President Obama will use the high-profile address to try anew for momentum for the president’s agenda as he declares 2014 a “year of action” with or without congressional support. Here are some likely key points:
Obama is expected to make the widening income gap between rich and poor a centerpiece of his speech, calling on lawmakers to restore jobless benefits for 1.3 million long-term unemployed Americans, expand preschool initiatives and boost the federal minimum wage. Unable to get traction on Capitol Hill for his economic initiatives, the president will announce some policies he will undertake on his own, the White House said. The president is expected to announce a plan to generate commitments from the private sector to hire people who have been out of work for extended periods of time.
He is expected to renew his call for Congress to overhaul the nation’s patchwork immigration laws. The effort gained momentum last year when the Senate passed a landmark bill, but the legislation stalled in the Republican-led House.
Health care law
The president will also tout the health law, which has rebounded somewhat after a disastrous launch in October. The administration said about 3 million people have enrolled in federal- and state-run health insurances exchanges, although the percentage of young, healthy people signing up will likely need to increase by the March 31 deadline in order to keep costs down.
The president is also likely to talk briefly about a host of international concerns: gains by Al-Qaida-allied groups in Iraq, the scheduled withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan this year, and a rocky start to efforts to broker peace in Syria. He also may look to push for special trade-promotion authority known as “fast track,” which he wants in order to limit congressional debate and force quick votes on a big trade pact. And he may call on Congress to give the administration space to negotiate with Iran, which started suspending some uranium enrichment.
How you can tune in
The White House is taking a campaign-style approach to the 8 p.m. CST speech (which also will be shown on all major channels): turning its Instagram account into a photo album of preparation, including photos of drafts of the speech and Obama’s meetings with speechwriter Cody Keenan. Aides are working on an interactive version of the speech that will run online at whitehouse.gov and feature charts and statistics as he’s speaking. And he will hold a post-speech “virtual” tour Friday on Google, answering questions from around the country on topics from his speech.
Prince offered samples of a funky new solo album during an intimate late-night preview. He didn’t mention the album’s title or release date, but he did express frustration with the slow-grinding wheels of the record business.