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White House / WHITE HOUSE

Obama to Call for Bipartisanship, Will Tout Economic Agenda

"The future is ours to win," Obama will declare.

The Capitol building on the night of the State of the Union, January 25, 2011.(Theresa Poulson)

photo of Matthew Cooper
January 25, 2011

Calling for bipartisanship and promoting an economic plan for the next two years of his administration, President Obama will declare "the future is ours to win" in his State of the Union address later tonight. 

The annual address comes at a pivotal moment for the president. After the Democrats' drubbing in the November elections, the White House has to recalibrate what it can accomplish with a House controlled by Republicans and a Senate with a narrower Democratic majority. Obama has clearly chosen to trim his governmental ambitions and concentrate on limited measures to improve the economy and appeal to lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

The recent shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., added drama to the evening, spurring lawmakers to take the unusual step of sitting with members of the opposite party. The president noted her empty seat in the House chamber.

 

The show of unity helped underscore the president's call for better cooperation

Aiming to inspire, the president declared, "What comes of this moment is up to us. What comes of this moment will be determined not by whether we can sit together tonight but whether we can work together tomorrow."

"The challenges we face are bigger than party, and bigger than politics," he said, according to the White House-released text. 

The White House released the text of the president's address this evening. Earlier National Journal obtained a draft of the address from a Democratic insider and published it. 

In the prepared speech, Obama laid out a wide-ranging plan to boost American competitiveness at home and abroad, including a call for ending subsidies to oil companies, promoting wireless coverage to 98 percent of the country, challenging the nation to get 80 percent of its energy from clean sources by 2035, and better education.

"We do big things," Obama was set to say. "The idea of America endures. Our destiny remains our choice."

In the text the president repeatedly cited America's competitors for their advancements in infrastructure and education and declared, "We have to do better. America is the nation that built the transcontinental railroad, brought electricity to rural communities and constructed the highway system.... We will put more Americans to work repairing roads and bridges."

On health care, the president will defend his landmark legislation but allow "that anything can be improved." He will tell lawmakers "I am eager to work with you."

Addressing the growth of government debt, the president will vow to cut spending even as he outlined a number of new initiatives to boost U.S. competitiveness. Tellingly, Obama will address entitlement spending, noting that Medicare and Medicaid, the government's health plans for the elderly and poor, are driving the deficit. He conspicuously omits Social Security, which will come as a relief to liberals in his party and perhaps seniors.

Obama denounces congressional "pet projects" and declared that he would veto any such spending bills.

And like presidents before him, Obama singled out the need to reform the tax code, saying "It makes no sense, and it has to change." He calls on Congress to "simplify the system."

Another initiative in the prepared speech is the goal of giving 80 percent of Americans "access to high-speed rail" by 2035.

The speech gives only modest attention to foreign policy. The president will note Americans are out of Iraq, and that the armed forces are taking the fight to al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan.

 

 

 

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