In his State of the Union address on Tuesday night, President Barack Obama made an overture to new House Speaker Paul Ryan by highlighting the Republican’s interest in fighting poverty.
Obama said he’d welcome “a serious discussion about strategies we can all support, like expanding tax cuts for low-income workers without kids.”
The president noted, however, that there are plenty of other areas where it’s more difficult to find agreement between Republicans and Democrats.
He said those include what role the government should play in making sure the system works for ordinary Americans, not just the rich.
He also made good on his promise not to announce a litany of new proposals in his very last address.
Obama and White House officials said ahead of the speech that he was planning a “nontraditional” speech that would offer a broad, long-term view of the nation. They said he’ skip the traditional list of ambitious plans for the coming year and calls for new legislation. Those calls would likely hit a dead end in Congress as Obama’s presidency begins to wind down.
Instead, Obama used his speech to repeat previous calls for legislation on immigration, minimum wage, pay equity and guns, as well as a new war powers resolution.
His only new announcement was that he’s tasking Vice President Joe Biden with a mission to accelerate research on cancer. But Biden had already announced last year that he planned to pursue a “moonshot” to cure cancer.
Meanwhile, House Speaker Paul Ryan was already criticizing President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address — while it was being delivered.
Ryan said in a statement released by his office that after 30 minutes, Obama’s speech “isn’t going so well.”
He claimed “lofty platitudes and nostalgic rhetoric may make for nice soundbites, but they don’t explain how to” solve problems, such as defeating the Islamic State terrorist group, fixing social safety net programs or getting the economy back on track.
Ryan said Obama’s speech “isn’t a real path forward to restore a confident America,” adding, “We can do so much better.”
He claimed the Republican-led Congress has boosted funding for the military, overhauled the No Child Left Behind education law and lifted a 40-year ban on crude oil exports.
During his speech, President Barack Obama told legislators that it’s time to recognize the Cold War is over and lift the trade embargo with Cuba, noting that 50 years of isolating Cuba failed to promote democracy.