Watch the GOP’s reaction. We already know President Barack Obama wants a comprehensive package including a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. With the GOP establishment looking to make inroads with Hispanic voters, which Republicans stand to clap and which stay seated could prove telling about a bill’s chances in both chambers.
2. The Sequester
Get ready for Obama to lecture Congress on the automatic spending cuts scheduled to take effect in just three weeks. Watch Speaker John A. Boehner’s, R-Ohio, face when Obama talks about the need for more “revenue.” (The speaker will be seated directly behind the president.)
3. Global Warming
Obama surprised many by mentioning this long dormant issue in his inaugural address. So how much further, if at all, will he take it in his State of the Union speech?
Regurgitated job-creation policy proposals from past State of the Union addresses are likely to make an appearance, given the president’s poor record over the past few years in getting Congress to enact his agenda.
The audience will include families of victims of gun violence, and the issue is certain to get a shoutout from the president. Given the fierce opposition among some lawmakers to Obama’s gun control agenda, keep an ear out for boos.
It’s a word almost designed to get people to change the channel, but it’s a mainstay for State of the Union addresses and is an area where the White House has repeatedly pushed for action and been stymied by Congress. Expect more of the same, especially because government infrastructure spending usually leads to more construction jobs.
7. Nominees and National Security
While domestic issues will likely dominate, the president’s national security nominees are under fire in the Senate and global hot spots from Iran to Syria continue to threaten U.S. interests.
8. Ethics and Campaign Finance
The president has peppered his past addresses with calls for new ethics overhauls, regulating super PACs and more. Will we get some meat on the bones to the president’s call in his inaugural address for action on voting changes so people don’t have to wait for hours to cast their ballots?
9. Gay Rights
Obama’s inaugural speech cemented the president’s transformation from opposing to gay marriage a few years ago to a full-throated demand for equal rights. But now he’s under pressure from gay rights groups to take administrative steps banning discrimination.
10. His Relationship With Congress
Obama’s cool relations, particularly with the GOP, have been steady fodder for years now, but each State of the Union is part olive branch, part prod. We may get our best opportunity yet to see which one Obama will emphasize in a second term.