Tonight, President Obama will deliver his final State of the Union Address.
The last of his presidency, this speech will define his agenda for the next year. There is no upcoming reelection campaign or midterm to use as an excuse for inaction. The time for half measures is over. This is the president’s final opportunity to put forward a progressive vision and make desperately needed reforms before he leaves office.
The president can use executive orders to push forward a progressive agenda and bypass the sabotage of Republicans in Congress. Here are ten top areas President Obama should prioritize in his final State of the Union – we can build pressure on President Obama to make the most of this last chance to be bold.
- Ending the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria. The American soldiers on the ground in Syria represent the latest in a series of broken promises on war and peace — in Iraq, Afghanistan, and now Syria. President Obama was elected and re-elected on promises to end George W. Bush’s failed wars, but now he’s poised to leave a legacy of broken promises and endless war. We need to speak out now against these dangerous military escalations.
- Cracking down on Wall Street. It is long past time for Obama to replace Securities and Exchange Commission Chair Mary Jo White, end golden parachutes from Wall Street banks for new administration employees, and demand his attorney general end “too big to jail.” The place to start is with a strong endorsement of Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s tough, specific, no-nonsense Wall Street reform agenda to end too-big-to-fail and hold criminal banks accountable.
- Keeping fossil fuels in the ground. President Obama rejected the Keystone XL pipeline saying that if we want to stop the worst impacts of climate change, “we’re going to have to keep some fossil fuels in the ground.” Yet President Obama has yet to put any checks on the biggest pool of carbon under his control — fossil fuels on public lands, which account for nearly one quarter of all U.S. carbon emissions. It’s long past time for the president stop issuing new leases to extract fossil fuels on public lands.
- Standing up for abortion rights. Abortion funding restrictions like the Hyde and Helms Amendments keep low-income women and women of color, as well as women in crisis zones around the globe, from accessing abortions. They also perpetuate the false and dangerous idea that having an abortion is behavior that should be stigmatized and defunded. President Obama has two opportunities to push back on those restrictions. He should remove any restrictions on abortion funding from his 2016/2017 federal budget proposal, and he should clarify that the Helms Amendment does not bar U.S. foreign aid from funding abortions in cases of rape or incest, or when a woman’s life is in danger.
- Filling vacancies on the federal bench. There are currently 66 federal judicial vacancies, including 32 judicial emergencies, but only 25 nominations are pending. That’s because President Obama has been respecting a tradition of nominating only judges who have the approval of their home-state senators. Under that policy, Republican senators can stall the process by failing to make recommendations. It’s time for the president to move forward and nominate judges for every vacancy.
- Leading the way on criminal justice reform and ending police violence. Our broken, bloated, racist criminal justice system has continued to grow under President Obama. He should end any executive branch programs to militarize local police departments, direct his Department of Justice to investigate the murder of black people, and pledge to sign bipartisan, comprehensive criminal justice reform in the next 100 days.
- Stopping breaking up families by ending the deportations. The Obama administration has just launched a series of raids against undocumented families who came to the U.S. seeking refuge from violence in their home countries. These deportation raids stand in stark contrast to the executive action President Obama issued in 2014 that provided widespread relief to nearly 5 million children, young adults, and their parents under constant fear of deportation. Continuing these massive raids will tarnish his legacy. President Obama must halt his administration’s raids against immigrant families.
- Saving our democracy by fixing the Voting Rights Act and fighting money in politics. President Obama should call on Congress to fix the Voting Rights Act, while announcing that his justice department will aggressively investigate new instances of Republican voter suppression. President Obama must also call on Securities and Exchange Commission Chair Mary Jo White to release the commission’s long-delayed rule mandating transparency in political spending or be replaced.
- Ensuring tax fairness by closing tax loopholes and promising to veto any legislation that doesn’t force corporations to pay their fair share. President Obama should commit to veto any tax deal that would reward corporations who dodged taxes with lower rates – like the one Sen. Chuck Schumer has championed. He should also immediately direct the Internal Revenue Service and the Treasury Department to use their existing authority to close six major tax loopholes that allow hedge funds and the worst of the 1% to dodge taxes.
- Restoring America’s moral standing by closing Guantanamo Bay and prosecuting torturers and their bosses. President Obama has the authority to close Guantanamo Bay and transfer the remaining inmates to equally secure federal prison facilities. He has one last chance to keep his promise and do so. He must also direct his attorney general to prosecute CIA employees who tortured prisoners, their bosses, and the Bush administration appointees who enabled and led the torture program.
Time is running out for President Obama to deliver on his campaign promises. But he still has power to deliver major progress in these ten areas. It’s what we’re hoping to hear, what you should be listening for, and how we’ll be gauging the success of his speech.
- Take action now by going CREDO Action and click the link to help build pressure on President Obama to make the most of this last chance to be bold.
Regardless of what the president says, we look forward to continuing to stand with you in the coming fights for progressive change.
Murshed Zaheed, Deputy Political Director
CREDO Action from Working Assets
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