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Obama 'Eager' to Work With Congress, but Ready to Act Alone

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call
Obama greets members of Congress as he arrives in the House chamber to deliver his State of the Union address Tuesday night.

“The president’s taste for unilateral action to circumvent Congress should concern every citizen, regardless of party or ideology,” Cruz wrote.

Alongside the proposed agenda, the president, not surprisingly, praised his signature health care law.

“If you want to know the real impact this law is having, just talk to Gov. Steve Beshear of Kentucky, who’s here tonight. Kentucky’s not the most liberal part of the country, but he’s like a man possessed when it comes to covering his commonwealth’s families,” Obama said.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., referred to Beshear’s appearance by name earlier Tuesday.

“President Obama and Gov. Beshear can keep telling Americans to ‘get over it’ if they don’t like this law, but sooner or later they’re going to have to come to terms with reality,” McConnell said.

Obama asked Americans to help others sign up for the new health care exchanges.

“Moms, get on your kids to sign up. Kids, call your mom and walk her through the application. It will give her some peace of mind — plus, she’ll appreciate hearing from you,” Obama said.

His comments come after the GOP has pounded Obama and Democrats over the troubled rollout of the health care law, which resulted in some people losing their insurance due to cancellation of non-compliant plans and difficulty in signing up for insurance on HealthCare.gov.

But Obama stayed on offense, pointing to 9 million people who have signed up for private insurance or Medicaid so far.

Obama avoided real surprises, though. He didn’t mention the Keystone XL oil pipeline, for instance.

While largely focusing on a call for action on domestic policy, Obama also delivered a warning shot to Congress, making clear again that he would veto an expansion of the sanctions regime against Iran while talks continue.

“The sanctions that we put in place helped make this opportunity possible. But let me be clear: If this Congress sends me a new sanctions bill now that threatens to derail these talks, I will veto it. For the sake of our national security, we must give diplomacy a chance to succeed,” Obama said.

It was the only veto threat of the speech.

Even before the speech, supporters of the expanded sanctions measure dismissed the administration’s view.

“None of us can quite understand why the threat of renewed sanctions, if it fails after six months, would in any way be harmful unless the Iranians want to drag out and drag out and drag out these conversations until the point where they are ready,” Arizona GOP Sen. John McCain told CNN.

Obama made a passing reference to the National Security Agency, promising changes.

“I will reform our surveillance programs — because the vital work of our intelligence community depends on public confidence, here and abroad, that the privacy of ordinary people is not being violated,” he said.

Elsewhere on the national security front, Obama repeated the familiar refrain calling for the shuttering of the detention center at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, asking Congress to ease the restrictions regularly imposed in spending legislation on prisoner transfers. The latest plea to close Guantánamo comes with the war in Afghanistan on the wind-down. Some troops could stay in the country past 2014 in a support role.

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