The State of the Union in 2016: What To Expect In President Obama’s Final Year In Office

    January 2016
    Last night, President Barack Obama delivered his seventh and final State of the Union Address before a joint session of the 114th Congress. In it, he departed from past form. Instead of laying out a laundry list of proposed legislative objectives, he spoke more philosophically about the state of the union and in particular the dismal state of US politics. He noted areas of potential cooperation, such as judicial sentencing reform. He put Vice President Joe Biden in charge of the “moonshot” of marshalling federal resources to find a cure for cancer. He looked back on his tenure, lamenting some things that might have been with a different approach. And like his predecessors, he sought to reassure the American public that a brighter future lies ahead if we collectively seize the initiative to address the multiple challenges we face at home and abroad.

    Speaking on behalf of the Republican Party in the GOP Response, Governor Nikki Haley (R-SC) echoed some of those same themes before laying out a vision for how the Republican Party would govern if successful in capturing the White House in the November elections. She indicated, for example, that “if we held the White House, taxes would be lower for working families, and we’d put the brakes on runaway spending and debt.” Like the President, she lamented the state of the current political discourse in Washington DC and on the campaign trail. As she put it, “[s]ome people think that you have to be the loudest voice in the room to make a difference. That is just not true. Often, the best thing we can do is turn down the volume. When the sound is quieter, you can actually hear what someone else is saying. And that can make a world of difference. Of course that doesn’t mean we won’t have strong disagreements. We will. And as we usher in this new era, Republicans will stand up for our beliefs.” She noted how the citizens of her state had come together after tragedy this past summer when nine individuals were killed by a gunman during a prayer service, inspiring the nation with their response to horror.

    In this analysis, we explore what the President and Congress might be able to accomplish this year if they turned down the volume and spoke with – rather than past – each other about how best to advance the interests of the American public. Since this is the final year of  the President’s tenure, we anticipate that he will focus much of his effort on legacy issues, seeking to accomplish goals through rules and regulations when Congress will not agree on legislation. In his address, he only hinted at what’s to come, noting that “there are outdated regulations that need to be changed, and there’s red tape that needs to be cut.” Naturally enough, he didn’t mention that the Office of Management and Budget now has nearly 4,000 proposed rules and regulations in the queue, which the President and his team will be determined to move to completion before he leaves office.