In referring to Seneca Falls, Selma, and Stonewall, the president was referring to seminal places in the fight for women’s rights, civil rights, and gay rights. And he finished with a paean to a forebear of special significance to America’s first black president, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., the slain civil rights leader for whom Jan. 21, 2013, is a federal holiday in honor of his birthday.
Immediately after Obama finished his address, Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R) of Kentucky issued a statement, congratulating the president on his second inauguration – and making a pitch for the agenda item that tops the Republicans’ wish list.
“The president’s second term represents a fresh start when it comes to dealing with the great challenges of our day; particularly, the transcendent challenge of unsustainable federal spending and debt,” Senator McConnell said. “Republicans are eager to work with the president on achieving this common goal, and we firmly believe that divided government provides the perfect opportunity to do so. Together, there is much we can achieve.”
In his speech, Obama did mention the deficit: “We must make the hard choices to reduce the cost of health care and the size of our deficit.”
But he did not utter the words “debt” or “spending,” even though three deadlines are fast approaching centered on the nation’s unsustainable fiscal path – the debt ceiling, the automatic spending cuts known as the “sequester,” and the end of temporary federal spending authority.
On Friday, House Republicans proposed raising the debt ceiling for three months, a move that would make the sequester deadline at the beginning of March the next big moment of partisan contention over federal spending.