Obama looks past Republicans in promoting his 2015 agenda
Josh Lederman and Nedra Pickler (The Philippine Star) - January 4, 2015 - 1:05pm

HONOLULU — President Barack Obama plans new steps to help middle-income Americans, part of a 2015 agenda he hopes can build on the postelection momentum from high-profile moves on immigration and Cuba.

His approach for the new year appears to look straight past newly emboldened Republicans who take full control of Congress on Tuesday.

Fresh from a two-week Hawaiian vacation, the president was readying executive actions and legislative proposals to start promoting right away while advisers and speechwriters flesh out the broad themes that Obama wants to emphasis in his State of the Union policy address on Jan. 20. It will be his sixth since taking office, but his first before a Congress entirely in Republican hands.

In a sign of their divergent paths, Obama was heading out of Washington on Wednesday just as the new Congress was settling in. He plans stops in Michigan, Arizona and Tennessee aimed at highlighting how his own economic policies were contributing to the country's recovery.

Obama, expected back in Washington on Sunday, has appeared energized by the end-of-the-year action on immigration policy and Cuban relations, suggesting continued presidential relevance despite a political landscape dramatically altered by deep Democratic losses in the November elections.

Since the November election setback, the key question has been whether Obama will lean in or away from compromise with Republicans in his final two years. Of the issues the White House said Obama will emphasize in the coming weeks, none was among the few areas that both Democrats and Republicans have cited as ripe for deal-making — trade, taxes, and public works.

An Obama spokesman, Eric Schultz, said the president would announce proposals this coming week that focus on helping middle-class Americans benefit from the economic recovery.

"There are a number of issues we could make progress on, but the president is clear that he will not let this Congress undo important protections gained — particularly in areas of health care, Wall Street reform and the environment," Schultz said.

Obama has threatened to use his veto power to block Republican attacks this year.

In Detroit on Wednesday, Obama plans to cite the return of manufacturing jobs and his decision to bail out the auto industry. In Phoenix the next day, Obama intends to showcase gains in the housing sector since the real estate crash and come out with new steps to help Americans buy a home, the White House said.

On Friday, Vice President Joe Biden will join Obama in Tennessee to discuss new ways to help more people attend college or receive job-training.

With Obama's prime-time address to the nation less than three weeks away, the White House has reached out to Democratic groups such as the Center for American Progress to solicit input, without making commitments.

Lacking a Democratic majority in the Senate to stop them, Republican lawmakers convening Tuesday intend to start chipping away on health care, immigration and the environment, displaying their power as Obama enters the last years of his presidency and the 2016 race starts to unfold.

Republican Rep. Rodney Davis said the House would start right away with jobs bills that have won the support of both parties before but never advanced in the Senate.

"If the president is willing to work with us, we'll have a real chance to address our nation's most pressing challenges," he said in the weekly Republican address.

During his vacation with his wife and daughters, Obama spent long afternoons on the beach with his girls and golfed nearly every day with friends.

AMERICAN PROGRESS AN OBAMA ARIZONA AND TENNESSEE DEMOCRATS AND REPUBLICANS ERIC SCHULTZ IN DETROIT IN PHOENIX OBAMA ON FRIDAY PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA WHITE HOUSE
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