President Barack Obama will deliver his State of the Union address for 2011 tonight at 9 pm ET in the chamber of the United States House of Representatives. The president is expected to focus on 'competitiveness', and high energy costs are routinely a concern of U.S. businesses and consumers. Healthcare, taxes and the deficit tend to loom larger.
In light of the Tucson shooting of Representative Gabrielle Giffords and others, Senator Mark Udall of Colorado has proposed a break in tradition wherein all members of Congress sit together regardless of party, as well as the avoiding of standing.
The House will take a non-binding vote to reduce spending to FY2008 levels before the president’s speech, and House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan has already been tapped to give the Republican response.
The president’s State of the Union speech doesn't always drive stock action, but this year investors will be assessing Obama’s speech for reinforcement of a more pro-business stance.
Americans are worried about a $1.3 trillion budget deficit and rising federal debt, which will hit a statutory limit of $14.3 trillion by March 31, according to Reuters.
The president hopes to use the speech to convince Americans of his commitment to deficit reduction. But Obama also would emphasize 'strategic, targeted spending that's smart' to address the more immediate priority of bolstering economic growth, Senior Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett told Reuters.
Energy and environment issues are certainly important, but we expect them to get less attention than the deficit, the business tax agenda, and preserving health care reform. We anticipate mention of a renewable energy standard and a focus on non-fossil transportation fuels, said Christine Tezak, an analyst at Robert W. Baird.
Natural gas, bio-fuels and electric vehicles have been areas with bipartisan congressional support. The Obama administration moved to increase the amount of ethanol that can be blended into standard gasoline offerings – over the opposition of the environmental community – as part of its strategy to reduce dependence on imported fossil fuels.
Natural gas vehicle legislation had support on both sides of the aisle last year in spite of infrastructure challenges. The Chevy Volt has successfully arrived on the market in the wake of the General Motors bankruptcy and federal bailout. Domestic job creation would be the justification for supporting initiatives in this sector.
Tezak doesn't think Obama can completely abandon his clean energy constituency. He believes the president is still committed to a green economy agenda. Support for lower-carbon, less-polluting power resources (nuclear, clean coal) and energy efficiency in addition to renewables is an area where some Republicans have indicated a willingness to compromise.
Both Republicans and Democrats are looking for ways to create more jobs. Green energy advocates may have to compromise too, with fiscal support looking more difficult in the future given the deficit, Robert W. Baird said in a note to clients.
Obama promises 'more affordable, less intrusive measures to achieve the same ends'. To us this means there could be some flexibility in process, but not a wholesale abandonment of underlying objectives. We anticipate that the EPA will continue to be forceful, and indeed 'aggressive' in the eyes of some. This will leave the agency room to back off or moderate if needed, while still achieving the bulk of its objectives, said Tezak.