BARRASSO: What Obama needs to tell Americans in State of the Union

Annual address must be more than poll-tested applause lines

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Many American have not seen their careers, finances or quality of life improve even though the economic recession ended 4 years ago. Monthly jobs reports confirm that millions of Americans have given up looking for work. They are falling further and further away from achieving their dreams.

President Obama is failing to make it easier for the American economy to recover robustly for Americans who desperately want to work. He fails by focusing his response on extending emergency unemployment benefits and raising the minimum wage. An unemployment check can be a vital safety net for families, but it is not a long-term solution for what is becoming a part-time-jobs economy.

White House advisers are searching for poll-tested applause lines for Tuesday’s State of the Union address. Instead, they should work with the president to outline an agenda that actually helps unemployed Americans by getting our economy back on track.

With lame-duck status looming, the president has a choice to make. He can deliver another partisan attack on Republicans, or he can focus on real solutions with proven bipartisan support.

In recent speeches, the president has made a point of saying 2014 will be a “year of action.” He has said he intends to act on his own, without waiting for Congress.

The president’s politics of division is hurting the economy and the country. Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill already agree on specific ideas to get America and Americans back to work.

There are three policies Mr. Obama can lay out in his speech that won’t require going around Congress. Each could save threatened jobs and get more Americans back to work.

First, the president should announce he will stop blocking construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. This one, simple announcement will immediately help put thousands of Americans to work. His own State Department projects the pipeline construction could support 42,000 jobs across the country.

The pipeline has support from every governor along its route. A bipartisan group of 62 senators back the project. A bill in favor passed the House of Representatives with bipartisan support.

Early in 2013, Mr. Obama met with Republican senators and told us we’d have an answer about the pipeline by the end of the year. The end of the year has come and gone. The Keystone XL approval is still sitting on the president’s desk. The American people deserve an answer, and the answer should be yes.

Second, the president should address the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulatory policy and its role in putting Americans out of work.

Recently, on the same day as the 50th anniversary of the War on Poverty, the EPA released unachievable requirements on power plants. These harsh regulations will cause energy costs to increase for families and businesses across the country. People will lose their jobs as coal plants are forced to close.

Higher energy costs clearly hurt our overall economy. The impacts of job losses and energy prices will be especially harmful for people struggling in Appalachia and across coal country. The president must sensibly rein in his EPA before it does additional economic damage.

Third, the president should support bipartisan efforts to repeal his medical-devices tax. This destructive tax, which went into effect last January, threatens medical innovation and patient care. This specific tax is helping to push American jobs overseas, and 43,000 American jobs are estimated to be at risk.

An amendment to repeal the medical-devices tax passed the Senate last year with a bipartisan vote of 79-20.

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