The first State of the Union address of President Obama’s second term is shaping up as a conservative’s nightmare come true.
In his speech to Congress on Tuesday night, Mr. Obama is certain to demand more tax revenue, part of his “balanced” approach to deficit reduction, even though he won a battle with Congress last month for a tax increase on wealthier households. He also will push for more spending to fund his job-creation proposals and education plans.
The nationally televised address will begin at 9 p.m.
“He will focus on the proposals that are necessary to help the middle class grow and help the economy grow,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said Monday. “We need more investment that helps the key industries of the 21st century take root here in the United States. We are not done, not even close.”
Along with higher taxes and bigger government, Mr. Obama will renew his call for gun-control measures and immigration reform that includes a pathway to citizenship. Many Democrats expect the president to call attention again to climate change as part of his clean-energy agenda.
As for Republicans’ goals of cutting spending, curbing the growth of entitlement programs and reducing the size of government? Most observers don’t expect the president to give those subjects more than the briefest of lip service.
“Don’t hold your breath,” said Ron Haskins, a senior fellow in economic studies at the left-leaning Brookings Institution. “Why would he? He’s in great political shape. I don’t think he’s going to do anything serious [on spending]. He has every reason to sit tight and play to his base.”
The day after delivering his agenda, Mr. Obama will begin a series of trips to sell his initiatives to the public in North Carolina, Georgia and Illinois.
The danger in failing to reach out to Republicans on deficit reduction, some analysts say, is that the Republicans have the power to block Mr. Obama’s top priorities such as immigration reform. If the president takes too combative a posture with Republicans, it will “doom” much of his agenda, said Alice Rivlin, another senior fellow at Brookings who served on Mr. Obama’s debt commission.
“We have a long-run problem, and if he’s seen as not addressing it by much of the country and by the Republican opposition, he will doom his other agenda to bickering,” she said.
Since winning re-election handily Nov. 6, Mr. Obama and his team have been giving every indication that they think they have the Republican Party on the run. They say their hand was strengthened when they won the “fiscal cliff” showdown Jan. 1, pushing through a tax-rate increase on families earning more than $450,000, and when Republican lawmakers temporarily backed away from a threat to block an increase in the nation’s borrowing limit. Many Republicans view the debt ceiling as one of their few remaining options to force Mr. Obama to address spending.
As the president pursues an unabashedly liberal agenda, Democrats are simultaneously trying to exploit a rift in the Republican Party, as evidenced by a memo circulated Monday by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee on gun control.
“On the eve of a major grass-roots push in favor of gun violence prevention, it’s clear that Tea Party House Republicans will maintain their out-of-touch approach and obstruct sensible reforms to reduce gun violence that most Americans support — undermining their party’s appeal, hurting their candidates and endangering suburban Republican seats,” the memo states.