December 22, 2014

Medina
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The annual State of the Union: Of pledges, pleas and setbacks

WASHINGTON — Here’s a little secret about the State of the Union address that President Barack Obama will deliver next week: He’ll give Congress a long list of requests but few likely will be approved. That’s just the reality of a politically divided government.

Take a look at what happened after last year’s speech.

Congress was not in a giving mood, stalling or downright ignoring Obama legislative priorities such as gun legislation, immigration, a minimum wage hike and universal preschool. The president did better with his own to-do list, but even there the administration was still wrapping up some of his pledges just days before his 2014 State of the Union address.

So here’s a look at the president’s 2013 State of Union. Use it for keeping score or as a guide for his coming address.

$9 Snubbed? Try $10.10

In 2013 Obama told Congress: “Let’s declare that in the wealthiest nation on Earth, no one who works full time should have to live in poverty, and raise the federal minimum wage to $9 an hour … let’s tie the minimum wage to the cost of living, so that it finally becomes a wage you can live on.”

Congress didn’t act. Instead, Democratic lawmakers upped the ante. A Senate bill, now endorsed by the White House, would raise the minimum wage to $10.10 by 2016 and then adjust future increases to inflation.

Obama is expected to make raising the minimum wage much more central to his agenda this year than last.

Falling on deaf ears

In 2013 Obama told Congress: “Let’s agree right here, right now to keep the people’s government open, and pay our bills on time, and always uphold the full faith and credit of the United States of America.”

Instead, a budget impasse triggered a 16-day partial government shutdown in October and the administration and congressional Republicans went to the brink before agreeing to increase the nation’s borrowing authority and thus avoid a default.

Failed, but still alive

In 2013, Obama told Congress: “Send me a comprehensive immigration reform bill in the next few months, and I will sign it right away.”

The Senate last year passed a comprehensive, bipartisan bill that addressed border security, provided enforcement measures and offered a path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million immigrants living in the United States illegally.

In the House, the move stalled as Republican leaders, pressed by tea party conservatives, demanded a more limited and piecemeal approach.

Failed, has no chance

In 2013 Obama told Congress: “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.”

Following the December 2012 elementary school shooting in Newtown, Conn., Obama proposed sweeping gun control measures.

But the toughest proposals, including stricter background checks, failed in the Senate.

The House did not even take them up.

Fine, then I’ll do it

In 2013, Obama told Congress: “I urge this Congress to get together, pursue a bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change, like the one John McCain and Joe Lieberman worked on together a few years ago. But if Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will.”

He did.

Obama launched a major second-term drive to combat climate change, bypassing Congress as he proposed the first-ever limits on carbon pollution from new and existing power plants.

The plan aims to help move the United States from a coal-dependent past into a future fired by cleaner sources of energy such as wind and solar power, nuclear energy and natural gas.