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But McConnell warned that the president will lose GOP support if he talks during his address about increasing spending for key Democratic priorities, including education and infrastructure. Obama is expected to call for some targeted spending increases Tuesday night.
“With all due respect to our Democratic friends, any time they want to spend, they call it investment,” he said. “We’ll take a look at his recommendations. We always do. But this is not a time to be looking at pumping up government spending in very many areas.”
House Democratic leaders say they will be looking to Obama to set a road map for tackling the contentious issues before them, namely health care and immigration reform.
“We’re going to revisit this health care bill many, many times before it gets to where it ought to be,” Assistant Leader James Clyburn (D-S.C.) said late last week. “The president can lay out a litany of things that we can do to this bill right away, in a bipartisan way. That’s what we’ve done with civil rights and voting rights.”
Democratic Caucus Vice Chairman Xavier Becerra (Calif.) said he hoped Obama would address “how we are finally going to crack this nut called a broken immigration system and get to immigration reform.”
The president disappointed immigration reform advocates during last year’s State of the Union address when he barely touched on the issue. And the Hispanic community is still upset that Obama failed to deliver on his campaign promise to pass comprehensive immigration reform during his first year in office.
Immigration reform isn’t the only issue atop Members’ radar, however.
Sen. John Barrasso questioned how Republicans should interpret Obama’s commitment to job creation when he made the same pledge in the last Congress but then pivoted to health care reform.
“He talked about focusing on the economy like a laser beam, and yet we never saw that happen,” the Wyoming Republican said Monday on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”
And liberals have warned the president against advocating changes to Social Security. On Monday, MoveOn.Org sent an e-mail to supporters urging them to lobby the White House in response to rumors that Obama will signal a willingness to cut benefits during Tuesday’s address.
“It is a serious political mistake if the administration permits even the slightest opening toward partial privatization of Social Security accounts or reducing benefits,” Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) said. “I mean, get out of Iraq and Afghanistan, start to trim the Pentagon budget. But don’t tell people they have to take a cut in benefits.”
Kathleen Hunter contributed to this report.