Friday, February 15, 2013

Jamie Dupree's Washington Insider: Obama marks second term with State of the Union

Still facing a divided Congress, President Obama goes before lawmakers and the nation on Tuesday night ready to urge action on economic growth, gun violence, immigration reform and more, with no guarantee of anything but more sharp partisan battles in the months ahead.

"What the President has been saying and I?m sure will say again is that we are at a moment when the economy is poised to continue to grow, to continue to build on the progress we?ve made," said White House Press Secretary Jay Carney.

While Carney wouldn't give out details about the speech, he made clear that it would feature the economy as the central issue, telling reporters "you will hear in the President's State of the Union an outline from him for his plan to create jobs and grow the middle class."

White House advisers again emphasized repeatedly on Monday that the main issues in the speech would be the economy, with attention also paid to economic items like infrastructure, public works, education and energy issues.

What has been missing in recent days though has been a lot of White House discussion about what would seem to be the real hot button issues in this speech - gun violence and immigration reform - which many in the Congress are very focused on.

Because of that, even if the President were to soft pedal those issues. what is going on around this speech in the halls of Congress demonstrates how they are going to be major legislative flash points this year in the Congress.

For example, a number of House Democrats are bringing guests to the speech who have been touched by gun violence in some way; a couple are evidently also bringing illegal immigrants to the House Chamber as well.

Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) will have as a guest, Gabino Sanchez, who is currently fighting deportation proceedings; the Mexican man has been in the United States illegally for 13 years, most recently living in Ridgeland, South Carolina.

Sanchez had two children who are American citizens - Gutierrez and other Democrats argue this is a perfect example of why immigration reform is needed, to allow Sanchez to remain in the U.S.

On the gun side of the State of the Union guest list, a number of House Democrats will have guests who have links to gun violence, like Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT), who will bring two police detectives who were some of the first to respond to the school shootings in Newtown, Connecticut.

Meanwhile, Republicans will have rock star and noted gun rights enthusiast Ted Nugent in the house as well - he will be the guest of Rep. Steve Stockamn (R-TX).

With those kind of stories on gun violence and immigration - along with other items stuffed into the State of the Union, it may be that the President's speech will not be dominated by economic matters as the White House has been telling reporters in recent days.

No matter what issues are in the fine print of the President's speech, the bottom line is that this represents an opportunity for Mr. Obama to gather some momentum for his legislative proposals, whether on guns, immigration, the budget, education and more.

Whether he can take advantage of the bully pulpit, that's another argument for another day.


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