President Barack Obama delivered his annual State of the Union address last night to members of Congress and a national audience, covering an exhaustive range of topics including student debt, university research, the sequester, immigration reform and the minimum wage, amongst others.
In his speech, Obama praised a law allowing college-goers to cap their student loan payments at 10 percent of their income, and he emphasized the need to lower the financial burden of college on middle class families. Speaking from the Capitol after the speech, Congresswoman Lois Capps of Santa Barbara said she hopes to see further action in easing the growing problem of student debt.
“The good news is that working to make college more affordable and more accessible not only helps the current generation of college students, but it’s a long-term investment in the economy of our country … and we’ve got a good record, especially with UCSB, Cal Poly [and] our community colleges, that this really works,” Capps said.
Obama also announced plans for six more national consortiums connecting university research with tech companies, after he established two such consortiums last year — one of which includes UCSB. Additionally, he asked Congress to end last year’s sequester in order to allow universities to “unleash the next great American discovery.”
Stressing its effects on economic growth, Obama called on Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform, noting both parties’ stated willingness to work together on the matter. Capps said her feelings on the passing of the immigration bill are strong, despite the presence of “true believers, anti-immigration folks” who have a “stranglehold” that Capps hopes will decline.
“I just hope it’s weakened enough,” Capps said. “The American people clearly want it to move forward. Our economy will be greatly impacted in a positive way by the passage of comprehensive immigration reform.”
Obama also urged Congress to pass the Fair Minimum Wage Act bill, proposed by Representative for California’s 11th Congressional District George Miller and Iowa Senator Tom Harkin, to increase the federal minimum wage to $10.10. In addition, Obama announced his intention to make an executive order to raise the minimum wage while the bill goes through Congress. However, he complained about the amount of partisanship preventing bills such as Miller and Harkin’s from passing, using his Affordable Care Act as an example.
“The American people are not interested in refighting old battles,” Obama said in his address. “Let’s not have another 40- something votes to repeal a law that’s already helping millions of Americans.”
While criticizing the partisan lines that continue to divide Congress, Capps said although she remains hopeful about passing the minimum wage bill, she said it may not pass as a result of conservative opposition.
“Maybe it’s my optimistic nature, but I want us to succeed, and the American people are tired of the infighting and the bickering and the partisanship, and I believe students are [too],” Capps said.
During last night’s address, Obama also spoke about unemployment insurance, tax reform, clean energy, equal pay for women, reducing drone usage and climate change.
A version of this story appeared on page 6 of Wednesday, January 29, 2014’s print edition of the Daily Nexus.