President Obama laid out his hopes and plans for what he called a “year of action” in his State of the Union address Tuesday night. The President pressed Congress to join his efforts to address income inequality and speed the economic recovery.
“What I offer tonight is a set of concrete, practical proposals to speed up growth, strengthen the middle class, and build new ladders of opportunity into the middle class,” Mr. Obama said. “Some require congressional action, and I am eager to work with all of you. But America does not stand still — and neither will I.” He also issued a warning: “wherever and whenever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families, that’s what I’m going to do.”
Before the address last night, the White House announced plans to raise the minimum wage for government contractors to $10.10 an hour, up from $7.25. The President did, however, acknowledge that he would need Congressional support in order to raise the minimum wage for all workers. In fact, while he vowed to take as much action as possible on his own, Yahoo Finance Editor-in-Chief Aaron Task points out there is only so much the President can do unilaterally. “He is the President of the United States, a very powerful position, but the reality is we have divided government for a reason.”
Aside from needing Congressional approval for a national minimum wage increase, the President would also need Congress to approve an overhaul of the immigration system as well as any changes to the tax code.
The official Republican response, delivered by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington state, responded to the President’s call for more income equality. McMorris Rodgers, who is the highest-ranking woman in the House republican leadership said, “The President talks a lot about income inequality, but the real gap we face is one of opportunity inequality.”