Obama shook hands on the House floor as he made his way through the crowd to deliver his State of the Union address. In his remarks, the president called on Congress to pass gun control measures and rewrite the nation’s immigration policy.
Coming to the Hill and chiding Congress for its inaction may be one of President Barack Obama’s favorite pastimes — it helped him win re-election in 2012 — and the first State of the Union of his second term did not deviate from his well-established norm.
With significant hurdles ahead for Obama’s legislative wish list — including more money for the nation’s infrastructure, an expansion of pre-kindergarten programs and raising the minimum wage to $9 — the president yet again prodded lawmakers to get over their partisanship, particularly on the fiscal issues that have driven them time and again to the brink of a government shutdown.
“The greatest nation on Earth cannot keep conducting its business by drifting from one manufactured crisis to the next. We can’t do it,” Obama told lawmakers Tuesday. “Let’s agree, right here, right now, to keep the people’s government open, pay our bills on time and always uphold the full faith and credit of the United States of America. The American people have worked too hard, for too long, rebuilding from one crisis to see their elected officials cause another.”
Those lecture-like comments drew only small pockets of applause — a sign of why Obama’s relationship with Congress, particularly Republicans, remains strained.
And though he’s taking his agenda on the road this week to North Carolina, Georgia and Illinois, it’s unclear how much public pressure the president will be able to rouse. The campaign-style push is already angering Republicans, and he’s certainly not winning back friends on the Hill, where egos bruise easily and memories are long.
“Actually, being negative toward the Congress is even more of a consistent move for the president than pivoting the eighth time to jobs,” Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt, a member of the GOP leadership team, quipped Tuesday afternoon before Obama’s speech.
Indeed, the president’s penchant for looking down his nose at Congress has become so pervasive and routine that it barely registers as a compelling theme to Republican staffers preparing their bosses to take a beating from Obama on national television. The GOP has seen this movie before, the thinking goes.
One senior Senate Republican aide said: “He’s just another person who doesn’t like Congress — it doesn’t make him anything special, it makes him an American citizen.”
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.