Modern-day State of the Union addresses have become occasions when presidents use soaring rhetoric to deliver a laundry list of legislative proposals—many of which never see the light of day. That’s probably why, for more than 100 years in our history, presidents simply sent their written speeches to Congress where they were read by a clerk to a near-empty chamber.
President Obama’s hour-plus SOTU (that’s what insiders call it) covered a range of topics, from the economy to the auto industry to Osama bin Laden. The president called for new homegrown energy resources and put colleges on notice to stop increasing tuition costs.
So what can the citizenry expect from its elected officials this year? Will they be inspired to take bold, visionary steps? Or will the collegiality we saw during the president’s speech turn out to be a prom date nightmare?
Sad to say, it’s doubtful that any bipartisan spirit will last nearly as long as Kim Kardashian’s marriage. With the elections nine months away, this year’s legislative script will probably read more like a reality show than Profiles in Courage.
Both parties will be far more focused on wading through a must-do list that includes: passing an extension of the payroll tax holiday, extending unemployment benefits and coming up with a short-term fix to block a planned cut in Medicare physician reimbursements.
The House will probably pass a resolution to cover its version of the fiscal year 2013 budget, but the Senate may defer, as it has for the last two years. Congress will have to address the 12 appropriations bills necessary to keep the government running, but that could be handled by a stop-gap continuing resolution if negotiations fall flat.
If you’re waiting for lawmakers to get to the big-ticket issues—Social Security, Medicare and tax reform—well, I hope your prom date goes well.