State of the Union: Obama Slams Republicans; Calls for Minimum Wage Raise, Action on Climate Change, Immigration Reform and Gun Control
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Even though Obama gave some lip service to renewable energy, he also kept up his support for natural gas and said that he would cut red tape to speed up new oil and gas permits, an idea that seems to run counter to doing “more to combat climate change.” The president continues to cling to tired notion of "all of the above" energy policy, which won't cut it in the climate change age in which we've now embarked.
Medicare and Social Security
The president said he was prepared to glean savings from Medicare that would equal those arrived at in the Simpson-Bowles plan, by reducing incentives for unnecessary tests, reducing what he called “taxpayer subsidies” for prescription drugs, and by “asking more from our wealthiest seniors,” implying some sort of means-testing.
Of Social Security, the president offered only generalities, but a line added to his speech after the prepared text was issued caused some furrowed brows.
Speaking of Republican calls for the cutting of both the deficit and the federal retirement program, Obama asked: “Why is it that deficit reduction is a big emergency, justifying making cuts in Social Security benefits, but not closing some loopholes? How does that promote growth?”
The structure of that rhetorical question would seem to imply that if Republicans were willing to close some tax loopholes for the wealthiest Americans or for corporations, the president might be willing to countenance a cut in Social Security benefits.
Immigration and the Path to Citizenship
Of the many items on the president’s wish list, there are but a few that actually have a chance for passing into law, thanks to the majority held by Republicans in the House of Representatives, most of whom are pledged to oppose all things Obama. But immigration reform is one item that stands a decent chance, given the drubbing Republicans took at the polls, thanks, in part, to an increased portion of the electorate composed of Latinos and Asians, who voted for Democrats by wide margins.
The president reiterated the call for changes to the nation’s immigration laws that he set forth in his inauguration speech, and proposed a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who pass a background check and pay a penalty.
'They Deserve a Vote'
Especially when compared to his melodic inauguration speech, Obama's 2013 State of the Union was largely lacking in poetry until he came to the end.
Throughout the chamber, dignitaries, including Vice President Joe Biden, wore green-and-white ribbons on their lapels, the school colors of Sandy Hook Elementary, where 20 children and six adults were massacred by a lone gunman on December 14.
Sitting with First Lady Michelle Obama were Cleopatra Cowley-Pendleton and Nate Pendleton, parents of the late Hadiya Pendleton, a 15-year-old who was gunned down while sitting in a Chicago park, just days after she performed with her high school majorette team at the president's inaugural parade.
Sitting with Rep. Steven Stockton, R-Calif., was musician Ted Nugent, whose most recent publicity stunt was a threat on the president's life, and who once invited Obama to "suck on my machine gun."
Obama seized the moment to dare Republicans to block a vote on control measures, including universal background checks for all gun purchases, as well as a ban on assault rifles and large-capacity magazines.
"If you want to vote no, that’s your choice," Obama told the members of Congress assembled before them. "But these proposals deserve a vote, because in the two months since Newtown, more than a thousand birthdays, graduations, anniversaries have been stolen from our lives by a bullet from a gun. More than a thousand."