What To Watch For In Tonight’s State Of The Union Address

Attention party people, tonight is a pretty big night!  No, I’m not talking about Mardi Gras.  I’m referring to another excuse to drink on a Tuesday: President Obama’s first State Of The Union Address of his second term.

The annual address made by the President at the invitation of Congress not only produces some candid facial expressions (The Boehner Smirk, The Biden Grin, The Alito Head Shake), and spontaneous outbursts (“You lie!”), but it is also the President’s chance to explain how far we’ve come as a nation and where future policy is heading.

At the top of the list will probably be continued efforts to strengthen the economy, which according to NPR “remains the most important issue to voters, judging by what they tell pollsters.” Potential battles include “sequestration” and the deficit.

Here are six other slightly sexier issues the pundits are predicting:

1. Afghanistan:  The New York Times is reporting that “an administration official familiar with the speech,” leaked that the the President plans on reducing the number of troops in Afghanistan by little over half.  By next February 34,000 of the current 66,000 troops will return home, keeping with the administration’s timeline to have Afghan forces in charge of the nation’s security by the end of 2014. [New York Times]

2. Women’s Rights:  In the President’s inaugural speech he called for gender equality saying, “For our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers, and our daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts.”  The New Yorker puts gender equality in its list of 12 issues the President will tackle in his second term.  The possible policy outcome could be the passage of the often defeated Paycheck Fairness Act. [The New Yorker]

3. Immigration:  This issue has already begun to bubble to the surface of the 2013 policy agenda with a proposal form a bipartisan group of Senators, and the President’s speech end of January speech in Las Vegas, Nevada laying out his four part plan.  NPR is predicting that, “The Republican leaderships choice of Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida to present the GOP response may indicate that they expect immigration to be a key part of the president’s speech.” [NPR]

4. Gun Control:  After the massacre in Newtown, Connecticut at Sandy Hook Elementary that left 20 children and six school staff dead, gun control — a previously non-issue for Obama — was brought front and center.  Vice President Biden was tasked with creating a proposal, which according to The New York Times include “four major legislative proposals and 23 executive actions.”  News outlets predict we’ll hear more about that tonight.  [NPRThe New Yorker New York Times]

5. LGBT Rights:  After becoming the first president to openly support gay marriage and mention Stonewall in an inaugural speech, it is clear that repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was just the tip of President Obama’s gay right’s iceberg.  It is likely LGBT equality will be mentioned in the speech.  The New Yorker points to possibly passing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and getting rid of DOMA. [The New Yorker]

6. Climate Change:  Climate change was abandoned in 2010 after a bill spearheaded by the White House and several senators failed.  However, President Obama’s inauguration speech gave many environmentalists hope that it will again become a major talking point in his second term, even if Congress blocks legislation at every turn. [NPR]

What will you be watching for tonight in Obama’s SOTU address? Feel free to use this comment thread during the speech.

[Huffington Post]
[New York Times]
[New Yorker]
[Pew Research Center]

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