In his fourth State of the Union address last Tuesday, Feb. 12, President Barack Obama said the state of the union is good, though the unity of the state is still up for debate.
That debate began even before the president finished his speech with congressional leadership ironically illustrating the hyper-partisan climate on Capitol Hill.
Democratic vice president and leader of the Democrat-controlled Senate Joe Biden stood and applauded the president’s every point to his left.
Stone faced and seated to his right, Republican Speaker of the Republican-controlled House John Boehner led his party’s lack of response.
The president’s address focused largely on economic initiatives to strengthen the economy over the next year. Other major policy points included budgeting and deficit reduction, immigration reform, climate change, voting rights, education reform and infrastructure.
Obama concluded the speech with the night’s emotional epicenter — gun regulation. He discussed the new assault weapons ban developed by a bipartisan committee in the Senate before calling on Congress to act on the legislation.
“Gabby Giffords deserves a vote. The families of Newtown deserve a vote. The families of Aurora deserve a vote. The families of Oak Creek, and Tucson, and Blacksburg, and the countless other communities ripped open by gun violence. They deserve a simple vote,” Obama said to an audience including more than two-dozen affected by gun violence.
House Republicans did not participate in the otherwise uproarious applause.
They did, however, put their hands together in agreement for a surprise point in the president’s deficit reduction and economic stimulus agenda.
“Tonight I’ll lay out additional proposals that are fully paid for and fully consistent with the budget framework both parties agreed to just 18 months ago. Let me repeat: Nothing I’m proposing tonight should increase our deficit by a single dime. It is not a bigger government we need, but a smarter government that sets priorities and invests in broad-based growth,” Obama said in his address.
Obama’s economic vision urged Congress to pass the second half of the American Jobs Act proposed a year and a half ago, saying it would add another 1 million jobs to the 6 million created over the course of his first term.
The continually slow recovering economy is still minus 3.2 million jobs since Obama inherited the financial crisis and recession that began in December 2007.
“Over the last few years, both parties have worked together to reduce the deficit by more than $2.5 trillion — mostly through spending cuts, but also by raising tax rates on the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans,” Obama said while calling on Congress to work together against the imminent beginning of sequestration in March.
“As a result, we are more than halfway toward the goal of $4 trillion in deficit reduction that economists say we need to stabilize our finances,” Obama said.
The president’s $2 trillion plus cuts span 10 years of deficit reduction over the long term. Economists debate whether the cuts will be enough to reduce the ratio of debt to GDP.
Congress will have to put its hands together for the president to pass such bold policy legislation — not in partisan applause, but in bipartisan handshakes.