Recap: Obama sets agenda in State of the Union

By: Meredith Francis ~Campus News Editor~

President Barack Obama recently addressed a joint-session of Congress for his State of the Union speech. In the address, Obama set out his agenda for the remaining two years of his second term. Obama opened the speech with a discussion of the economy, claiming significant improvement in his presidency following the 2008 financial crisis.

The president urged Congress to pass policies that would alleviate the burden on the middle class. “It’s now up to us to choose who we want to be over the next 15 years, and for decades to come. Will we accept an economy where only a few of us do spectacularly well? Or will we commit ourselves to an economy that generates rising incomes and chances for everyone who makes the effort?” Obama said. Part of the president’s agenda includes a tax hike on the wealthiest Americans and the largest financial instituions.

Obama also encouraged Congress to pass a law that would make community
college free for students and improve tax credits for childcare and education.
Amid the Keystone XL pipeline debate in Congress, in which Republicans are pushing for an oil pipeline that would carry tar sand oil from Canada to Texas,
Obama pushed for greater energy independence and policies that would reduce the effects of climate change.

In response to many recent events, Obama also discussed the threat from ISIS, the Islamist militant group that has taken control of parts of Iraq and Syria.
“Instead of getting dragged into another ground war in the Middle East, we are leading a broad coalition, including Arab nations, to degrade and ultimately
destroy this terrorist group. This effort will take time. It will require focus. But we will succeed,” Obama said.

He also laid out a plan to combat the threats to cybersecurity, following a cyber attack from North Korean hackers on Sony. “I urge this Congress to finally pass the legislation we need to better meet the evolving threat of cyber-attacks, combat identity theft and protect our children’s information,” he said.

The most talked-about moment of the address came in a moment of off-script banter from Obama. After setting out his comprehensive agenda, and with no pressure for reelection, Obama said, “I have no elections left to run.” In response to the applause from Republican members of Congress, Obama
replied, “I know, because I won both of them.” Iowa Senator Joni Ernst delivered the official response from the Republican Party. Ernst responded
to many of Obama’s policies, including a moment in which Ernst referred to the Affordable Care Act as a “failed” policy.

Ernst called on Obama to sign the Keystone XL pipeline legislation, despite the president’s promise to veto the bill. Ernest also discussed the debate between parties on how to handle the threat from ISIS.

“This is where we’ll debate strategies to confront terrorism and the threats posed by Al Qaeda, (ISIS), and those radicalized by them. We know threats
like these can’t just be wished away,” Ernst said.

Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky and Senator Ted Cruz of Texas also delivered unofficial Tea Party responses.

This marks the sixth State of the Union for the president, who says he’s entering the “fourth quarter” of his presidency.