Obama Seeking to Reboot Second-Term Agenda He Likely Will Target Economic Fairness, Health Care, Privacy

By Philip Rucker; Scott Wilson | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA), January 5, 2014 | Go to article overview

Obama Seeking to Reboot Second-Term Agenda He Likely Will Target Economic Fairness, Health Care, Privacy


Philip Rucker; Scott Wilson, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)


KAILUA, Hawaii -- When President Barack Obama returns to work Monday following his two-week vacation in Hawaii, he will begin the difficult task of rebooting his second-term agenda and developing a theme of economic fairness that Democrats can run on in the 2014 midterm campaigns.

Mr. Obama is looking to the Jan. 28 State of the Union address to unveil specific proposals addressing income inequality, including expanding the federal minimum wage to $10 or higher, which administration officials said they believe could garner some bipartisan support on Capitol Hill and be successful campaign issues for Democrats in November's elections.

With millions of Americans now receiving health care coverage under the Affordable Care Act, Mr. Obama will try to shift the public's attention from the disastrous rollout of the HealthCare.gov website to the real-life benefits of the law. Mr. Obama plans to do some outside-the-Beltway travel in the weeks ahead to showcase successes, according to administration officials who requested anonymity to discuss the president's plans.

The National Security Agency's surveillance programs occupied much of Mr. Obama's attention during his Hawaii respite, as the president read briefing memos and pondered possible overhauls while lounging at his rented beachfront home, one administration official said. Mr. Obama intends to announce changes to the controversial spying programs in mid-January, and the official said some of his proposals would require approval from Congress.

First, though, the president will use the coming days to complete unfinished business from last year, starting with securing Senate confirmation of Janet Yellen, his pick to chair the Federal Reserve. Mr. Obama also will step up pressure on Congress to pass an emergency extension of unemployment insurance for the 1.3 million Americans who lost benefits starting Dec. 28.

Mr. Obama briefly interrupted his vacation to call Sens. Jack Reed, D-R.I., and Dean Heller, R-Nev., and express his support for their bill extending benefits for three months. On Tuesday, Mr. Obama will stage an event at the White House, where he will stand alongside people who have lost benefits and make the case that failing to extend benefits would hurt the overall economy.

"Denying families that security is just plain cruel," Mr. Obama said in his weekly radio address released Saturday. "We're a better country than that. We don't abandon our fellow Americans when times get tough -- we keep the faith with them until they start that new job."

Brendan Buck, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican, said, "If Democrats can produce a plan that is fiscally responsible as well as does something to actually create jobs, the House will give it proper consideration."

Mr. Obama also is preparing a big push to expand the minimum wage. …

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