By Justin Sink - 01/28/14 06:43 PM EST
President Obama will vow to pursue a populist economic agenda with or without the help of lawmakers in his State of the Union address on Tuesday night.
Obama will say he will not “stand still,” but will act on his own if he cannot work with Congress.
“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,” Obama will tell the assembled members of Congress, according to excerpts of his speech provided by the White House.
“Some require Congressional action, and I’m eager to work with all of you. But America does not stand still – and neither will I. So wherever and whenever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families, that’s what I’m going to do.”
The White House has been signaling Obama will rely more on executive actions in the second year of his second term, something Republicans are increasingly condemning as an abuse of power. Democratic allies argue the actions are appropriate given GOP obstructionism in Congress.
The president's speech comes at a pivotal moment in his second term, with the White House eager to score political victories after a lost year for the president. Moreover, Obama appears eager to paint himself as separate from a Congress widely panned by the American public.
In the speech, Obama says the belief that government can focus on promoting the “lives, hopes, and aspirations” of ordinary people “has suffered some serious blows” in recent years.
“After four years of economic growth, corporate profits and stock prices have rarely been higher, and those at the top have never done better. But average wages have barely budged,” Obama will say. “Inequality has deepened. Upward mobility has stalled. The cold, hard fact is that even in the midst of recovery, too many Americans are working more than ever just to get by – let alone get ahead. And too many still aren’t working at all.”
White House officials have said that the president plans to order a series of executive actions to immediately address that economic disparity, including a new requirement for federal contractors to pay employees at least $10.10 per hour. He'll also announce partnerships with some of the nation's top employers to prevent discrimination against the long-term unemployed.
They hope the president's proposals will help Democrats as they ramp up for this year's midterm elections, with control of the Senate hanging in the balance.
Republicans have preemptively criticized the speech as an example of an imperial presidency, and warned the president not to seek to work around them.
Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) warned House Republicans planned to “watch very closely” to make sure the president was “faithfully executing the laws.”
“There's a Constitution that we all take an oath to, including him. And following that Constitution is the basis for our republic. And we should not put that in jeopardy,” Boehner said.
But Obama will argue that he must pursue a “year of action.”
“Opportunity is who we are. And the defining project of our generation is to restore that promise,” he will say.