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
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
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