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Obama agenda: Going it alone -- if necessary

“President Barack Obama will work with Congress where he can and circumvent lawmakers where he must, his top advisers warned Sunday in previewing Tuesday's State of the Union speech. Obama faces a politically divided Congress on Tuesday and will use his annual address to demand expanded economic opportunity,” the AP says. “Absent legislative action, the White House is telling lawmakers that the president is ready to take unilateral action to close the gap between rich and poor Americans.”

As expected, Republicans aren’t happy about it. Reuters wrap some of the reactions.

“President Obama will speak to the nation Tuesday night with approval ratings lower than for any of his previous State of the Union addresses and with Americans broadly pessimistic that he or lawmakers of either party will make good decisions for the future of the country, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.” His approval is 46/48, up four points from November.

“President Barack Obama will urge the U.S. Congress on Tuesday to do more to help poor and middle-class Americans move up the economic ladder,” Reuters notes. “Both Obama and congressional Republicans view that issue as a high priority, a rare point of agreement between the two sides. But the Democratic president and Republicans disagree on the remedies, setting up a debate that Obama will discuss in his State of the Union address to Congress.”

AP: “From the White House to the Vatican to the business elite in Davos, Switzerland, one issue keeps seizing the agenda: the growing gap between the very wealthy and everyone else.” More: “Three decades ago, Americans' income tended to grow at roughly similar rates, no matter how much you made. But since roughly 1980, income has grown most for the top earners. For the poorest 20 percent of families, it's dropped.” What about the middle class? “Median household income peaked in 1999 at $56,080, adjusted for inflation. It fell to $51,017 by 2012. The percentage of American households with income within 50 percent of the median — one way of measuring the middle class — fell from 50 percent in 1970 to 42 percent in 2010.”

AP: “Two survivors of the Boston Marathon bombing and an openly gay NBA player are among the guests who will sit with first lady Michelle Obama Tuesday when President Barack Obama delivers the annual State of the Union address.”

“Businesses expect their companies to perform better this year but that optimism still isn't translating into a push to hire more workers, according to a new survey from the National Association for Business Economics,” AP reports. “Of the 64 members who responded to NABE's January survey, most said they saw stronger sales in the final months of 2013, and 43 percent expect their companies to modestly hike selling prices this year. That's the highest percentage in more than 12 months. Most respondents don't expect the new health care law or the Federal Reserve's easing of its stimulus policies to have a major impact on business, either. However only 37 percent expect to create jobs in the next six months, the same as in NABE's October survey.”

Reuters looks at the latest with the delayed Keystone Pipeline decision and how it likely won’t be in Obama’s State of the Union address.

“The U.S. Supreme Court said on Friday that, while litigation continues, an order of Roman Catholic nuns need not comply with a part of President Barack Obama's healthcare law requiring employers to provide insurance that covers contraception,” Reuters writes. “In the latest skirmish over religious objections to providing government-mandated contraception, the four-sentence court order was a partial victory for the Little Sisters of the Poor, a Baltimore-based order of nuns that runs nursing homes, and Illinois-based Christian Brothers Services, which manages healthcare plans for Catholic groups.”