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 on legislation has been relatively poor since Republicans took control of the House of Representatives in 2011. To see how Obama has fared in previous years, click these links: 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010.
Obama: “It’s time we stop treating child care as a side issue, or a women’s issue, and treat it like the national economic priority that it is for all of us. And that’s why my plan will make quality child care more available, and more affordable.”
No action has been taken on Obama’s plan to triple the maximum allowable child-care tax credit, though the administration in late 2015 issued updated regulations for child-care regulations.
Obama: “Since paid sick leave won where it was on the ballot last November, let’s put it to a vote right here in Washington. Send me a bill that gives every worker in America the opportunity to earn seven days of paid sick leave.”
The president received no such bill but did issue an executive order requiring federal contractors to allow employees to earn up to seven days of sick leave. The move could affect hundreds of thousands of workers so we’ll give a check mark here.
Obama: “This Congress still needs to pass a law that makes sure a woman is paid the same as a man for doing the same work.”
Obama asks for such a law every year but the result is always the same: no action.
Obama: “To everyone in this Congress who still refuses to raise the minimum wage….vote to give millions of the hardest-working people in America a raise.”
Another golden oldie. No action was taken.
Obama: “I am sending this Congress a bold new plan to lower the cost of community college — to zero.”
No action was taken.
Obama: “I want to work with this Congress, to make sure Americans already burdened with student loans can reduce their monthly payments, so that student debt doesn’t derail anyone’s dreams.”
Obama expanded a repayment program known as Pay as You Earn, or PAYE, which caps borrowers’ monthly bills to 10 percent of their income and forgives the debt after 20 years of payment. Congress, meanwhile, made permanent the American Opportunity Credit, which reduces taxes for higher education expenses, and also extended a tax deduction for college costs.
Obama: “Let’s set our sights higher than a single oil pipeline. Let’s pass a bipartisan infrastructure plan that could create more than 30 times as many jobs per year, and make this country stronger for decades to come.”
Obama was referring to the Keystone XL pipeline, which he killed in 2015. But Congress finally did pass an infrastructure bill.
Obama: “That’s why I’m asking both parties to give me trade promotion authority to protect American workers, with strong new trade deals from Asia to Europe that aren’t just free, but fair.”
The president did get authority for an up-or-down vote for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a free trade deal involving 12 Pacific Rim nations. But it’s unclear if the vote will take place before he leaves office — or if Congress will approve the agreement.
Obama: “I’m launching a new Precision Medicine Initiative to bring us closer to curing diseases like cancer and diabetes.”
The effort, which aims to enroll 1 million volunteers in the next three to four years to gather data on the risk of disease for various racial and socioeconomic groups, was officially launched in September.
Obama: “Let’s close loopholes so we stop rewarding companies that keep profits abroad, and reward those that invest in America.”
Congress always ignores this repeated request from the president.
Obama: “Let’s simplify the system and let a small business owner file based on her actual bank statement, instead of the number of accountants she can afford.”
Lawmakers have proposed such a change in the law, but it has not progressed far. But Congress did make permanent a tax break for small-business capital investments.
Obama: “I call on this Congress to show the world that we are united in this mission by passing a resolution to authorize the use of force against ISIL.”
Congress took no action. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has pledged a new effort to obtain approval of an Authorization for the Use of Military Force against the Islamic State terror group, but lawmakers appear far apart on compromise.
Obama: “In Cuba, we are ending a policy that was long past its expiration date. … And this year, Congress should begin the work of ending the embargo.”
No action has been taken. Republicans in Congress are so hostile to Obama’s outreach to Cuba that his nomination of a career foreign service officer for ambassador to Mexico — who helped negotiate the opening — has been blocked in the Senate.
Obama: “Between now and this spring, we have a chance to negotiate a comprehensive agreement that prevents a nuclear-armed Iran.”
It took until July, but the United States and other world powers concluded the historic agreement with the Islamic republic, despite fierce opposition in Congress.
Obama: “I urge this Congress to finally pass the legislation we need to better meet the evolving threat of cyberattacks, combat identity theft, and protect our children’s information.”
The Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act of 2015, which seeks to promote sharing between industry and government, was contained in the omnibus spending bill passed in December. But bills on identifying threats and protecting children’s information were not approved.
Obama: “Because the world’s two largest economies came together, other nations are now stepping up, and offering hope that, this year, the world will finally reach an agreement to protect the one planet we’ve got.”
In Paris in December, 196 nations joined together to pledge to reduce emissions of the greenhouse gases blamed for a dangerous warming of the planet.
Obama: “Since I’ve been president, we’ve worked responsibly to cut the population of GTMO in half. Now it’s time to finish the job.”
The detention center in Guantanamo Bay still exists, and there is little appetite in Congress to close it.
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