WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama plans to travel around the U.S. as the newly Republican-controlled Congress arrives in Washington, promoting his policies from easing immigration rules to boosting the economy through spending on infrastructure.
The president will begin a three-state swing on Wednesday in Detroit, then travel to Phoenix and Tennessee. He’ll announce a series of executive actions and legislative proposals that will help more people afford homes, pay for college and find work, according to a White House statement.
The barnstorming is a buildup to Obama’s State of the Union address on Jan. 20, following his two-week Hawaiian vacation, in the face of a Congress that has its own agenda. The Republicans take control of both houses for the first time in Obama’s presidency on Tuesday, and will seek to put the president on the defensive by undoing his policies on issues ranging from immigration to health care.
“The president is eager to get to work, and looks forward to working with the new Congress on policies that will make sure middle-class Americans are sharing in the economic recovery,” said White House spokesman Eric Schultz. “He will not let this Congress undo important protections gained — particularly in areas of health care, Wall Street reform and the environment.”
Incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the fact that Americans voted in favor of divided government shows they want “things done in the political center” that Republicans and Democrats agree on.
Republicans’ legislative goals will include trying to “rein in the regulatory onslaught” and roll back elements of the Affordable Care Act, McConnell said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union” program. Republicans lack the votes to repeal the health care law.
The newly Republican Senate will challenge the president almost immediately — starting with a bill to approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline, which has been delayed repeatedly by Obama’s administration and is in limbo pending a Nebraska court ruling. A Senate committee vote is set for Jan. 8.
Democrats plan to add amendments to any bill approving Keystone to require that all oil going through the pipeline be used in the U.S. and that the pipeline itself be made out of domestic steel, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer said Sunday. Democrats also have the votes to uphold a presidential veto of Keystone, he said.
“Our Republican colleagues say that this is a jobs bill, but that really is not true at all,” Schumer, a New York Democrat, said in an interview on CBS’s “Face The Nation” program. “These amendments will make it better, but certainly not good enough at this point in time.”
Republicans will also seek to to curb Obama’s energy and environmental regulations and block the president’s order easing deportation for undocumented immigrants.
Republicans, who’ve held the majority in the House and now will have 54-46 control in the Senate, are more likely to support the president on the trade agreements he’s seeking with Europe and the Pacific nations.
Obama returned to Washington Sunday after vacationing with his family on Oahu. During most of his days in Hawaii, he took time for a round of golf, often with friends he made growing up in the state.
Since Republicans took control of both houses of Congress in the November election, Obama has signaled that he plans to take a tougher approach to dealing with political opponents.
His speeches starting this week and the State of the Union address will be opportunities for the president to more clearly draw the distinctions between his priorities and those of the Republicans.