President Obama said a lot stuff in his State of the Union address Tuesday night, but don't expect much of it to become reality.
Republicans have full control of Congress for the first time since 2006, and they are no fans of the president or his proposals.
Still, Obama made the case that the country has begun to "turn the page" on 15 years of war and recession and urged Congress to pass policies meant to boost economic opportunity for Americans outside the one percent.
Here's a look at what Obama wants to happen in 2015 and beyond:
- The centerpiece of Obama's economic plan is a $320 billion tax hike on wealthy Americans, through new levies on investments and inheritances. The money would be used to pay for new policies to help low- and middle-income families, such as new tax credits for child-care and education and expanded retirement-savings programs.
- Obama rolled out the bulk of his self-described "middle-class economics" plan before Tuesday's big speech. He also wants to make community college tuition-free, make homeownership more affordable by cutting mortgage insurance premiums on federal loans, mandate paid sick leave for all workers, and expand access to high-speed broadband internet where it's not available.
- Republicans have declared much of Obama's economic plan dead on arrival in Congress.
- But even if the president's proposals don't become law, they serve a clear political purpose: sparking a debate with the GOP over the economy ahead of the 2016 elections. Obama positions Democrats as champions of the middle-class and Republicans as defenders of the rich. "Will we accept an economy where only a few of us do spectacularly well?" Obama said. "Or will we commit ourselves to an economy that generates rising incomes and chances for everyone who makes the effort?”
- Obama asked Congress to pass an authorization for military force to fight the Islamic State extremist group in the Middle East. This is one of the few potential areas of agreement between Obama and Republicans, though Republicans still left the speech wanting more. Sen. Joni Ernst, who delivered the official GOP response, said Obama still needs to produce a “comprehensive plan to defeat” ISIS.
- Another area where Obama and Republicans could compromise? A bill to bolster the nation's cyber-defenses, which encourages private companies to share data with the government agencies in order to prevent attacks. “No foreign nation, no hacker, should be able to shut down our networks, steal our trade secrets, or invade the privacy of American families, especially our kids," Obama said.
- Obama challenged Congress to "begin the work" of lifting the half-century embargo with Cuba, a major policy change opposed by many Republicans. Knowing he has the wind of public opinion at his back, the president touted his recent move to restore diplomatic relations with the island nation. "In Cuba, we are ending a policy that was long past its expiration date," Obama said. "When what you’re doing doesn’t work for fifty years, it’s time to try something new."
- Most Republican lawmakers oppose Obama's new Cuba policy, and their faces showed it.
- Here's reaction from Alan Gross, the recently freed political prisoner who was a guest of First Lady Michelle Obama.
- The president did not specifically mention the large-scale deportation relief program he unveiled in November, but he threatened to veto any legislation aimed at "refighting past battles on immigration when we’ve got a system to fix." Emblematic of the far-right response to his immigration actions, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) blasted the president for allowing an undocumented immigrant to attend the address as a guest of the First Lady.
- Democrats lashed out at King for his "deportable" comment.
- Obama made note that scientists said last week 2014 was the hottest year on record, pushing for a bold agenda to deal with the effects of climate change. The comments come at a time when the new Republican-controlled Congress is making passage of the Keystone XL Pipeline’s construction one of the top items on its agenda. Obama did not mention the Keystone Pipeline by name, but he pointedly said he would not allow Congress to “endanger the health of our children by turning back the clock on our efforts” to combat climate change.
- In another potential area of compromise with Republicans, Obama called on Congress to give him broader authority to make trade deals. He wants Congress to provide him with the authority to “fast track” trade deals, giving Congress only the power to vote up or down on the trade deals without changing them. Obama and Republicans have said it’s essential to strengthening the U.S. agenda on a global scale, but the president has faced pushback from some members of his own party.
- Obama came out strongly in vowing he would continue his “determination” to “shut down” the military prison at Guantanamo Bay. He touted the fact that he has cut the prison’s population in half from the time he first came into office. “It makes no sense to spend $3 million per prisoner to keep open a prison that the world condemns and terrorists use to recruit,” he said.
Net neutrality/internet access
- The president didn't directly address net neutrality, but he hinted at his policy proposal on the issue when talking about internet access for students. "I intend to protect a free and open internet, extend its reach to every classroom, and every community, and help folks build the fastest networks, so that the next generation of digital innovators and entrepreneurs have the platform to keep reshaping our world," he said.
What was left out?
- Gun control, entitlement programs, and campaign finance reform are three major issues that Obama did not talk about in his address.
Brett LoGiurato is the senior national political correspondent at Fusion, where he covers all things 2016. He'll give you everything you need to know about politics, with a healthy side of puns.
Jordan Fabian is Fusion's politics editor, writing about campaigns, Congress, immigration, and more. When he's not working, you can find him at the ice rink or at home with his wife, Melissa.
Ted Hesson was formerly the immigration editor at Fusion, covering the issue from Washington, D.C. He also writes about drug laws and (occasionally) baseball. On the side: guitars, urban biking, and fiction.