Gun control – and MORE tax hikes – to be at the forefront of Obama’s State of the Union after it’s announced the mother of shooting victim Hadiya Pendleton will be first lady’s guest
- The president will make renewed call for strict gun control measures
- Parents of slain 15-year-old will be in attendance
- She had performed at Obama’s inauguration a week prior to her murder
- Chicago police announced tonight arrests for her murder
PUBLISHED: 14:31 EST, 11 February 2013 | UPDATED: 04:50 EST, 12 February 2013
President Obama is set to make gun control – as well as taxes and spending – a key part of his State of the Union speech after the first lady invited the parents of the slain Chicago teenager who has become the poster child for gun violence in the president’s home city.
The president is also expected to press Congress for additional tax hikes, fewer spending cuts, outreach for military families and immigration reform, which is shaping up to be a key part of his second term agenda.
The agenda Obama will outline will include more money for infrastructure, clean energy technologies and manufacturing jobs, as well as expanding access to early childhood education.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said Obama would outline ‘his plan to create jobs and grow the middle class’ as the nation struggles with persistently high unemployment.
Some of Obama’s job ideas will be repackaged versions of proposals he made during his first term, though aides say there will be some new initiatives, too.
All of the economic proposals are expected to echo themes from Obama’s re-election campaign, which focused on using increased spending to generate jobs, protecting programs to help the middle class, and bringing down the deficit in part by culling more tax revenue from the wealthiest Americans.
Obama has called for raising more revenue through closing tax breaks and loopholes, but he has not detailed a list of targets.
STATE OF PLAY: PRESIDENT OBAMA’S TALKING POINTS
- Gun control: A mission since December’s Sandy Hook massacre, Obama has pushed for intensified background checks and a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.
- Immigration reform: Obama’s proposed plan would put 11 million undocumented residents on the path to American citizenship.
- Tax hikes: The president is looking to ramp up tax hikes on the wealthy in an effort to repair the economy while stabilizing the middle class.
- Military families: Obama is expected to call for increased outreach to those closest to those fighting overseas
- Clean energy initiatives: The development of and investments in clean energy has long been a priority of the Obama administration as part of his ongoing effort to bolster the economy.
He and his aides often mention as examples of unnecessary tax breaks a benefit for owners of private jets and tax subsidies for oil and gas companies.
But no portion of Obama’s remarks may be more poignant than the renewed call for tougher firearms laws with Cleopatra Cowley-Pendleton and Nathaniel Pendleton looking on.
Their 15-year-old daughter Hadiya was shot dead just a mile from Mr Obama’s Chicago home and only a week after she performed at his second inauguration.
Chicago police announced Monday evening that they had arrested two men in the case.
Mr and Mrs Pendleton have been invited to make the painful return trip to Washington D.C. by First Lady Michelle Obama, who offered them a seat in her box.
There they will be joined by others who suffered tragedy and loss as a result of gun violence.
Mr Obama has already pledged to ban the sale of assault weapons, introduce tougher background checks and reduce the capacity of magazines.
He was moved by the shooting of 20 children and six teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, in December.
Mrs Obama attended the Hadiya’s funeral along with Education Secretary Arne Duncan and White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett, who are both from Chicago.
A handwritten note to Hadiya’s family from the Obamas was even published on her funeral program.
It read: ‘Dear Cleopatra and Nathaniel, Michelle and I just wanted you to know how heartbroken we are to have heard about Hadiya’s passing.
‘We know that no words from us can soothe the pain, but rest assured that we are praying for you, and that we will continue to work as hard as we can to end this senseless violence. God Bless, Barack Obama.’
Hadiya was shot dead January 29 while sheltering from the rain in a Chicago park, the innocent victim of a gang shootout.
Her death made her the 42nd person to be gunned down in the city this year alone.
In a bitter irony, she was not only an honors student but an advocate for her fellow pupils who said in a video posted online: ‘It is your job as students to say no to gangs and yes to a great future.’
Chicago police said Monday evening that two reputed gang members, Michael Ward,18, and Kenneth Williams, 20, have been charged with her murder.
They were arrested after police used video surveillance and tips from community residents during their investigations, sources told DNAinfo.com/Chicago.
‘I’m ecstatic. The whole family is ecstatic,’ Hadiya’s mother, Cleopatra, told The Chicago Sun-Times.
‘I just pray they are penalized to the full extent of the law.’
Meanwhile, Republicans have shown little sign of falling in line behind the president ahead of his speech tonight, particularly when it comes to taxes.
‘Clearly the president wants more revenue for more government,’ Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said in an interview.
‘He’s gotten all the revenue he’s going to get. Been there, done that.’
The backdrop for Obama’s address will be a March 1 deadline for averting automatic across-the-board spending cuts, known as the sequester.
The president wants lawmakers to push that deadline back for a second time to create space for a larger deficit-reduction deal, one he hopes would include a balance of targeted cuts and increased tax revenue.
Republicans want to offset the sequester with spending cuts alone.
As he addresses lawmakers and the American people, Obama is expected to say that government entitlement programs should be on the table in deficit reduction talks.
But he will also make the case that programs that help the middle class, the poor and the elderly must be protected.
In keeping with that approach, the White House said Monday that Obama would not consider increasing the Medicare eligibility age as a way to reduce spending.
The president’s focus on the economy and deficit reflects the top concerns of many Americans.
A Quinnipiac University poll out Monday showed than 35 per cent of registered voters are most interested in hearing the president during the State of the Union address the economy, more than any other issue.
The federal deficit came in second, with 20 per cent saying that was the issue they were most interested in hearing Obama discuss.
The poll also suggested that the slow but steady economic gains throughout Obama’s first term may not be trickling down to many Americans.
More than 50 per cent of registered voters said they thought the economy was still in a recession and 79 per cent described the economy as ‘not so good’ or ‘poor.’