Barack Obama aims to start 2015 on his own termsHonolulu: President Barack Obama is aiming to set the agenda for the new year on his terms despite emboldened Republicans who feel their victory in November's elections given them a mandate to rein him in.Obama,
Honolulu: President Barack Obama is aiming to set the agenda for the new year on his terms despite emboldened Republicans who feel their victory in November's elections given them a mandate to rein him in.
Obama, who returns to the White House this weekend after closing out 2014 with a Hawaiian vacation, was energized by a series of high-profile end-of-the-year moves, most notably on immigration and Cuba. Following deep Democratic losses on Election Day, those actions suggested he retained some relevance, and he wants to carry that momentum into 2015.
But barely 48 hours after Obama's arrival in Washington, Republicans will take power in the new Congress, ready to fulfill their pledge to confront the president from both the House and Senate.
Without a Democratic majority in the Senate to stop them, Republican lawmakers convening Tuesday intend to start chipping away on health care, immigration and the environment, flashing their power as Obama enters his final two years in office.
Republican Rep. Rodney Davis said the House would start right away with jobs bills that have won the support of both parties before but never advanced in the Senate.
“If the president is willing to work with us, we'll have a real chance to address our nation's most pressing challenges,” he said in the weekly Republican address.
After the election, Obama and Republicans identified a few modest areas for potential cooperation, including trade, taxes and public works. The question is whether Obama will try to reach out to find ground for compromise or come out swinging for a progressive agenda, as he has in years past.
Obama's clearest opportunity to set the tone for 2015 will come Jan. 20, when he delivers the State of the Union address. It will be his seventh since taking office, but his first before a Congress entirely under Republican control.
A year ago, the president urged Congress, without success, to increase the minimum wage and act on climate change. The year before he promoted liberal priorities such as gun control and universal preschool, and both proved nonstarters.
The White House has reached out to Democratic groups for their input on the speech, without making commitments.
Neera Tanden, president for the Center for American Progress and former White House aide, said the address will be an important moment for Obama to make his case on the budget and immigration.
“I think the president needs to find a balance between reaching out to Republicans and having Washington address the country's problems without forfeiting the principles that had him elected and re-elected just a few years ago,” she said.
Obama was expected to arrive back in Washington on Sunday after more than two weeks in Hawaii with his wife and daughters on their winter vacation. The president spent long afternoons on Oahu's beaches and golf courses and ate at Waikiki restaurants.