President Obama is planning to pitch new spending proposals in his State of the Union address Tuesday night, saying in prepared remarks that he wants to invest in “broad-based growth” and fuel a “rising, thriving middle class."
Even before the address, Obama’s plan to call for “investments” was panned by House Speaker John Boehner. "If government spending were the tonic for all our ills, this would have been solved a long time ago,” Boehner told reporters.
But Obama stressed that his proposals would not add to the deficit.
“Tonight, I’ll lay out additional proposals that are fully paid for and fully consistent with the budget framework both parties agreed to just 18 months ago,” Obama said in prepared remarks. “Let me repeat -- nothing I’m proposing tonight should increase our deficit by a single dime. It’s not a bigger government we need, but a smarter government that sets priorities and invests in broad-based growth.”
At the beginning of his second term, Obama is pushing anew to make economic growth a priority. In his remarks, he says it is this generation’s task “to reignite the true engine of America’s economic growth -- a rising, thriving middle class.”
Regardless of whether Obama’s proposals add to the deficit, he is sure to face a mixed reception in putting the emphasis on new government programs when many -- particularly House Republicans -- are more interested in paring back the spending out of Washington. Some argue this could even help the economy by sending a signal that the federal government is at last tackling the budget deficit.
The president is expected to speak at 9 p.m. ET.
While Obama's aides say Tuesday night is all about the economy, he is expected to hit several other themes during the hour-long speech. First lady Michelle Obama’s guest list, announced Tuesday afternoon, provided a glimpse into what those agenda items might be -- gun control, immigration, education, science and technology funding, and more.
In each guest's biography is reflected a theme, almost certain to make its way into the president's speech.
Among those in Michelle Obama's guest box are Alan Aleman, a so-called "DREAM student" -- someone who arrived in the U.S. as a young illegal immigrant, but has been given a reprieve to pursue an education by the administration. Aleman's presence will be symbolic as the president pushes for immigration reform which, if he gets his way, will include some permanent provision dealing illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. as children.
Also in the guest box is Cleopatra Cowley-Pendleton, mother of Hadiya Pendleton who was killed in Chicago in late January. The first lady attended Hadiya's memorial service over the weekend. Cowley-Pendleton, together with other victims of gun violence in the crowd Tuesday night, represents the president's push for new gun control measures.
Several other guests speak to Obama's stance on the budget. Highlighting the president's push for science funding, the flight director for the Mars Curiosity Rover will be in the crowd. And highlighting the president's push for tax cuts on the middle class (and hikes on top earners), the guest box will include Lisa Richards, a single mom who voiced concern to the White House about taxes rising on the middle class.
The president will have several other weighty issues to address Tuesday night, not the least of which is North Korea's latest nuclear test. The president also plans to announce 34,000 U.S. troops will be brought home from Afghanistan within a year.
That will bring the force size to roughly half what it is now, in the run-up to the withdrawal deadline of the end of 2014.
The centerpiece of the address, though, is still expected to be the economy. The president is expected to revive his calls Tuesday for government "investments" in infrastructure and education -- meaning spending. While the recurring push, for Republicans, brings back bad memories of the stimulus law they opposed, White House economic adviser Gene Sperling told Fox News on Tuesday that closing the deficit "doesn't mean you pull back on everything."
"I don't think that laying the foundation for future growth (with research and highway spending) is anything to discount in any way," Sperling said. "What you need to do is be smart."
Boehner, though, dismissed the push. "If government spending were the tonic for all our ills, this would have been solved a long time ago," he said Tuesday. Boehner said the president added "$5 trillion in new debt over the last four years. How much further is he going to run us into the sewer?"
Boehner also claimed the president doesn't have the "guts" to tackle the budget deficit.
Obama and Congress are scrambling to find a way to avoid automatic spending cuts poised to hit March 1 unless a deal is reached to replace them.
Obama, to the chagrin of Republicans, wants to replace those cuts with a blend of tax hikes and separate cuts. Republicans, citing the tax-hike concessions they gave during the fiscal crisis talks, are averse to more tax increases -- even if this time, those increases do not come in the form of rate hikes.