In his first State of the Union message since his reelection, President Obama urged quick passage of legislation the women’s movement has supported for many years. This legislation includes: passage by the House of the Senate’s Violence against Women Reauthorization, for Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act (which was filibustered in the Senate by Republicans in the last session), to raise the federal minimum wage to $9 and to index to the cost of living, to pass Universal Pre-School for three and four year olds, to pass comprehensive immigration reform, and to pass gun control (at least the victims deserve a vote in Congress). The president also stressed we will “join with our allies” in the effort to eradicate extreme poverty in many parts of the world “by connecting more people to the global economy, by empowering women.”
The President urged colleges/universities to keep the costs of tuition down for students, indicating that the federal government must change higher education policies to encourage affordability. In addition, the President announced that his Administration will release a “college scorecard” for students and parents to use when selecting a college/university.
The President indicated he would be for “modest reforms” of Medicare that would “achieve the same amount of health care savings by the beginning of the next decade as the reforms proposed by the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles commission…. We will reduce taxpayer subsidies to prescription drug companies and ask more from the wealthiest seniors.” He said we cannot “simply” shift “the cost of health care or college onto families that are already struggling or by forcing communities to lay off more teachers, cops, and firefighters.” Thus far, cuts to Medicare under the Affordable Care Act include cuts in the subsidies to insurance companies and in the administration of the program, but not cuts to seniors’ benefits.
In addition, the President urged a bi-partisan, market-based solution to urge climate change while also addressing the economy. He also announced that he will be preparing executive actions that can be used to address pollution and the use of more sustainable energy.
He again urged a balanced approach in reducing the deficit with cuts as well as increases in revenue from “the wealthiest and the most powerful.” The President laid out an ambitious plan to increase jobs, to encourage free enterprise and to make the nation more competitive by increasing investments in education and research while rebuilding and modernizing the nation’s infrastructure.
Meanwhile, Senator Marco Rubio (FL) in a Republican response concentrated on a limited role for the federal government. Rubio painted an either/or situation of pitting government and cutting taxes against a larger role for small business. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) in the Tea Party’s response to the State of the Union emphasized the need for even more cuts in federal spending. Both Senator Rubio and Paul were part of the group of 22 Senators, all of whom are Republicans, who did not vote for the Senate Reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act yesterday. Voters chose the President’s balanced approach of increased revenues together with cuts in spending in the November election.