Obama’s 2013 State of the Union proposals: What flopped and what succeeded


(Charles Dharapak/Pool via European Pressphoto Agency)

This column has been updated

Every president announces a slew of initiatives in his State of the Union address. Here, in order of delivery, is a summary of the key proposals, pledges or priorities announced by President Obama a year ago — and what happened to them.

In general, Obama’s success rate has been relatively poor since Republicans took control of the House of Representatives in 2011. In 2013, Obama had only five wins out of 24 proposals checked, for a batting average of  .208. (If we exclude the six “in the works” proposals, the batting average rises to .277.) To see how Obama has fared in previous years, click these links:  2012, 2011, 2010.

The Proposals

Obama: “On Medicare, I’m prepared to enact reforms that will achieve the same amount of health-care savings by the beginning of the next decade as the reforms proposed by the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles commission.”

x
 No action has been taken. The two sides did not even begin a negotiation on reductions on entitlements, which was fine with many Democrats.

Obama: “To hit the rest of our deficit reduction target, we should do what leaders in both parties have already suggested, and save hundreds of billions of dollars by getting rid of tax loopholes and deductions for the well-off and the well-connected.”

x

 No action has been taken.

Obama: “Now is our best chance for bipartisan, comprehensive tax reform that encourages job creation and helps bring down the deficit.”

x

 No action has been taken.

Obama: “Let’s set party interests aside and work to pass a budget that replaces reckless cuts with smart savings and wise investments in our future.  And let’s do it without the brinksmanship that stresses consumers and scares off investors.”

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 Congress finally passed a budget plan and then an annual spending bill — although it took one more round of brinkmanship. The government shut down for 16 days in an impasse over the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. The experience so scarred lawmakers in both parties that they were able to come together and soften some of the automatic spending cuts in the sequester. We’ll rate this as completed, although it certainly did not happen as smoothly as the president had wished.

Obama: “A year and a half ago, I put forward an American Jobs Act that independent economists said would create more than 1 million new jobs.  And I thank the last Congress for passing some of that agenda.  I urge this Congress to pass the rest.”

x

 No action has been taken.

Obama: “So tonight, I’m announcing the launch of three more of these manufacturing hubs, where businesses will partner with the Department of Defense and Energy to turn regions left behind by globalization into global centers of high-tech jobs.”

question

 It took almost twelve months before Obama, on Jan. 15,  announced the first of these three manufacturing hubs during a speech in Raleigh, N.C. Work continues on selecting the other two hubs. So we can’t quite rate this as completed.

Obama: “And I ask this Congress to help create a network of 15 of these hubs and guarantee that the next revolution in manufacturing is made right here in America.”

x

 There is bipartisan support for this idea, but so far Congress has not acted.

Obama: “I urge this Congress to get together, pursue a bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change, like the one John McCain and Joe Lieberman worked on together a few years ago.  But if Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will.”

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 No legislative action was taken, but the Environmental Protection Agency did propose new limits on greenhouse gas emissions at new power plants, and pledged to propose rules for existing power plants in 2014. He also ordered the federal government to triple its use of renewable sources of energy by 2020. So we will mark this as completed.

Obama: “I propose we use some of our oil and gas revenues to fund an Energy Security Trust that will drive new research and technology to shift our cars and trucks off oil for good.”

x

 The White House produced a fancy graphic illustrating this concept, but after that the idea appeared to lose steam, especially after Republicans sought to pair it with a lifting of drilling restrictions.

Obama: “I propose a ‘Fix-It-First’ program to put people to work as soon as possible on our most urgent repairs, like the nearly 70,000 structurally deficient bridges across the country.”

x

 Obama wanted $50 billion to shore up the nation’s infrastructure, but no action has been taken. Obama did sign a presidential memo to modernize the federal infrastructure process.

Obama: “And to make sure taxpayers don’t shoulder the whole burden, I’m also proposing a Partnership to Rebuild America that attracts private capital to upgrade what our businesses need most:  modern ports to move our goods, modern pipelines to withstand a storm, modern schools worthy of our children.”


 No action has been taken on this idea.

Obama: “Right now, there’s a bill in this Congress that would give every responsible homeowner in America the chance to save $3,000 a year by refinancing at today’s rates.  Democrats and Republicans have supported it before, so what are we waiting for? Take a vote, and send me that bill.”

x

 The bills endorsing this idea never made out if the committees in either the Senate or House.

Obama: “I propose working with states to make high-quality preschool available to every single child in America.”

question

 Obama had sought $75 billion to help fund universal prekindergarten education. That did not happen, but Early Head Start and Head Start did get a $1 billion increase on top of a restoration of sequestration cuts. Funding was also added for competitive grants to states to help them expand pre-K programs. The administration is also claiming credit for the fact that 30 states have expanded access to pre-K through state programs. So there is some movement on this issue.

Obama: “I’m announcing a new challenge to redesign America’s high schools so they better equip graduates for the demands of a high-tech economy.  And we’ll reward schools that develop new partnerships with colleges and employers, and create classes that focus on science, technology, engineering and math — the skills today’s employers are looking for to fill the jobs that are there right now and will be there in the future.”

question

 Congress did not fund this proposal, but the administration launched a competition to do it with existing funds. (We originally marked this with an “X” but shifted it to incomplete.)

Obama: “Send me a comprehensive immigration reform bill in the next few months, and I will sign it right away.”

question

 The Senate with bipartisan support passed a comprehensive immigration bill that included a path to citizenship for more than 10 million undocumented immigrants, but action has stalled in the House. There is little support for the Senate bill among House Republicans, and it is unclear whether the House will even act, let alone reach agreement with the Senate.

Obama: “Today, the Senate passed the Violence Against Women Act that Joe Biden originally wrote almost 20 years ago.  And I now urge the House to do the same.”

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 Two weeks after the State of the Union speech, the House, in a 286 to 138 vote, adopted a reauthorization and expansion of the law that  brought gays, lesbians and transgender people, Native Americans and immigrants under its protections.

Obama: “I ask this Congress to declare that women should earn a living equal to their efforts, and finally pass the Paycheck Fairness Act this year.”

x

 No action has been taken.

Obama: “Tonight, let’s declare that in the wealthiest nation on Earth, no one who works full-time should have to live in poverty, and raise the federal minimum wage to $9.00 an hour.”

x

 No action has been taken. President Obama has since backed legislation proposed by Democrats that would boost the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, from the current level of $7.25. The White House said that in tonight’s speech the president will announce that, via executive order, he is boosting the minimum wage to $10.10 by 2015 for workers on new federal contracts; he also will renew his call for a national increase.

Obama: “This year, my administration will begin to partner with 20 of the hardest-hit towns in America to get these communities back on their feet.”

check

 Early in January, Obama announced the first five “promise zones”–San Antonio, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, southeastern Kentucky and the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. Since he did not say there would be 20 in a year, we will marked this as completed. (Note: this initiative was added as an update to the initial posting, which slightly increased the president’s batting average.)

Obama: “The leaders of Iran must recognize that now is the time for a diplomatic solution, because a coalition stands united in demanding that they meet their obligations, and we will do what is necessary to prevent them from getting a nuclear weapon.”

question

 In breakthrough negotiations, major world powers reached an interim accord with the Iranian government that, in exchange for modest sanctions relief, caps certain uranium enrichment levels and bolsters inspections. But the fragile “joint plan of action” is under fire in Congress — and faces objections from Iranian hardliners — and so prospects for a final deal limiting Iran’s nuclear ambitions remain uncertain.

Obama: “To boost American exports, support American jobs and level the playing field in the growing markets of Asia, we intend to complete negotiations on a Trans-Pacific Partnership.”

question

 The negotiations on this free-trade deal in the Asia-Pacific region have not been completed but remain on a glide path toward an agreement. There is some hope that it might be wrapped up by the time Obama travels to Asia in April. Obama also announced he would launch talks with the European Union on a similar pact.

Obama: “We’ll keep the pressure on a Syrian regime that has murdered its own people, and support opposition leaders that respect the rights of every Syrian.”

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 The Syrian government has gained the upper hand in the fighting, and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad remains in power. Obama nearly launched missile strikes in response to Syria’s apparent use of the chemical weapons but then accepted a Russian plan for destruction of Syria’s chemical stocks. Most analysts give Obama low marks for his handling of the Syrian crisis, even though there appears little appetite among Americans for involvement in another conflict in the Middle East. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights estimates that at least 100,000 people have died in the conflict, but it has stopped updating the toll because of the difficulty of getting information.

Obama:  “I’m announcing a nonpartisan commission to improve the voting experience in America.  And it definitely needs improvement.  I’m asking two long-time experts in the field — who, by the way, recently served as the top attorneys for my campaign and for Governor Romney’s campaign — to lead it.  We can fix this, and we will.  The American people demand it, and so does our democracy.”

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 The commission delivered its report just last week, so we will count that as completed.

Obama: “Overwhelming majorities of Americans — Americans who believe in the Second Amendment — have come together around common-sense reform, like background checks that will make it harder for criminals to get their hands on a gun.  Senators of both parties are working together on tough new laws to prevent anyone from buying guns for resale to criminals.  Police chiefs are asking our help to get weapons of war and massive ammunition magazines off our streets, because these police chiefs, they’re tired of seeing their guys and gals being outgunned.  Each of these proposals deserves a vote in Congress. Now, if you want to vote no, that’s your choice.  But these proposals deserve a vote.”

x

 Obama ended his speech with calls for new gun-control measures in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., tragedy, but in perhaps his most crushing disappointment of the year, not even a stripped-down proposal for enhanced background checks could advance to a final vote in the Senate. No action was taken in the House. The White House notes that the president has taken executive action to address gun violence.

 

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Glenn Kessler has reported on domestic and foreign policy for more than three decades. He would like your help in keeping an eye on public figures. Send him statements to fact check by emailing him, tweeting at him, or sending him a message on Facebook.
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Glenn Kessler · January 27