The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

National News

January 28, 2014

Obama vowing to flex presidential powers in speech

WASHINGTON — Frustrated by years of partisan gridlock, President Barack Obama is moving to flex his presidential powers during his sixth year in office. He’s starting by using Tuesday night’s State of the Union address to announce executive actions to raise the minimum wage for new federal contracts, help the long-term unemployed find work and expand job-training programs.

Obama’s go-it-alone strategy, with modest steps for now, is aimed both at jumpstarting his stagnant second term and prodding a divided Congress to take additional action to boost economic opportunity for millions of Americans. But there’s little indication lawmakers are ready to follow along, particularly as the nation barrels toward the midterm elections.

Keenly aware of Congress’ slim record of recent accomplishments, White House officials see a robust rollout of executive actions as the most effective way to show the public that Obama still wields power as the clock ticks on his presidency.  

“Congress is slow to action, and we’re not going to wait for that,” White House chief of staff Denis McDonough said in an interview on “CBS This Morning.”

Yet much of what the president can do on his own is limited, as evidenced by the minimum wage proposal officials previewed ahead of Tuesday’s prime-time address, which will be viewed by millions at home. The executive order will increase the minimum hourly payment for new federal contract workers from $7.25 to $10.10. But because the measure affects only future contracts, its immediate impact will be minimal.  

“The question is how many people, Mr. President, will this executive action actually help?” said House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio. “I suspect the answer is somewhere close to zero.”

The White House says the wage hike would most benefit janitors and construction laborers working under new federal contracts, as well as military base workers who wash dishes, serve food and do laundry. But officials did not say how many people would fall into those categories.

Obama will seek to build on the executive order by renewing his call for Congress to pass a minimum wage increase for all American workers, a proposal that gained little traction after he first announced it in last year’s State of the Union address. But White House officials feel somewhat optimistic that they could get backing this year given that some Republican lawmakers have also indicated an interest in working on income inequality and economic mobility issues.

Washington’s current focus on inequality comes as many parts of the economy are gaining strength. But the soaring financial markets and corporate balance sheets stand in contrast to the millions of people still out of work or struggling with stagnant incomes that don’t stretch as far as they used to.   

Seeking to address those issues, Obama will also announce executive actions on job training, boosting employment opportunities for the long-term unemployed and expanding retirement savings for low- and middle-income Americans.

The retirement savings proposal is geared toward workers whose employers don’t currently offer such plans. The program would allow first-time savers to start building up savings in Treasury bonds that eventually could be converted into traditional IRAs, according to two people who have discussed the proposal with the administration. Those people weren’t authorized to discuss the plan ahead of the announcement and insisted on anonymity.

Obama will also tout an initiative to secure commitments from big corporations not to discriminate against the long-term unemployed during hiring. Representatives from major companies will join the president at the White House on Friday to promote the effort.

Some Republicans have warned that the president’s focus on executive orders could backfire by angering GOP leaders who already don’t trust the White House.

“The more he tries to do it alone and do confrontation, the less he’s going to be able to get cooperation,” said John Feehery, a former top House Republican aide.

The president will still try to score a few legislative victories this year, namely an overhaul of the nation’s broken immigration laws. The Senate passed landmark legislation last summer, but the effort stalled in the Republican-led House. Conservatives are pushing back against the president’s call to create a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million people living in the U.S. illegally. And some Democrats would prefer to use the unresolved issue to mobilize Hispanic voters for this year’s elections.

Obama will follow his State of the Union address with a quick trip Wednesday and Thursday to Maryland, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Tennessee to promote his proposals.

 

1
Text Only
National News
  • Transportation Blues 2.jpg Congress is giving states the transportation blues

    On the road in a tour bus this week, the U.S. transportation secretary is spreading some bad news: the government’s Highway Trust Fund is nearly broke.

    April 15, 2014 2 Photos

  • Report: Russia withheld intel before Boston attack

    A yearlong review of information the U.S. intelligence community had prior to the Boston Marathon bombing found that the investigation could have been more thorough.

    April 11, 2014

  • Obama Health Secretary.jpg Obama announces Sebelius resignation, successor

    President Barack Obama praised outgoing Health and Human Secretary Kathleen Sebelius for helping to steer his health care law’s comeback after a rocky rollout, even as he nominated a successor aimed at helping the White House move past the political damage.

    April 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • Police seek driver in deadly Florida day care crash

    As mourners trickled by Thursday to honor the 4-year-old girl who was killed and 14 others injured in a crash at a Florida day care, authorities scoured the state for the driver they said fled in the vehicle that caused the fatal wreck.

    April 10, 2014

  • Stephen Colbert-Late _Cast.jpg Stephen Colbert to replace Letterman on late show

    CBS moved swiftly Thursday to replace the retiring David Letterman with Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert, who will take over the “Late Show” next year and do battle with Jimmy Fallon and Jimmy Kimmel for late-night television supremacy.

    April 10, 2014 1 Photo

  • Civil Rights Summit.jpg Reflecting on progress, Obama honors civil rights

    Barack Obama was 2 years old when Lyndon Baines Johnson sat in the East Room of the White House with Martin Luther King Jr. and signed the Civil Rights Act, putting an end to an America where schools, restaurants and water fountains were divided by race.

    April 10, 2014 1 Photo

  • House passes Ryan budget with big cuts

    The House on Wednesday passed a GOP budget blueprint that promises a balanced federal ledger in 10 years by making sweeping cuts across the federal budget and eliminating health care coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

    April 10, 2014

  • Gay Marriage Utah_Cast.jpg Gay marriage’s win streak tested in higher court

    The gay rights movement’s winning streak in same-sex marriage lawsuits faces its biggest test yet in Denver where a federal appeals court will weigh whether to give an important victory to gay couples’ right to marry or halt their momentum.

    April 9, 2014 1 Photo

  • Medicare database reveals top-paid doctors

    Medicare paid a tiny group of doctors $3 million or more apiece in 2012. One got nearly $21 million.

    April 9, 2014

  • Military: Marine fatally shot colleague at NC base

    A Marine was in custody Wednesday after military officials say he shot and fatally wounded a colleague with his M4 rifle while standing guard at the main gate of a North Carolina base.

    April 9, 2014

Facebook
Poll

In an effort to curb prostitution, St. Louis police are targeting, and perhaps humiliating, the "johns" who use the services. Postcards mailed to the homes of those charged with trying to pick up prostitutes will offer a reminder about spreading sexually transmitted diseases, along with listing the court date. Do you think this is a good approach?

A. Yes.
N. No.
     View Results
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
NDN Video
Tributes Mark Boston Bombing Anniversary Raw: Kan. Shooting Suspect Faces Judge US Supports Ukraine's Efforts to Calm Tensions Suspect in Kansas Shootings Faces Murder Charges Ukraine: Military Recaptures Eastern Airport Raw: Storm Topples RVs Near Miss. Gulf Coast NASA Showcases Lunar Eclipse Pistorius Cries During Final Cross-Examination The Boston Marathon Bombing: One Year Later Michael Phelps Set to Come Out of Retirement First Women Move to Army Platoon Artillery Jobs Sex Offenders Charged in Serial Killings Police: Woman Stored Dead Babies in Garage OC Serial Murder Suspects May Have More Victims Family: 2 Shot in Head at Kan. Jewish Center Raw: Horse Jumping Inspires 'Bunny Hop' After Attack, Officials Kill 5 Bears in Florida Popular Science Honors Year's Top Inventions ND Oil Boom Attracting Drug Traffickers