HONOLULU — President Obama plans to make an aggressive push to tout his economic policies ahead of his State of the Union address on Jan. 20, starting with a swing through three states after he returns to Washington early Sunday from two weeks of vacation in Hawaii.
Obama will highlight the rebirth of the auto industry in Detroit on Wednesday, discuss the recovery of the housing market during a stop in Phoenix on Thursday and talk about additional efforts to boost education and jobs in a visit with Vice President Biden in Tennessee on Friday, a White House spokesman said.
In addition to citing progress the administration has made, Obama also will announce new actions that he intends to enact without waiting on Congress and highlight during his State of the Union address, the official said.
The president's travels come at a time of economic growth as the unemployment rate has fallen to 5.8 percent, the lowest of Obama’s tenure, and the stock markets are at near-record high levels. White House aides caution that the economic recovery remains tenuous and that the president understands that wages have stagnated and many Americans continue to struggle.
“The proposals announced next week will be a mix of executive actions and legislative proposals,” White House spokesman Eric Schultz said.
The strategy is aimed at building on what Obama aides described as a wave of momentum after the president announced a series of executive actions since the midterm elections. Although Democrats lost big at the polls, and Republicans will have control of both chambers of Congress over the next two years, the White House believes it has put the GOP on the defensive over the past two months.
Obama announced major changes on immigration policy, a potentially far-reaching climate deal with China and a restart of diplomatic relations with Cuba. His poll ratings have improved.
White House aides and Democratic allies have described the president as feeling less politically constrained since the midterms. Yet by touting his achievements in a series of campaign-style events and announcing new executive actions, Obama risks angering Republicans at a time they are assuming more power in Washington. That could make it more difficult to find common ground on areas where the White House sees potential for compromise — such as tax reform and trade.
Another administration official dismissed such concerns, saying the White House viewed the passage of the $1 trillion spending bill last month as an example of bipartisanship, even as Republicans denounced Obama’s moves on immigration, climate and Cuba. That bill, backed by the administration, passed the House with significant Republican support, even though Democrats were divided.
In his travels, Obama will aim to keep the discussion focused on expanding opportunity for the middle class at a time when administration officials believe Republicans will be focused on rolling back Obama initiatives such as the executive actions on immigration and his signature health-care law.
In the GOP’s weekly address Saturday, Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.) touted a bill that would change the health law, calling it too expensive for local businesses. Instead, David said, the House GOP is promoting a bill called the “Hire More Heroes Act” that would exempt veterans already enrolled in health-care plans through the Defense Department or the the Department of Veterans Affairs “from being counted toward the employee limit under the health-care law.”
Davis also touted the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry crude oil from Canada to the United States, that Republicans have supported as a jobs creator. The Obama administration has delayed approval of the pipeline as it studies the environmental impact, and the president has said it will not create many long-term jobs.
“Listening to the people and making your priorities our priorities,” Davis said. “That’s what you can expect from this new American Congress.”