For the past year, President Barack Obama has tried to get Congress to go along with him.
Now he is going it on his own.
In his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress tonight, followed by a two-day multi-state tour to sell his messages, the president will announce that he is ordering a $10.10 per hour minimum wage for workers on new federal contracts going forward.
In his last State of the Union address, Obama proposed a $9 federal minimum wage for all Americans — raising the floor from $7.25. He didn’t get it.
That’s not all the president didn’t get last year.
He didn’t get the immigration overhaul that he has been demanding. A comprehensive bill to his liking passed the Senate and was shelved in the House.
He couldn’t muster the congressional support he wanted for a limited military strike against Syria to prevent its leaders from further deployment of chemical weapons against their own people. By a diplomatic slip of the tongue, Secretary of State John Kerry found a path to chemical disarmament.
Obama couldn’t adequately explain to a growing number of Americans the extent and purpose of once-secret surveillance of telephone and Internet records exposed by the former national security contractor, Edward Snowden, polling shows. And he couldn’t prevent Snowden, facing federal indictment for espionage and theft, from fleeing to asylum in Russia.
During his first term, the president had been able to get Congress to adapt his signature legislation, the Affordable Care Act, offering health insurance to millions of Americans lacking it. Yet toward the end of last year, as Republicans on Capitol Hill clamored for a defunding, declawing or delay of “Obamacare,” it was the president’s own administration that fumbled the rollout of the health-care exchanges.
In the first year of the second term, there has been little getting along with Congress.
“2013 was a lost year for the president,” Robert Gibbs, the former White House press secretary, said in an appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” today.
So tonight, the president will announce those things that he can do on his own, exercising — as he already has signaled he will — the power of “the pen.” And he will call on Congress to do those things that he still needs them to do — such as fixing immigration.
And he will take that message on the road — going it on his own from state to state.
There may not have been a lot of change this past year, the White House allows, yet the president still holds plenty of hope.
“What you will hear about tonight will be all about action,” Valerie Jarrett, his senior adviser and close friend, said on Morning Joe today. `
At the same time, Jarrett acknowledged in an appearance on Bloomberg Television this morning that the minimum wage order for contract workers will “touch maybe a couple hundred thousand.”
As for the address, she said on Joe’s show: “It will be a very optimistic speech.”