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Obama Faces Several Controversial Issues in Address

8:09 AM, Jan 28, 2014   |    comments
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WASHINGTON D.C. -- In the State of the Union address Tuesday night, President Obama will face the country in which more than half of Americans currently say they disapprove of his agenda.

Health care is likely to be one of the pivotal aspects of this year's speech--which could be the President's last before he becomes a "lame duck" president. Republicans soon will be campaigning to keep control in the House of Representatives and regain control in the Senate.

Jason Husser, assistant professor of political science at Elon University, said the president hopes to achieve two key objectives in his State of the Union. "One is to make sure his party doesn't lose seats in the upcoming elections in November, and the second is to protect his legacy. That means protecting his legislative achievements, like the Affordable Care Act and making sure that history views him positively," Husser said.

According to USA Today, the latest survey by the Washington Post revealed President Obama's approval rating is 46 percent. The latest Gallup daily poll, however, lists his approval rating as only 41 percent. Last year, his approval rating was 55 percent at the time of his State of the Union address. The USA Today/Pew Research Center polls said six in 10 Americans said their family income is falling behind the cost of living. Only seven percent said they believe they are gaining ground in an improving economy.

Political analysts anticipate that in his address tonight, the President will outline a plan for comprehensive immigration reform. Husser said, "The president might talk about changes for dreamers. And so, can dreamers become citizen, and what about their parents? Maybe their parents can't become citizens."

Husser added, "He could also talk about about immigration reform for high-tech workers who may have been born in another country but were educated here in the U.S, have higher paying jobs, or they pay more taxes than they take in, in terms of government services. So, these are the areas where the President can work."

In 2013, the Republicans shut down the Senate-passed bill to overhaul the country's current immigration laws. So since then, the President has softened his approach, but lately he has expressed optimism that he can make a deal with House Republicans. In that deal, he hopes to provide means of citizenship for the country's 11 million undocumented workers."

Another key topic the President's aides say he will discuss tonight is the federal minimum wage. The President has said he hopes to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 by the end of his term in office. Last year, the President called on Congress to increase minimum wage from $7.25 to $9 and then eventually to $10.10.

Husser said, "There's a good chance that with the right type of leadership, the President could get legislation through to raise the federal minimum wage to $10 an hour. It likely means that a number of people who are below the poverty line will be above the poverty line. However, it could lead to some unemployment."

Opponents of raising the minimum wage have argued that doing so could spike prices and in turn cause employers to trim their workforce. But five states--not including North Carolina--have approved raising the minimum wage.

Husser said he suspects unemployment benefits also will be a prime topic of discussion, as he explained expanding unemployment benefits could help Democrats in the next Election. "This is important, because it means more people are getting paid, instead of sort of going without pay checks before the Election. The economy's better, and a good economy tends to help candidates from the incumbent's party. So, more unemployment benefits now probably means more votes for Democrats in November."

On matters of domestic and foreign security, the President again could address both the NSA scandal and Iran's nuclear policy. Of the President's suspected need to again address NSA's collecting of Americans' phone records, Husser said, "...he wants to make sure he's going to be able to craft a long-term change to intelligence policy in a way that makes sure Americans can stay safe, but also that Americans can maintain their privacy."

Regarding Iran's nuclear policy, analysts say the President could address how time is running out on a temporary six-month deal, and the Obama administration and U.S. allies need to figure out a long-term agreement. That agreement would aim to restrict nuclear activities in Iran, in exchange for reduced sanctions. Some members of Congress have expressed concern lately that Tehran is still actively seeking nuclear weapons.

After the President's speech tonight, the GOP will issue its official response. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rogers (R-Washington) will be delivering that speech, and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Florida) will be giving a Spanish translation of that same speech. Both women and the hispanic demographic have proven to be critical in Elections.

Watch WFMY News 2 at 9 p.m. Tuesday for a live broadcast of the State of the Union. Or, head to WFMYNews2.com for a live stream, which will begin at 8:30 p.m.

Join in on the conversation on WFMY News 2's Facebook page: What key topics/issues do you hope to hear the President discuss tonight during his State of the Union address?

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