Tomorrow night, President Barack Obama will give the first State of the Union address during his second term in office. This time around, current events will have an outsized impact on the issues he discusses during the speech, commonly used by presidents as a way to promote their agenda for the coming year.
So what should we be looking for in Obama’s speech tomorrow?
With the Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting still fresh in most Americans’ minds, President Barack Obama has already started working on gun control. He issued 23 executive orders in January aimed at tackling the issue from various angles, including strengthening background checks, exploring the causes of gun violence, and appointing a head for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms.
His next step is going to be convincing Congress to act on more sweeping legislation on guns. This would include universal background checks on gun sales, limits to high-capacity ammunition magazines, and even reinstating the assault weapons ban that expired in 2004. Expect to see plenty of crowd shots of State of the Union attendees affected by gun violence: Sandy Hook teachers, the mother of gun violence victim and inaugural event performer Hadiya Pendleton, and former Rep. and Tucson shooting survivor Gabrielle Giffords will all be there.
The end of January saw both the president and a bipartisan group of senators propose immigration reforms that would, among other things, provide a path to citizenship for 11 million illegal immigrants. They would also improve border and employment enforcement as well as better handle the flow of legal immigrants.
Immigration reform is an issue that Obama and the Democrats hope to get out in front of, and Republicans need to work on, given the overwhelming support the president received by Latinos in the 2012 election.
After the brutally hot summer the United States just experienced, followed by the damage that Superstorm Sandy wreaked upon the East Coast, many politicians have been rethinking their stances on climate change. Obama’s take on climate change has varied from year to year — in 2009, he called for sweeping climate change legislation, but in 2011 he did not mention climate at all.
Obama is almost certain to talk about climate change more this year, given recent weather events. He may also seek to tie efforts to reduce the impact of climate change with efforts to increase U.S. usage of green energy sources, while pointing out such efforts have additional economic benefits.
Obama announced that he supported gay marriage last May, and four states moved forward with allowing same-sex marriage during the 2012 general election. Expect him to push further for equal rights for gays and lesbians, and expect him to frame it as a civil rights issue in much the same vein as the African-American civil rights movement.
We’ve seen two of Obama’s key picks for foreign policy posts, Secretary of Defense nominee Chuck Hagel and CIA Director nominee John Brennan, face serious scrutiny from Senate Republicans. In fact, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., has threatened to place a hold on the two men’s nominations until more information on the Benghazi attacks are released.
It’s unclear how much Obama will talk about his nominees or his drone program, but there are plenty of other ongoing foreign policy issues he can discuss. Among these include setting a timetable for withdrawing troops from Afghanistan and discussing how best to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.
— Benjamin Nanamaker, InvestorPolitics Editor
The opinions contained in this column are solely those of the writer.
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