My view: A State of the Union to support

By Chris Stewart

For the Deseret News

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 28 2014 12:00 a.m. MST

The State of the Union address presents the president with a unique opportunity to not only lay out his legislative goals, but to set the tone of the political discourse for the coming year.

Charles Dharapak, AP

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The State of the Union address presents the president with a unique opportunity to not only lay out his legislative goals, but to set the tone of the political discourse for the coming year. When a president vilifies the other party, we can be sure gridlock will follow. But when the president expresses a willingness to find common ground, the other party often reciprocates. President Obama doesn’t have a good track record here, but that doesn’t mean he couldn’t surprise us. On the legislative front, Republicans have teed up a number of great legislative proposals the president should wholeheartedly embrace. Here are just three.

The Keystone XL Pipeline should be at the top of this list. The president has kept the project in limbo for almost six years even though the pipeline would undeniably boost the economy. Tens of thousands of good jobs would be created. And we would reduce our dependence of foreign oil at a time when there is great danger and uncertainty in critical oil-producing regions. Republicans have supported the project for years. And we are not alone. Many Democrats in the House and the Senate favor the pipeline. Even the normally leftist labor unions are on board, acknowledging the benefits of more jobs, cheaper energy and less dependence on foreign oil. The administration’s own State Department admitted there would be no significant environmental impacts. The president just needs to say yes.

Energy isn’t the only area that could grow the economy. A revamp of the tax code would do wonders to stimulate economic growth and induce companies to keep their cash and their jobs in the United States. The current code is far too complex, confusing and costly. Everyone agrees on that. The House Ways and Means Committee already started the process of reform last year, and Democratic Sen. Max Baucus teamed up with Sen. Orrin Hatch to start the process in the Senate. Tax reform would admittedly be a heavy lift, but if the president wants to be remembered for anything other than the disaster that is Obamacare, this would be a great place to start. At the very least he could commit to get out of the way of those of us on both sides of the aisle who are willing to tackle this critical issue.

Finally, the president could pledge to end his nasty habit of bypassing congressional authority through unilateral executive actions. The president has selectively enforced immigration, he continues issuing numerous changes to Obamacare, and he recently refused to enforce federal drug laws. As a former constitutional law professor, the president should know that the Constitution requires the president to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed.” While the president has some flexibility if he believes a law to be unconstitutional, he has offered no justification for his actions other than political convenience. This isn’t how a democratic republic works, and it isn’t a recipe for creating trust and good will in Congress. A promise to work with Congress instead of around us would go a long way.

It’s worth mentioning that I left off this list perhaps the most important and urgent economic issue of our time — serious entitlement reform. Entitlement spending is the primary driver of our nation’s growing debt, but it has become clear to me that this president lacks the moral courage and foresight to address that challenge. That will have to wait for another president. In the meantime, President Obama would do well to work with Republicans on some of the lower-hanging fruit that’s ripe for picking. Here’s hoping we’ll be surprised tonight.

Congressman Chris Stewart represents Utah's 2nd Congressional District in the United States House of Representatives. He serves on the House Appropriations Committee.

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