State of the Union Spoilers: What We Already Know About Obama's Speech
The president has broken with tradition and unveiled his proposals in advance.
— -- At 9 p.m. ET Tuesday, President Obama will deliver his sixth State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress. It will be his first before a Republican majority in both chambers and likely his biggest U.S. television audience all year.
But unlike years past, the content of the speech itself won't be much of a surprise.
In a nod to the new political dynamic, changing media environment and a desire to fight “lame duck” status, Obama has spent the past two weeks rolling out his policy proposals on daily basis. Senior Obama adviser Dan Pfeiffer dubbed it the "SOTU Spoilers" tour.
Here’s a look at what we already know about the speech theme, Obama's proposals and his plan for the days ahead:
The 2015 SOTU Theme
The White House says Obama will declare a full-on economic “resurgence,” even as many Americans say it still hasn’t affected them. “America’s resurgence is real. Don’t let anybody tell you otherwise,” Obama said in Detroit Jan. 7, previewing his SOTU message.
Obama has been buoyed by a wave of recent positive economic data and new poll numbers that show Americans give him some credit. The latest ABC News-Washington Post poll found that the most Americans in eight years say the economy is in "good shape," 41 percent, with approval of the president surging back to the watermark of 50 percent.
In the lead-up to the speech, Obama has repeatedly said his goal in 2015 is making sure more Americans “feel” the recovery.
The “core theme” of the speech will be “middle-class economics” and “doubling down” on efforts to boost wages and mobility, Pfeiffer said Sunday.
"How we make paychecks go farther right now; how we create more good-paying jobs right now; and how do we give people the skills they need to get those high-paying jobs," Pfeiffer said, teasing Obama's three-leg plan.
The Obama SOTU 'Spoilers'
Over the past two weeks, Obama has upended tradition in the lead-up to State of the Union by unveiling proposed legislation and executive actions ahead of the . Here’s a look at what we’ve heard so far:
- Lower Mortgage Insurance Premiums: Obama announced in Phoenix, Arizona, Jan. 8 that the Federal Housing Administration would cut insurance rates from 1.35 percent to 0.85 percent. The agency estimates that 2 million U.S. borrowers will save an average of $900 a year if they purchase or refinance homes.
- Free Community College Tuition: In a video posted to Facebook, President Obama unveiled a $60 billion plan over 10 years to provide free community college tuition to students who attend at least half-time and maintain good grades. Schools would also have to meet certain requirements to qualify, and states would have to cover a quarter of the cost. The White House estimates up to 9 million students could save an average $3,800 per year if every state participates.
- Cybersecurity - Consumer Protections: During a trip to the Federal Trade Commission, Obama proposed a 30-day notification law mandating companies inform consumers promptly after a data breach has been identified. He also renewed a call for consumer privacy "bill of rights" legislation. Obama also proposed legislation putting new nationwide limits on mining of student data from devices used in K-12 classroom settings.
- Cybersecurity - National Defenses: Obama proposed legislation to promote greater information sharing between the government and private sector businesses, including liability protection for data they share. He proposed new tools for law enforcement to investigate and prosecute cybercrime.
- Cheaper, Faster Internet Access: In a letter to the Federal Communications Commission, which regulates TV and radio airwaves, Obama formally called on the agency to fight state laws that limit broadband service competition. In essence, the president wants the Internet treated like a public utility. The administration also unveiled $40 to $50 million in new loans and grants through the Agriculture Department aimed at encouraging rural internet providers. Obama also scheduled a summit for June aimed at streamlining rural broadband permitting and sharing best practices.
- Paid Leave for Workers and Families: Obama will call on Congress to pass a bill that would require all U.S. companies to give employees seven days of paid sick leave a year. He’ll also ask for $2 billion to help states start their own paid family and medical leave programs, officials said. Obama signed a presidential memorandum last week to make it easier for federal employees to take up to six weeks of “maternity” leave by advancing paid sick leave.
- Eased Cuba Travel, Trade Restrictions: By executive action, the Treasury and Commerce Departments added regulatory amendments to existing sanctions on Cuba that effectively end the decades-old travel ban and ease stringent rules on business transactions and trade.
- Summit on Combating Violent Extremism: First proposed in September 2014, scheduled for October, then postponed without explanation, the Obama administration finally put this summit on the calendar for Feb. 18, 2015, after the Paris attacks.
- Grants to Train Cybersecurity Experts: Vice President Biden and Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz announced $25 million in grants to historically black colleges and universities to help bolster training programs for careers in cybersecurity.
- Tax Cuts for Middle Class, Hikes on Wealthy: The president is proposing tax code changes that would raise $320 billion in revenue from wealthy Americans and businesses, while cutting middle class taxes by $175 billion. The plan would eliminate the so-called “trust-fund loophole,” taxing inheritances of high-income Americans. Obama would also raise capital-gains tax to 28 percent from 23.8 percent for those making over $500,000 and impose a new fee on big banks. For families, the changes would include a $500 credit for working parents; increased child and education tax credits; and new retirement savings incentives.
- New Cap on Methane Gas Emissions: By executive authority, Obama imposed new regulations on the oil and gas industry’s emissions of methane. The administration says the goal will be a 45 percent cut in 2012 emission levels in 10 years.
- Infrastructure Funding: The Obama administration unveiled new initiatives at several federal agencies aimed at promoting greater private sector capital investment in infrastructure projects. The efforts will help expand access to existing federal grant and loan programs to speed application and approval, officials say. They also unveiled new infrastructure tax proposals at an event attended by Vice President Biden last week.
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