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Obama urges 'year of action'

BY BRENT GRIFFITHS | JANUARY 29, 2014 5:00 AM

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President Obama vowed a “year of action” in his sixth State of the Union address, promising action on a wide variety of issues.

“In the coming months, let’s see where else we can make progress together,” he said. “That’s what most Americans want — for all of us in this chamber to focus on their lives, their hopes, their aspirations.”

In issues more pressing to the University of Iowa community, Obama pushed for a $10.10 minimum wage and continuing to bring down the costs of attaining a college degree.

Obama highlighted the bill drafted by Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., to raise the minimum wage from $7.25. Obama said he would “lead by example” by issuing an executive order requiring federal contractors to pay their federally funded employees at least $10.10 an hour.

Expanding on his previous efforts, Obama said he would continue to push for more efforts to addressing the cost of college.

Obama’s promise was attached with a warning he would not wait for Congress to act on his agenda and would take action whenever provided the opportunity.

“Some [items] require Congressional action, and I’m eager to work with all of you.  But America does not stand still — and neither will I.  So wherever and whenever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families, that’s what I’m going to do,” he said.

The president’s promise to pursue more executive action was not greeted with approval from Republicans during and after his speech.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said Obama should build support for his proposals within Congress and not take action himself.

“The Constitution created three branches of the federal government and checks and balances among the branches that are fundamental to our strength as a nation,” Grassley said in a statement. “… The President should use his pen and phone to build coalitions on Capitol Hill and sign legislation into law, not issue executive orders that Congress and the American people don’t support.”

A political expert said Republicans would continue to voice their opposition if Obama followed up on his promise. Adding, the possibility of challenging actions in court would depend on where specifically the president decides to flex his power.

“My guess would be if he is more aggressive in issuing executive orders that’s when Congress will be complaining more,” said Tim Hagle, a University of Iowa Associate Professor of Political Science.

Hagle said Obama might struggle to accomplish the “wish list” of items he included in his speech, because before too long the focus will shift almost entirely to the 2014-midterm elections.

“Well, the problem is he’s laying out so many different things when we really only have a couple of months before we get into the summer,” Hagle said. “After the 2014 election, he is basically a lame duck president.”


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