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Issue Guide: 2013 State of the Union Address

Author: Jeanne Park
February 12, 2013


President Barack Obama will deliver his fourth State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on February 12. While the president alluded to key legislative priorities in his domestic policy-heavy second inaugural address, he's expected to provide "details and blueprints"(WaPo) for his second-term agenda on Tuesday night. The following materials offer a guide to understanding issues high on the president's priorities list.

U.S. President Barack Obama (C) delivers his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress.
President Obama delivers his 2012 State of the Union address. (Photo: Saul Loeb/Courtesy Reuters)

Immigration Reform

The Economics of Immigration Reform
By adding market forces to the equation, immigration reform offers new promise for the U.S. economy that we cannot afford to ignore, write Brookings fellows Michael Greenstone and Adam Looney.

Foreign Policy: Think Again: Immigration
After Republicans' election-year drubbing, the United States has a historic opportunity to fix its broken immigration system. And the arguments against reform simply don't hold up anymore, writes CFR's Shannon O'Neill.

Renewing America Blog: Five Years Later, Five Big Challenges
It's been more than five years since the last congressional effort at comprehensive immigration reform dissolved in acrimony. CFR's Edward Alden identifies five big issues that need to be handled successfully this time around.

Essential Document: President Obama's Remarks on Comprehensive Immigration Reform
President Obama delivered these remarks on immigration reform in Las Vegas on January 29, 2013, the day after a bipartisan group of senators released their framework for immigration reform.

Essential Document: Bipartisan Framework for Comprehensive Immigration Reform
A bipartisan group of eight U.S. senators proposed a framework for immigration reform on January 28, 2013, which includes a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

Undocumented UCLA students stand in line at a graduation ceremony for UCLA "Dreamers", or Dream Act students.
A graduation ceremony for DREAM Act students. (Photo: Jonathan Alcorn/Courtesy Reuters)

CFR Video: Immigration Reform: Three Things to Know
In this CFR video, Edward Alden offers three reasons why the time may be ripe for a U.S. immigration overhaul.

CFR Backgrounder: The U.S. Immigration Debate
Ongoing arguments over U.S. immigration policy play out against concerns about curbing illegal immigration, changing demographics, and maintaining the country's global competitive edge.

Financial Times: U.S. Immigration Reform Will Happen--At Last
The 2012 presidential election had many consequences, but few may be as profound as its impact on the likelihood of immigration reform, writes CFR President Richard N. Haass.

CFR Task Force Report: U.S. Immigration Policy
A bipartisan group of leaders in the fields of immigration policy, homeland security, education, labor, business, academia, and human rights urges Congress and the Obama administration to move ahead with immigration reform legislation that achieves three critical goals.

Fiscal Policy

New Yorker: U.S. Fiscal Policy Is Upside Down
Rather than tackling the long-term rise in entitlement spending, which does present a potentially serious threat to the country's prosperity, policymakers are intent on making short-term spending cuts across the board, for which there is little or no rationale, writes John Cassidy.

Essential Document: CBO: The Budget and Economic Outlook: 2013 to 2023
A report issued by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office predicts the budget deficit will drop below $1 trillion for the first time in President Obama's tenure in office.

Now It's Time for Sequester Anxiety
The Bipartisan Policy Center estimates approximately one million lost jobs if a full sequester occurs as scheduled on March 1.

Politico: House GOP Thinks Unthinkable on Defense Cuts
A new breed of conservatives in the House cares so much about cutting spending they're willing to shave the budget for bullets and bombs, writes Darren Samuelsohn.

CFR Blog: Macro and Markets: The Sequester and the Closing Window for a Fiscal Bargain
The window for a fiscal bargain that deals with our long-term fiscal challenge is closing; the upcoming sequester battle provides one last opportunity to make such a deal, writes CFR's Robert Kahn.

Slate: The Next Fiscal Cliff
While this upcoming cliff is much smaller in scale than the full cliff that was narrowly avoided on New Year's Day, it's much more terrifying because it will arrive in the beginning of March when we're hitting the debt ceiling again, writes Matthew Yglesias.

CFR Backgrounders: U.S. Fiscal Policy
Read's backgrounders on the fiscal cliff, the U.S. debt ceiling, and corporate tax reform.

Energy and Environment

CFR Report: Oil Taxes and Fiscal Reform
Under the right conditions, using an oil tax in a deficit reduction package can increase economic output, reduce unemployment, and cut U.S. oil consumption, write CFR's Daniel Ahn and Michael Levi.

Politico: Obama's Climate Team Appears Primed for Action
The president's top climate appointees and the outside advisers best positioned to shape his agenda are business leaders, environmental lobbyists, and bureaucrats who have spent years wrestling with the minutiae of regulations, writes Darren Goode.

National Geographic: Ten Ways Obama Could Fight Climate Change
What could the president reasonably do to deliver his vow to respond to the threat of climate change? Experts in climate research, energy innovation, and oceanography offer their suggestions.

CFR Blog: Energy, Security, and Climate: Unexpected Headlines for Obama's Second Term
Odds are high that many of the biggest headlines and decisions about energy policy will be about things that we aren't even thinking about today, writes CFR's Michael Levi.

New York Times: Obama's Second-Term Options on the Environment
As President Obama prepares to embark on his second term, it's worth exploring what he can do to foster progress on environmental issues and the nation's, and world's, energy and climate challenges, writes Andrew Revkin.

National Journal: The Education of Steven Chu
The departure of Energy Secretary Steven Chu highlights the political struggle President Obama has faced in trying to enact even a portion of the sweeping clean-energy and climate change agenda he envisioned when he ran for the White House in 2008, writes Coral Davenport.

CFR Interactive: Oil Dependence and U.S. Foreign Policy
This CFR Interactive looks at the history of U.S. oil dependence and foreign policy, from the days of the first market, to the crisis of 1970s, to the struggle to balance energy security with environmental concerns.

CFR Interactive: Global Governance Monitor: Climate Change
The Global Governance Monitor tool shows how the international community is doing in addressing the daunting threat of climate change.

Nuclear Proliferation

WSJ: Obama's Nuclear Fantasy
The president is setting the stage for a world with more nukes in the wrong hands, writes Bret Stephens.

Reuters: Obama's Aims to Reduce Nuclear Threat
Obama has rightly seized this nuclear arms-control opportunity. His plan should help future presidents and Congresses evaluate the wisdom of such a possible step, write Michael O'Hanlon and Steven Pifer.

CFR Blog: Asia Unbound: How to Respond to North Korea's Defiance
Pyongyang's latest nuclear test shows the ineffectiveness of international sanctions in altering its behavior. The UN Security Council now must stifle the North's missile capabilities, says CFR's Scott Snyder.

Project Syndicate: The Second Nuclear Age
A new set of rules for diplomacy, military strategy, and arms control is needed to stabilize an emerging nuclear order, writes Paul Bracken.

CFR Task Force Report: U.S. Nuclear Weapons Policy
This report focuses on near-term policies to reduce nuclear weapons to the lowest possible level consistent with maintaining a credible deterrent, while also ensuring that the U.S. nuclear arsenal is safe, secure, and reliable for as long as it is needed.

Global Economy

Demonstrators shout slogans in Madrid.
Demonstrators in Madrid. (Photo: Susana Vera/Courtesy Reuters)

Foreign Policy: Getting Down to Business
In his second first 100 days, Obama has an unprecedented opportunity to right a fragile global economy and change the way Americans--and the world--think about Washington, writes PIMCO's Mohamed El-Erian.

WSJ: Who Says the Euro Crisis Is Over?
Even if the euro survives, the crisis isn't over until the periphery starts growing and people start finding jobs, Uri Dadush writes.

Foreign Policy: Save Greece, Save Europe
Only Europe can lead the way out of this crisis, but in his second term, President Obama needs to help save Europe from itself, writes former Greek prime minister George Papandreou.

CFR Video: World Economic Outlook: January 23, 2013
CFR's Sebastian Mallaby and experts analyze the current state of the global economic system.

Gun Control

CFR Backgrounder: U.S. Gun Policy: Global Comparisons
Why do mass shootings, such as the December 2012 incident at a Connecticut elementary school, occur more frequently in the United States than other major democracies? This Backgrounder examines select countries.

Foreign Policy

IHT: A First Step With Iran
Although the nuclear dispute between Iran and the United States is often portrayed as a disagreement over technical issues, it is important to break the psychological barriers to deal-making, writes CFR's Ray Takeyh.

CFR Blog: Asia Unbound: Presidential Inbox
With a new foreign policy team coming together in Washington, CFR's Elizabeth Economy, Scott Snyder, Sheila Smith, Joshua Kurlantzik, and Yanzhong Huang offer advice on advancing U.S. interests in the Asia-Pacific region.

The United States and South Asia After Afghanistan
The report, written by Asia Society Bernard Schwartz Fellow Alexander Evans, finds that a unique opportunity exists for the Obama administration to forge a more strategic, integrated, and successful policy toward South Asia.

CFR Interview: Talking to Cuba
The argument for sustained U.S. diplomatic engagement with Havana has never been more compelling, says CFR's Julia Sweig.

Chicago Tribune: Will Obama End Perpetual War?
Obama will deserve credit if he ends the U.S. war in Afghanistan as he did the U.S. war in Iraq. But it's just as important to avoid plunging into another one, and on that prospect, it's hard to be optimistic, writes Steve Chapman.

Economist: Crises, Opportunities, and Duties (Audio Slideshow)
The president will be faced with many challenges during his second term, though he may prefer to see America play the role of indispensable catalyst, rather than indispensable nation, say the editors.

CFR Backgrounder: South China Sea Tensions
As the United States pivots to Asia, disputes over territories in the South China Sea have escalated tensions and threatened regional stability.

Foreign Affairs: Rebooting Republican Foreign Policy
Republicans need to start taking foreign policy more seriously, thinking hard about the thorny task of managing a superpower and not leaving it as a plaything for right-wing interest groups. Failure to do so quickly could be catastrophic, ceding this ground to Democrats for the a generation at least, argues Daniel Drezner.