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State of the Union: Of pledges, pleas and setbacks

Thursday - 1/23/2014, 4:10am  ET

Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Here's a little secret about the State of the Union address that President Barack Obama will deliver next week: He'll give Congress a long list of requests but few likely will be approved. That's just the reality of a politically divided government.

Take a look at what happened after last year's speech.

Congress was not in a giving mood, stalling or downright ignoring Obama legislative priorities such as gun legislation, immigration, a minimum wage hike and universal preschool. The president did better with his own to-do list, but even there the administration was still wrapping up some of his pledges just days before his 2014 State of the Union address.

Indeed, when Obama delivers his speech Tuesday before a joint session of Congress, it might sound familiar. Heavy on economic themes, the address will again appeal for action on immigration and the minimum wage, and in the event Congress once again balks, he'll offer narrower programs that he could initiate on his own.

"There is always potential for new energy behind older ideas so that they can move forward," White House spokesman Jay Carney said, suggesting that State of the Union addresses are more an exercise in patience than in action.

So here's an annotated look at the president's 2013 State of Union. Use it for keeping score or as a guide for his coming address.


$9 SNUBBED? TRY $10.10

In 2013 Obama told Congress: "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 an hour... let's tie the minimum wage to the cost of living, so that it finally becomes a wage you can live on."

Congress didn't act. Instead, Democratic lawmakers upped the ante. A Senate bill, now endorsed by the White House, would raise the minimum wage to $10.10 by 2016 and then adjust future increases to inflation. Obama is expected to make raising the minimum wage much more central to his agenda this year than last.

"You're going to see a big push in Congress to get it done," said Jason Furman, the chairman of the president's Council of Economic Advisers. "With each passing year it's increasingly overdue."



In 2013 Obama told Congress: "Let's agree right here, right now to keep the people's government open, and pay our bills on time, and always uphold the full faith and credit of the United States of America."

Instead, a budget impasse triggered a 16-day partial government shutdown in October and the administration and congressional Republicans went to the brink before agreeing to increase the nation's borrowing authority and thus avoid a default.

It appears to have taken that experience, however, to change behavior.

Congress last week approved a $1 trillion spending plan for 2014 without the drama of past budget fights. Another debt ceiling looms in late February or March. Republican leaders have said they won't allow the nation's credit to be threatened again.



In 2013, Obama told Congress: "Send me a comprehensive immigration reform bill in the next few months, and I will sign it right away."

The Senate last year passed a comprehensive, bipartisan bill that addressed border security, provided enforcement measures and offered a path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million immigrants living in the United States illegally. In the House, the move stalled as Republican leaders, pressed by tea party conservatives, demanded a more limited and piecemeal approach.

Recent signs have raised expectations, however. House Speaker John Boehner plans to issue a statement of principles summing up still-undefined goals for changing immigration laws. Some Democrats appear willing to accept legislation that gives immigrant workers in the U.S. illegally official status to remain in the country, even if it doesn't specify a path to citizenship.



In 2013 Obama told Congress: "Gabby Giffords deserves a vote. The families of Newtown deserve a vote. The families of Aurora deserve a vote. The families of Oak Creek and Tucson and Blacksburg, and the countless other communities ripped open by gun violence --they deserve a simple vote."

Following the December 2012 elementary school shooting in Newtown, Conn., Obama proposed sweeping gun control measures. But the toughest proposals, including stricter background checks, failed in the Senate. The House did not even take them up.

Eventually, Obama took executive action to strengthen federal background checks for gun purchasers, with a focus on limiting people with mental health issues from getting access to firearms.

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