Late last year, President Obama sat down with his top aides to discuss his last State of the Union address. And he made it clear that he didn’t want his finale to be anything like those of past presidencies.
In a preview video released last week, Obama said the address will focus on “what we all need to do together in the years to come: the big things that will guarantee an even stronger, better, more prosperous America for our kids.”
The president’s final State of the Union will be broader, more about his vision for the country in his last year in office and beyond. Here’s what to look for:
It won’t be a laundry list. Senior administration officials describe the speech as “nontraditional,” in that the White House won’t prescribe a policy wish list for Congress. Still, there are a few legislative goals the president hopes to accomplish in his last year in office, and they’re ripe for compromise.
He’ll likely make a renewed pitch for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Asia-Pacific trade deal Congress fast-tracked with bipartisan support last summer. Congress must ratify the pact, reached by the United States and 11 other countries.
There are other bipartisan bright spots: A cadre of unlikely bedfellows, from tea-party Sen. Mike Lee of Utah to liberal Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, support a criminal-justice-reform bill that would reduce mandatory minimums for a slew of drug crimes. Obama has pushed for criminal-justice reform over the last year, and White House press secretary Josh Earnest in a briefing on Monday specifically mentioned the issue as one that would be on the State of the Union agenda, telling reporters that the White House “has worked hard to try to nurture the bipartisan agreement that will be required to pass that legislation.”