Our View: Some agreement, many divides
There were a few noticeable signs of bipartisan agreement, such as when seemingly every member of Congress rose to endorse President Obama’s State of the Union pledge of continued U.S. support of Israel and his expression of gratitude to those in the U.S. military.
On some occasions — such as when the president said the nation needs a manufacturing revolution and tax reform that will bring jobs back to America from overseas — Democratic Vice President Joe Biden and Republican House Speaker John Boehner could be seen behind the president clapping and indicating agreement.
But clearly, much of President Obama’s agenda for the next four years — his views on the level of federal government involvement in a number of matters, his calls for more tax hikes on the wealthy and proposals for several government-funded initiatives — is in conflict with the Republican Party that currently controls the House of Representatives in Congress.
The president called for increased federal spending on manufacturing, infrastructure and clean-energy technologies and said the costs of such would be paid for. He proposed incentives to entice states to offer educational programs for all children beginning at age 4, which likely would involve more spending of federal dollars. And he again spoke of the need for funding infrastructure repairs that would provide jobs.
While he didn’t specifically say how some of these things and other programs would be paid for, Obama did say they would not increase budget deficits “by a single dime.” “It’s not a bigger government we need, but a smarter government that sets priorities and invests in broad-based growth,” he said.
The president also reiterated his stand on budget deficit reduction that includes $900 billion in cuts and $600 billion in revenue increases via tax code changes. He restated his emotional call for stricter firearms regulations, particularly regarding background checks of purchasers, limits on magazine capacities and a ban on military-style weapons. He proposed raising the federal minimum wage to $9 an hour. And he again said now is the time for comprehensive immigration policy reform.
Surely, most of these issues and presidential proposals will produce contentious debates in Washington, with many of the issues remaining unresolved. We expect that even immigration reform, which has a good chance of passage, will generate heated debates over the next few months.
Despite talk of the need for bipartisanship and President Obama’s reference Tuesday to President John F. Kennedy’s statement that the president and members of Congress are “partners for progress,” we still see a wide divide on many important matters — particularly fiscal and economic policy — between Republicans and Obama and the Democrats. It makes us wonder what “progress” we may see.