Education advocates say the speech could contain a significant early childhood education initiative.
For the nation’s employers, energy, trade and regulations are chief concerns. But topping the list for most businesses, however, is what happens with negotiations to reduce the deficit through spending cuts, new taxes or some mix of both.
“What I’d like to hear on fiscal policy is a clear delineation of what and how many spending cuts are going to be coming forward, and what and how many tax increases he would like to see so we can evaluate the policy,” said Martin Regalia, chief economist for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Presidential speechwriters face enormous pressure from groups like the chamber, as well as from agencies and issue advocates eager for a presidential plug, former speechwriter Lehrman said.
“It’s hard to resist these people,” he said.
Former President Jimmy Carter made the fewest requests to Congress: Nine. Former President Bill Clinton made the most: 87.
Obama told immigrant advocates and labor leaders that he’ll call for rewriting immigration laws in his address, and he told House Democrats that it was a “top priority and an early priority.”
If Congress is unable to move a timely proposal, Obama said he’ll ask for a vote on his own plan.
“He talked briefly about the State of the Union and the broad message he wants to send in terms of the future of the country and the next part of his term,” said Janet Murguia, president and CEO of the National Council of La Raza, the largest Hispanic advocacy group in the nation.
Obama wants a pathway to citizenship for 11 million illegal immigrants, a nationwide system to verify the legal status of workers, punishment for businesses that hire people in the U.S. illegally, easier access for highly skilled immigrants to stay in the country and enhanced border security.
Many Republican leaders now support an immigration overhaul – even a path to citizenship – after a bruising election in which Hispanics voted overwhelmingly for Obama. But conflict remains over what illegal immigrants would need to do to attain citizenship.
Obama already has laid out specific proposals for the most aggressive gun-control plan in generations, and gun-control advocates – who have more influence at the White House than they have had in decades – said they don’t expect any news, but instead a call to action.
“I do hope and expect it will be a major theme,” said Dan Gross, the president of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, the nation’s leading gun-control advocacy group.
Obama devoted much of his inaugural speech to climate change, and advocates are expecting him to elaborate on how the administration plans to tackle the problem. One likely option, said Bob Deans, a spokesman for the Natural Resources Defense Council, is the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulatory authority.
Obama is also likely to talk about a host of pressing international worries: Iran’s nuclear ambitions, the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan and escalating violence in Syria.
“These are speeches that the president takes very seriously,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said. “He’s a writer himself, so he engages at a very deep level on the framing of a speech, on the writing of it and the editing of it and the shaping of it.”
Kevin G. Hall of the Washington Bureau contributed.