But the tragic murders of 6 people at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school in December altered the president’s agenda, pushing combating gun violence onto a to-do list that already included a new push for an overhaul of immigration law.
As Obama speaks, many of the faces looking down on him from the galleries in the House of Representatives chamber will be those of Americans thrust into the politics of gun violence.
First lady Michelle Obama will sit with the parents of a Chicago teenager shot and killed just days after she performed at the president’s inauguration. Twenty-two House members have invited people affected by gun violence, according to Rep. Jim Langevin, D-R.I., who pushed the effort. And Republican Rep. Steve Stockman of Texas says he’s invited rocker Ted Nugent, a long-time gun control opponent who last year said he would end up “dead or in jail” if Obama won re-election.
As the president addresses gun violence, the cameras are sure to pan the faces in the crowd inside the House chamber, each with a story meant to influence the debate. Obama has proposed a ban on certain weapons and on high-capacity ammunition magazines. He has also called for broader, universal background checks on gun purchasers, a proposal that stands a better chance politically.
But White House aides say the economy is still Obama’s central theme.
Senior adviser Valerie Jarrett said “the president has always believed that our country is strongest when we build from the middle out, not from the top down” and said Obama’s “confidence has grown” about accomplishing that.
Jarrett said Obama remains interested in a deal with Republicans to avoid automatic budget cuts on March and said he and House Speaker John Boehner had been “just moments apart” from striking a large-scale agreement on taxes and spending at the end of last year, but that the Ohio Republican couldn’t sell it to his party’s House caucus. Boehner’s office denies that characterization of the talks.