Obama will make clear in his 9 p.m. address that he is willing to
bypass U.S. lawmakers and go it alone in some areas by announcing a
series of executive actions that do not require congressional
The White House said Obama would announce he is issuing an executive
order to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour for federal
contract workers with new contracts.
In his address, Obama will also call on Congress to pass a bill that
would increase the federal minimum wage for all workers to $10.10 an
hour from $7.25 and index that to inflation going forward.
The executive order for new contracts or existing contracts in which
terms are being changed would take effect at the beginning of next
year, with janitors and construction workers among the
beneficiaries. Issuing the order allows Obama to bypass Congress in
a limited way, with Republicans opposed to a broad increase in the
White House officials said Obama would also announce new executive
actions on retirement security and job training to help middle-class
workers expand economic opportunity.
"In this year of action, the president will seek out as many
opportunities as possible to work with Congress in a bipartisan way.
But when American jobs and livelihoods depend on getting something
done, he will not wait for Congress," Obama senior adviser Dan
Pfeiffer said in an email to supporters, sketching out the themes of
With three years left in office, Obama has effectively reduced for
now his ambitions for grand legislative actions.
He is expected to renew his appeal for a long-stalled immigration
overhaul that has been stymied by Republicans. He will promote his
signature healthcare law, four months after its disastrous rollout.
The address, Obama's sixth such speech in the House of
Representatives chamber, is aimed at addressing income inequality,
with middle-class Americans struggling to get ahead even while
wealthier people prosper in the uneven economic recovery.
The president's most significant speech of the year has been weeks
in the making, with Obama working on it at night and chief
speechwriter Cody Keenan during the day, with input from academics,
policy experts, elected officials, former administration officials
and business executives.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said the speech was a big chance to
speak to U.S. lawmakers but "even more importantly, to the millions
of Americans, millions of Americans who tune in."
"And the president looks forward to that and will offer in his
address his vision and his agenda for moving the country forward,
and the steps that we can take to expand opportunity for all
Americans," he told reporters.
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Attending the speech will be a variety of Americans who will sit
with his wife, Michelle Obama, in order to stress issues that are
important to the White House, such as heroes from last year's Boston
Marathon bombings, a firefighter who led the rescue response to an
Oklahoma tornado, and an openly gay basketball player.
"COMES DOWN TO ECONOMIC ISSUES"
One of Obama's goals is to lay out a narrative that Democratic
congressional candidates can adopt in the run-up to November
elections as they try to hold on to their Senate majority and
challenge Republicans for control of the House.
The party that controls the White House typically loses seats in the
"midterm" elections, which presents Obama with a bit of a challenge.
"It comes down to economic issues," said Andy Smith, director of the
University of New Hampshire Survey Center. "The economy is going to
be the thing that determines whether people have confidence in the
president. If the economy is doing well, people will forgive a lot
of the things the president has done or not done."
Obama is trying to recover from a difficult fifth year in office,
when immigration and gun control legislation failed to advance in
Congress, his healthcare law struggled out of the starting gate, and
he appeared uncertain about what to do about Syria's civil war.
Obama will talk up themes from the speech in a two-day road trip
that will include stops in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and
Obama's Republican opponents will be listening for clues as to
whether the two sides can work together on issues like expanding
trade. They are taking a dim view of Obama's go-it-alone plans.
"The truth is, without going outside his authority — something sure
to be received poorly by the American people and Congress — there is
little the president can do on his own to make a real difference. If
there were, why hasn't he already done so?" said Brendan Buck,
spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner.
(Additional reporting by Jeff Mason, Roberta Rampton and Mark
Felsenthal; editing by Caren Bohan, Eric Walsh and Peter Cooney)
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