WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama struck a defiant tone during his State of the Union Tuesday night – calling on his Republican opponents in congress to raise taxes on the rich while also threatening to veto legislation that would challenge his key decisions.
The president appeared before a joint session of Congress for his State of the Union speech in a confident mood, buoyed by an economic revival that has trimmed the country’s jobless rate to 5.6 percent and eager to use this as a mandate.
President Obama told lawmakers and millions watching on television that it’s now time to “turn the page” from recession and war and work together to provide support for middle-class Americans by initiating his plan to increase taxes on the wealthiest of Americans.
The core of the President’s plan to boost the middle class is to raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans by $320 billion over the next 10 years to pay for expanded tax credits and educational benefits for the middle class, including two years of free community college.
But by calling for higher taxes that Republicans are unlikely to approve and also chiding those who suggest climate change is not real, President Obama set a confrontational tone for his final two years in office.
He also vowed to veto any Republican effort to roll back his signature healthcare law and his unilateral loosening of immigration policy, which is likely to create a contentious atmosphere in between his administration and congress in 2015.
Many of the proposals the president outlined, while popular with many Americans, are unlikely to become reality, given Republican opposition and the fact the President will soon become a lame duck as the county turns its attention to the 2016 campaign to succeed him.
But even if Republicans refuse to support President Obama’s wealth redistribution proposals, they could be forced to consider alternative ways to tackle income inequality and prove they can govern, which could be a factor for Americans as they consider whether to elect a Republican as president in 2016.
President Obama’s speech was mostly about domestic issues and was relatively light on foreign policy, but he did spend some time on several issues.
He defended his decision in December to seek to normalize relations with Communist-ruled Cuba and urged Congress to lift the more than 50-year-old U.S. economic embargo against Havana.
He called on lawmakers to pass a new authorization of military force against Islamic State militants to replace powers that were given to President George W. Bush to prosecute the Iraq war.
The President also reiterated a promise he made when he first took office and vowed an unrelenting effort to close the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where foreign terrorism suspects have been held since 2002.
And President Obama urged Congress to give him trade promotion authority, the power to negotiate free trade deals. Democrats have opposed giving him the power, fearing the deals he makes will hurt American labor.