wall Street.

Proposal: Close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay.

Result: It’s still open, and the administration is still struggling to close it. Fewer than 100 inmates are left.

Proposal: End tax breaks for families earning more than $250,000 a year.

Result: In 2010, tax breaks for all families were extended, but as part of the fiscal cliff negotiations in 2013, the cuts were permanently extended only on families earning less than $450,000 or individuals learning less than $400,000.

Proposal: To sign legislation that places a market-based cap on carbon pollution.

Result: Congress never passed such legislation. However, the Environmental Protection Agency is working on a draft rule to curb carbon pollution.


Proposal: Repeal the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy barring gays from revealing their sexual preference while serving in the military.

Result: Repealed in December 2010.

Proposal: Pass a health care reform bill.

Result: The bill, called the Affordable Care Act, passed in 2010. While hugely controversial — Republicans sent legislation to repeal the law to Obama’s just last week — it remains one of primary legislative achievements of Obama’s time in the White House.

Proposal: Called for the reauthorization of the federal education law.

Result: It happened, but not until late 2015.

Proposal: Create a bipartisan fiscal commission to create recommendations on how to reduce the deficit.

Result: The commission — called the Bowles-Simpson Commission — was created by executive order, but Obama ultimately didn’t follow those recommendations.


Proposal: Pass reforms to strengthen Social Security.

Result: Nothing has changed.

Proposal: Simplify the individual tax code.

Result: While there have been some tweaks to the tax code, such as permanent extenders, the code is not simpler.

Proposal: Improve infrastructure, including rebuilding crumbling roads and bridges.

Result: In late 2016, Congress passed a five-year transportation bill after passing dozens of temporary short term bills. However, critics say that the bill did not spend enough to fully meet the nation’s infrastructure needs.

Proposal: Veto any bill with congressional earmarks.

Result: Much of this problem was alleviated by former House Speaker John Boehner’s vow to eliminate earmarks in congressional spending bills.


Proposal: Pass comprehensive immigration reform.

Result: That has yet to happen.

Proposal: Pass corporate tax reform.

Result: That has yet to happen.

Proposal: Extend the tuition tax credit.

Result: Congress has made permanent the tuition tax credit, which was scheduled to expire in 2017.

Proposal: Ban insider trading by members of Congress

Result: Congress passed the STOCK Act, which did so, a few months after Obama’s address.


Proposal: Creating manufacturing hubs.

Result: The first was in Youngstown, and more have followed. Obama’s goal is 15.

Proposal: Pass Immigration Reform.

Result: It has not happened.

Proposal: Pass a climate change bill.

Result: Congress has not done so, but the administration has made efforts to curb the emission that causes climate change.

Proposal: Pass the Paycheck Fairness Act.

Result: It still has not passed Congress.


Proposal: Pass a patent reform bill to allow businesses to innovate.

Result: It has not happened.

Proposal: Have Congress pass expired unemployment insurance.

Result: It has not happened.

Proposal: Have Congress raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.

Result: Obama signed an executive order raising the minimum wage for federal employees, but Congress has not passed a law raising it for all employees.

Proposal: Reform nation’s surveillance laws.

Result: A plan stalled in the Senate.


Proposal: Curing disease with the human genome through a precision medicine initiative.

Result: In September, the National Institutes of Health released a blueprint for Obama’s initiative and named an interim director of the project.

Proposal: Two free years of community college.

Result: This proposal has not moved forward.

Proposal: Have Congress pass fast-track trade promotion authority.

Result: Congress has approved fast-track trade promotion authority.

Proposal: Have Congress pass a bill that would allow working Americans to earn up to seven days per year of paid sick time.

Result: This bill has yet to pass Congress.

*2009 was not technically a State of the Union speech, since Obama had been in office less than a month. We have included it here because it is a joint address to Congress.

Source: White House speeches.


* Watch President Obama’s State of the Union on WHIO Channel 7 at 9 p.m. Tuesday.

* Listen to the address live on AM 1290 and News 95.7 WHIO. Tune in Wednesday morning for complete coverage and reaction from 5-9 a.m. on Miami Valley’s Morning News

* Live tweet with us on Twitter at @Ohio_Politics


* Watch President Obama’s State of the Union on WHIO Channel 7 at 9 p.m. Tuesday.

* Listen to the address on AM 1290 and News 95.7 WHIO Tuesday night after the University of Dayton basketball game. Tune in Wednesday morning for complete coverage and reaction from 5-9 a.m. on Miami Valley’s Morning News

* Live tweet with us on Twitter at @Ohio_Politics

When President Barack Obama takes the podium for his final State of the Union address Tuesday, he’ll no doubt adhere to what has become a key part of the long tradition: The grocery list of proposals that he wants Congress to pass.

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* Watch President Obama’s State of the Union on WHIO Channel 7 at 9 p.m. Tuesday.

* Listen to the address on AM 1290 and News 95.7 WHIO Tuesday night after the University of Dayton basketball game. Tune in Wednesday morning for complete coverage and reaction from 5-9 a.m. on Miami Valley’s Morning News

* Live tweet with us on Twitter at @Ohio_Politics

— — —

Like many presidents, Obama’s ability to move forward on his proposals has been defined in part by the makeup of Congress.

When Congress was controlled by Democrats, it was more likely to do his bidding. But with a Republican Congress reluctant to support his agenda, Obama has been chipping at the edges of those priorities through executive actions.

This year, his State of the Union may as well be a to-do list for him alone.

The address, said Ron Bonjean, a Republican consultant who was formerly an aide to former House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, “is basically his wish list. And most of it isn’t going to happen.”

“He’s letting everyone know that up until the very last minute — until the next president puts a hand on the Bible — he’s just going to keep getting stuff done,” said Boston-based Democratic consultant Mary Anne Marsh.

There once was a time when he could reliably ask Congress to move forward on his plans: In 2009 and 2010, Obama mentioned cracking down on Wall Street and passing health care laws. The Democratic Congress responded with the Dodd-Frank financial reform law and a sweeping health care reform bill that Republicans are still trying to undo.

But even then, some of those to-dos weren’t doable.

In some cases, he may as well cut and paste sections of previous years’ speeches. Obama has mentioned immigration reform every year except 2009, his first year in office. He has mentioned climate change — or at the very least, clean energy — every single year. He’s mentioned tax reform every year. And he’s urged the closing of the detention center at Guantanamo Bay three times: in 2009, 2014 and 2015.

Some agenda items he managed to make partial progress on without Congress. He vowed to raise the minimum wage – and did so for federal employees through executive order. While Congress hasn’t passed climate change legislation, he has and is using the Environmental Protection Agency to toughen existing pollution standards. And he’s tweaked gun laws and immigration laws through executive action – both moves that have outraged congressional Republicans.

“I’m eager to work with all of you,” Obama told lawmakers during his 2014 speech. “But America does not stand still — and neither will I. So wherever and whenever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families, that’s what I’m going to do.”

Obama is certainly not the first president to see grand State of the Union proposals fail to make progress.

In 1974, President Richard Nixon vowed that the nation should become energy self-sufficient by 1980. That hasn’t happened.

In 1969, just before he left office, President Lyndon B. Johnson offered hope of a quick end to the conflict in Vietnam. “The prospects, I think, for peace are better today than at any time since North Vietnam began its invasion with its regular forces more than four years ago,” he said. The war dragged on for six more years.

And in 2008, President George W. Bush assured Americans that despite “uncertainty” in the economy that “in the long run, Americans can be confident about our economic growth.” Within a few months the housing bubble burst and the stock market collapsed, plunging the nation into a deep recession.

While the speech may reflect Obama’s priorities, John Hudak, a senior fellow in governance studies at the center-left Brookings Institution, questions whether it’s useful to use a national platform to highlight issues that have little chance of being addressed in a divided government. He wonders if focusing on the lightning-rod issues only inflames the other side.

“There’s a legitimate question to be asked — whether this is a productive use of that time and space and attention,” he said. “You can imagine an alternative scenario in which the president takes a step back and looks at what can get done. This president has not done that, and frankly, most presidents don’t.”

But Charlie Black, a Republican consultant who has served as a policy adviser for both Presidents George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan, said during the first President Bush years and the Reagan years, lawmakers would occasionally hear speeches that included goals that both sides wanted to meet.

“A president that has a Congress controlled by the other party should probably talk about things that might be doable, that they might compromise on and get things done,” he said, citing George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind bill as an example of a bill both sides wanted at the time. “Everything (Obama) does is kind of a campaign more than a doable objective.”

He said while the speech might normally be used to help Democrats in a presidential election year, Obama’s low job approval numbers and a weak economy won’t likely help the Democratic nominee, according to Black.

Hudak said presidents know what can or can’t get passed and may simply want to make an appeal to the American public.

“Sometimes they use a State of the Union to wag a finger at the opposing party, to wag their finger at Congress, to get an issue to have a higher profile,” he said.

That happened in 2004, when President George W. Bush called for team owners, union representatives, coaches and players to get rid of steroids in baseball. “It was jarring to hear the speech,” said Hudak, “But it ended up creating a broader conversation about the issue.”

This year, with a Republican-controlled Congress and all eyes on the 2016 election, Obama’s proposals will likely fall on even deafer ears than usual.

But that doesn’t mean he won’t try to get things done.

“He’s going to try to remain as active as possible given the congressional limitations,” said Matthew Dallek, an assistant professor of political management at George Washington University.

“What the president talks about can absolutely matter,” Dallek added. “Even in the eighth year of a two-term presidency.”

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