Obama set for annual address to Congress
WASHINGTON—U.S. President Barack Obama will announce the pullout of nearly half of American forces still in Afghanistan and denounce North Korea’s latest nuclear test tonight in his State of the Union speech—an annual address to a joint session of Congress that is bitterly divided over his dramatic plans to shift domestic policy on taxes, spending, gun control, and investment in the country’s crumbling infrastructure.
The highly-anticipated announcement on the next phase of the Afghanistan troop withdrawal will cut the size of the U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan by more than half by a year from now.
While Obama is expected to focus the bulk of his prime-time address on the economy and job creation, foreign policy grabbed the spotlight after North Korea earlier today said it successfully detonated a nuclear device in defiance of U.N. warnings.
“The president will say that the only way North Korea will rejoin the world community is if they stop these threats and live up to their international obligations,” said Tommy Vietor, a spokesman for the White House’s National Security Council.
On domestic issues, Obama hopes he can encourage lawmakers to join him in reforming laws on gun ownership, immigration, and boosting taxes to raise government spending power.
The president’s priorities also include easing back on spending cuts and addressing climate change.
Aware of the partisan gridlock gripping Washington, Obama is banking on his popularity and the political capital from his convincing re-election in November as he calls on Americans to join him in his vision for what he calls a fairer country with greater opportunity for all.
With Republicans in control of the House of Representatives and exerting influence in the Democratic-controlled Senate, Obama plans immediately afterward to make a two-day, three-state foray to take his message directly to the American people.
Congress fought the president to a near standstill on virtually every White House initiative during his first term—though he succeeded in overhauling the health-care system.
In his second term, Obama has decided that he may stand a better chance of moving his agenda through Congress by drawing support from outside the capital rather than from within.
Massive federal spending cuts that will hit the U.S. economy on March 1 if a compromise isn’t hammered out with Congress surely will colour Obama’s speech like nothing else.
Some economists predict those cuts could push the U.S. back into recession even before it has fully recovered from the Great Recession—the most serious economic downturn in more than 70 years.