Did Obama's State Of The Union 2014 Promises Hold Up? Some Went Smoothly, Others, Well...
Tuesday marks the day you've been waiting for (maybe, probably) — President Obama's State of the Union Address. After a ton of questions over whether Obama would be allowed to deliver the speech in Congress, not to mention a call for a boycott, the president is just about ready to travel up Capitol Hill. And as we look toward a new year of debate in Washington, it's time to take a look back at what was promised last year.
With a Republican House of Representatives in session, the president faced serious challenges to pushing through his agenda — prompting him to use executive action to accomplish some of his goals. So what happened with his main proposals from the 2014 State of the Union Address?
Diplomacy with Iran became a central part of Obama's foreign policy agenda. The president said at the time:
If Iran's leaders do not seize this opportunity, then I will be the first to call for more sanctions and stand ready to exercise all options to make sure Iran does not build a nuclear weapon.
The two nations have actively met and are working toward a nuclear solution, albeit with many delays.
The president also addressed the continued War in Afghanistan — "America must move off a permanent war footing." After 13 years, the U.S. formally ended the war in December, though 11,000 troops will remain to stabilize the country and train Afghan security forces.
The federal government also made headway on Obama's promise to “ensure equal treatment for all service members, and equal benefits for their families — gay and straight.” Same-sex spouses of Defense Department employees now receive full benefits, alongside all federal employees. That said, some couples might be blocked from receiving these benefits if they reside in a state choosing not to recognize their unions. (Fix that for us, SCOTUS?)
A Fallen Promise
Immigration has long been a challenge for the president. At the time, he said said:
Real reform means establishing a responsible pathway to earned citizenship — a path that includes passing a background check, paying taxes and a meaningful penalty, learning English, and going to the back of the line behind the folks trying to come here legally.
The president did sign an executive order, which offered temporary legal status to undocumented parents of children born in the U.S., as well as those who arrived as children deportation deferrals. But his order did not put anyone "at the back of the line" as promised, and caused a firestorm among Republicans in Congress as the action bypassed the legislature.
Still In The Works
This one comes with a bit of a twist. Obama said:
Police chiefs are asking our help to get weapons of war and massive ammunition magazines off our streets, because these police chiefs, they’re tired of seeing their guys and gals being outgunned.
But soon, it extended to also reducing heavy military style arms used by local police forces. The mounting public pressure played a major role after the Ferguson police response following the death of Michael Brown. These events led to the president signing an executive order establishing a review panel to assess the gear given to local police and how they are used. The results from the report are expected to come in two months, along with recommendations on how to proceed with reform.
The president has also made shutting down Guantanamo Bay a priority since taking office. He stepped up his demands last year, saying "This needs to be the year Congress lifts the remaining restrictions on detainee transfers and we close the prison..."
But the facility remains open, with 122 prisoners remaining, though 33 detainees were released in 2014. Major challenges remain — not all prisoners have a place to go, and Republicans are largely opposed to a closure
This year's State of the Union is expected to tackle higher education, cyber security, and normalizing relations with Cuba. No doubt the president will propose some ambitious goals — but it could take years to fully see how his proposals will turn out, if at all.
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