What you can expect to hear the President talk about tonight:
IMMIGRATION - Almost no issue has gotten more attention (other than perhaps gun control) than the issue of immigration since the November elections. Tonight will certainly be no different. Several members of Congress, along with First Lady Michelle Obama, have invited illegal immigrants/undocumented workers to be their guest at tonight's State of the Union - putting a human face on this highly controversial issue. With bipartisan working groups in both the House and the Senate, the issue is likely to be one of the most closely watched in Washington in the coming weeks and months ahead.
GUN CONTROL - CNN reports today that over 20 survivors of gun violence will be seated in the gallery - as guests of members of Congress (each member is given one pass for a guest to the State of the Union). Given the events at Newtown and the very public debate about gun control and gun rights, expect to hear President Obama lay out his vision for how to move forward on this issue.
SEQUESTRATION - The once unthinkable, allowing the sequester to actually occur, looks increasingly likely to happen. Will President Obama use the opportunity tonight to put forward a potential compromise to avoid sequestration or will he use this as an opportunity to lay the blame for sequestration at the feet of Republicans in the House and Senate?
CLIMATE CHANGE - After ignoring the issue for much of his first term, and almost completely in the campaign, President Obama put climate change back in the spotlight with his Inaugural Address. Expect President Obama to again talk about the need to confront climate change in his State of the Union address tonight.
JOBS AND THE ECONOMY - In the lead up to the State of the Union, several of Obama administration officials have said that jobs and the economy will be a key component of his address this evening. Given the high profile nature of the more controversial issues that are drawing the lion's share of attention in DC right now, it will be interesting to see how much of the speech the President dedicates to this issue and how many specific proposals he lays out for it.
WHAT THEY WON'T BE TALKING ABOUT TOMORROW MORNING ON THE CABLE NEWS SHOWS THAT YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT:
We know that the cable news shows and the newspapers will talk in depth about some of the hot button topics - like guns and immigration - that the President will discuss in his State of the Union. Here are some things to look for that could impact you and your business that might not get as much attention:
HEALTHCARE IMPLEMENTATION - Many of the provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) become effective this year. How does the Obama administration and the Congress plan to handle the complexities of the implementation of these provisions?
CONSUMER FINANCIAL PROTECTION BUREAU - While high profile Obama nominees to Defense (former Senator Chuck Hagel) and the CIA (John Brennan) will both likely get a mention in his address tonight, one name that might not get mentioned is more important on a day-to-day basis for most people doing business in this country: Richard Cordray. Cordray, an Ohio native, whose recess appointment expires this year, was re-nominated by President Obama to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The agency, a creation of the Dodd-Frank legislation, will have wide-ranging regulatory authority on everything from home mortgages to credit cards. Republicans, who have concerns about the vast regulatory authority of the CFPB being in the hands of one individual, have threatened to block the Cordray confirmation.
WHAT THE REPUBLICAN RESPONSE WILL BE:
The Republican response to the President's State of the Union address will likely focus on a number of key issues that the GOP wants to highlight in the weeks and months ahead. These will include:
JOBS - Republicans continue to point out that the unemployment rate is near 8% nationally. Republicans will be asking what specific plans for job growth did the President put forward in his State of the Union? In particular, Republicans will ask, in light of the failure of the stimulus to create the jobs the administration expected, what new ideas did President Obama present?
THE BUDGET - Republicans are likely to press the President on specifics about any budget proposals that he makes tonight. In light of the most recent CBO report that detailed the country's looming debt crisis, Republicans will ask whether the President's budget proposals will put the country on a path to reducing the federal debt?
SEQUESTRATION - Sequestration is set to occur on March 1st. Republicans, who have already promised that no new revenues will be a part of any deal to avoid sequestration, will be asking what plan President Obama has offered to avoid the draconian sequester?
In The New York Times today, Binyamin Appelbaum observes that, "President Obama is likely to declare on Tuesday evening that the state of the union is strong. That word, strong, has become a ritual element of the annual address to Congress, intoned by Mr. Obama and his predecessors over the last 30 years even when things were not going that well. 'The state of our union has never been stronger,' President George W. Bush said in January 2002, immediately after reminding Congress that the nation was at war and the economy was in recession. ... Strong, stronger, strongest - one of those words has been used to describe the union in each of the last 17 State of the Union addresses. But it was not always so. Presidents once used other words to describe the state of our union. President Jimmy Carter liked to call it 'sound.' President Harry S. Truman liked to call it 'good.' President Lyndon B. Johnson, in a lyrical moment, described the state of the union in 1965 as 'free and restless, growing and full of hope."