Democrats want State of the Union focused on economic jump start

Democrats want State of the Union focused on economic jump start

Democrats in Congress want President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaGeorge W. Bush honors father at benefit for hurricane victims Dem senator: ‘I miss every one of’ our last 5 presidents All five living former presidents appear at hurricane relief benefit concert MORE to focus on the economy in his pivotal State of the Union address next week.

After a stunning Senate loss in Massachusetts that has put healthcare reform legislation in doubt, Democrats on Capitol Hill said Obama has to go back to basics in his speech. That means talking about creating jobs, dealing with Wall Street and reining in deficits.

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Jobs and the economy “should be 50 percent of his speech,” said Rep. Paul Kanjorski (D-Pa.). He said constituents for months have been asking him why Congress is not more focused on the economy and less focused on healthcare.

“I think he ought to use his exceptional eloquence and thinking to stabilize the populace,” said Kanjorski. “He’s got to be the cheerleader in chief, while providing recognition that this is a serious problem.”

If Obama injects some confidence into the nation and his party, Kanjorski suggested it could help move along both the economy and the agenda for Democrats.

Obama has pivoted to the economy since Republican Scott Brown’s win in Massachusetts.

A day after Brown’s victory, Obama laid out a new plan to limit the size of Wall Street banks. On Friday, he traveled to two Ohio factories to talk about jobs. Not one of the questions Obama was asked from the town-hall crowd was about the healthcare bill.

During the trip, Obama suggested he'll take a more combative tone with Republicans in Wednesday's speech.

In accepting a football helmet with a presidential seal at a sporting goods factory in Elyria, Ohio, the president said he'll “need this during the State of the Union.”

“That is a serious looking helmet. I can knock some heads with this,” he added.

Many Democrats in the House and Senate want to move on from healthcare.

“If we're spending all year on that, then we have not done what we need to do, which I think is move to issues of the economy and jobs,” said Sen. Mark BegichMark Peter BegichPerez creates advisory team for DNC transition The future of the Arctic 2016’s battle for the Senate: A shifting map MORE (D-Alaska).

Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), who announced earlier this month he’ll retire at the end of this Congress, predicted Obama will focus on jobs in his first State of the Union, as well as the need to get the country’s fiscal situation in order. He also emphasized that some of the problems with the economy existed before Obama took office.

“He inherited a significant mess,” said Dorgan. “He understands that the first responsibility is to put the country on some sort of foundation because it was nearly in freefall, so I think you'll begin to hear a lot about creating new jobs and then dealing with the fiscal policy and debt and deficits and then financial reform.”

Some of the healthcare reform bill’s biggest supporters on the left also expect the president to talk about jobs, but they’re hoping the president keeps a populist streak that’s popped up repeatedly this year on the economy. Obama has called for a new fee on financial institutions and embraced tougher rules for banks.

Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), a co-chairman of the House Progressive Caucus, wants to hear Obama speak “some old-time religion” to Democrats by sounding off on “popular, populist themes.”


He sounded less than eager for Obama to use the speech to press for quick movement of the healthcare bill.

“Let's take one step back, OK?” Grijalva said. “We're going to do healthcare reform but we're going to do it through a different vehicle now.”

Sen. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillKoch-backed group targets red-state Dems on tax reform Overnight Cybersecurity: Equifax security employee left after breach | Lawmakers float bill to reform warrantless surveillance | Intel leaders keeping collusion probe open Las Vegas highlights Islamist terrorism is not America's greatest domestic threat MORE (D-Mo.), one of Obama's biggest boosters on Capitol Hill, said that the president should show that he's ready to take on Republicans, who Democrats blame for obstructing healthcare reform. With Brown’s win in Massachusetts, Democrats only have 59 members in their Senate caucus, which is not enough to break a GOP filibuster.

“I think there has been some game playing going on in terms of partisan politics that make it very, very difficult for the president to solve the hard problems he wants to solve,” McCaskill said. “So I'm hoping he challenges the Republicans, for the country to get beyond politics... particularly on deficit reduction.”

Even Republicans think the State of the Union address gives Obama a chance to gain some momentum.

“I think it's an opportunity to show that he and the Democrat majority are reconnected with the American people,” said Senate Republican Conference Vice Chairman Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderChildren’s health-care bill faces new obstacles Overnight Health Care: Schumer calls for tying ObamaCare fix to children's health insurance | Puerto Rico's water woes worsen | Dems plead for nursing home residents' right to sue Schumer calls for attaching ObamaCare fix to children's health insurance MORE (Tenn.). “And by focusing on jobs, on debt, and on the war on terror, we'd be fine to stop there.”