When President Barack Obama presented his State of the Union address on Tuesday, Jan. 25, it was a changed atmosphere from the same event a year earlier.
Memories of the Tucson shootings were still fresh, and the balance of congressional power had changed. Gone for the night, at least visibly, was the partisan divide that has dominated Capitol Hill for years — Republican and Democratic members sat side-by-side, rather than on opposite ends of the House chamber.
”We will move forward together, or not at all — for the challenges we face are bigger than party, and bigger than politics,” the President said, adding, “At stake is whether new jobs and industries take root in this country, or somewhere else. It’s whether the hard work and industry of our people are rewarded.”
To access the White House website and read the text of the speech, or for more information about the address, click HERE.
Unlike past addresses that have been packaged lengthy lists of specific social and spending programs, this speech focused mainly on the larger theme of innovation – through cleaner energy; improvements to our education system; revitalized transportation and communication systems; and the need to address our national debt.
President Obama also touched on some more specific issues that have the potential to affect HR practitioners:
- Regulatory Reform – “To reduce barriers to growth and investment, I’ve ordered a review of government regulations. When we find rules that put an unnecessary burden on business, we will fix them.”
- Health Care Reform – “If you have ideas about how to improve this law [Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act] by making care better or more affordable, I’m eager to work with you. We can start tonight by correcting a flow in the legislation that has placed an unnecessary bookkeeping burden on small businesses.” He was referring to a requirement that businesses complete Form 1099 for all vendors that provide products and services exceeding $600 per year.
- Immigration Reform – “Now, I strongly believe we should take on, once and for all, the issue of illegal immigration. And I am prepared to work with Republicans and Democrats to protect our borders, enforce our laws and address the millions of undocumented workers who are now living in the shadows. . . And let’s stop expelling talented, responsible young people who could be staffing our research labs or starting a new business…who could be further enriching this nation.”
In the Republican Address to the Nation following the President's remarks, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) repeatedly hammered on the need to stop the out-of-control spending that has made it harder to create jobs and jeopardizes the financial security of future generations. Chairman Ryan called for a return to the principles of "limited government and free enterprise" that "have helped make America the greatest nation on earth." To view his remarks, click HERE.
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In the coming weeks, Congress will begin testing the President’s willingness to move on these and other issues. SHRM will be reaching out to both parties to educate them on how some of these changes will affect the workforce, employers, and the HR community.