Election themes to echo in State of the Union

Obama agenda to keep focus on economy, deficit

President Obama is expected to outline his plan to create jobs and stabilize the middle class.
Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press
President Obama is expected to outline his plan to create jobs and stabilize the middle class.

WASHINGTON — Reviving his populist reelection message, President Obama will press a politically-divided Congress to approve more tax increases and fewer spending cuts during a State of the Union address focused on stabilizing the middle class and repairing the still-wobbly economy.

The agenda Obama will outline Tuesday before a joint session of Congress will include more money for infrastructure, clean energy technologies, and manufacturing jobs, as well as expanding access to early childhood education.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said Obama would outline ‘‘his plan to create jobs and grow the middle class’’ as the nation struggles with persistently high unemployment.


Some of Obama’s job ideas will be versions of proposals he made during his first term, though aides say there will be some new recommendations, too.

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All of the economic proposals are expected to echo themes from Obama’s reelection campaign, which focused on using increased spending to generate jobs, protecting programs to help the middle class, and bringing down the deficit in part by culling more tax revenue from the wealthiest Americans.

Obama has called for closing tax breaks and loopholes, but he has not detailed targets. He and his aides often mention as examples of unnecessary tax breaks a benefit for owners of private jets and tax subsidies for oil and gas companies. Such measures are modest, however. Ending the corporate plane and oil and gas breaks would generate about $43 billion in revenue over 10 years.

Republicans have shown little sign of falling in line behind the president as he starts his second term, particularly when it comes to taxes.

‘‘Clearly the president wants more revenue for more government,’’ the Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, said in an interview. ‘‘He’s gotten all the revenue he’s going to get. Been there, done that.’’


The backdrop for Obama’s address will be a March 1 deadline for averting automatic across-the-board spending cuts, known as the sequester. The president wants lawmakers to push that deadline back for a second time to create space for a larger deficit-reduction deal, one he hopes would include a balance of targeted cuts and increased tax revenue. Republicans want to offset the sequester with spending cuts alone.

As he addresses lawmakers and the American people, Obama is expected to say that government entitlement programs should be on the table in deficit reduction talks. But he will also make the case that programs helping the middle class, the poor, and the elderly must be protected.

In keeping with that approach, the White House said Monday that Obama would not consider increasing the Medicare eligibility age as a way to reduce spending.

The focus on the economy and deficit reflects the top concerns of many Americans. A Quinnipiac University poll on Monday showed than 35 percent of registered voters are most interested in hearing the president address the economy, more than any other issue. The federal deficit came in second, with 20 percent saying that was the issue they were most interested in.

The poll also suggested that the slow but steady economic gains throughout Obama’s first term may not be trickling down to many Americans. More than 50 percent of registered voters said they thought the economy was still in a recession and 79 percent described the economy as ‘‘not so good’’ or ‘‘poor.’’


Obama will also press Congress to support his proposals for overhauling the nation’s immigration laws and tighten gun measures, though his remarks are expected to break little new ground and largely reflect his previous statements.

Addressing unemployment

Still, the White House and some lawmakers will aim to use the atmospherics of the annual address to Congress to rally support for stricter gun laws.

Some lawmakers, including House minority leader Nancy Pelosi, are bringing victims of gun violence and their families as their guests Tuesday. And Michelle Obama will be sitting with the parents of 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton, the Chicago teenager killed by gunfire days after performing in the inaugural parade.

Foreign policy will take a backseat to domestic issues, though Obama may discuss next steps for drawing down US troops from Afghanistan and reducing the nation’s nuclear stockpile.

The president will follow up his address with three days of travel around the country. He’ll start Wednesday in Asheville, N.C., where he will visit Linamar Corp., a supplier of engine and transmission components that has expanded its manufacturing operations.

Obama is expected to reiterate his calls for revitalizing the US manufacturing sector, perhaps reviving his campaign pledge to create 1 million manufacturing jobs during his second term. Following a sluggish 2012, manufacturing grew at a faster pace last month, driven by an increase in orders and more hiring at factories.