Obama Prepares a ‘Non­tra­di­tion­al’ State of the Union Address

A U.S. Air Force B-52 bomber flies over Osan Air Base in Pyeongtaek, South Korea, Sunday, Jan. 10, 2016.

AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon

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A U.S. Air Force B-52 bomber flies over Osan Air Base in Pyeongtaek, South Korea, Sunday, Jan. 10, 2016.

The chamber will push a pair of foreign policy bills as President Obama delivers his State of the Union address and Republicans prepare for their retreat.

The House will flex its muscles this week to­ward North Korea and Ir­an this week with bills that will provide Re­pub­lic­ans a polit­ic­al plat­form to at­tack Pres­id­ent Obama’s for­eign policy.

The House ac­tion comes ad­ja­cent to Obama’s fi­nal State of the Uni­on ad­dress on Tues­day night. And the next day, Cap­it­ol Hill Re­pub­lic­ans will head to Bal­timore for their an­nu­al re­treat.

The House is slated to pass a bill Monday that toughens sanc­tions against North Korea. The votes comes on the heels of North Korea’s dis­puted claim that it suc­cess­fully tested a hy­dro­gen bomb, al­though the bill pred­ates that event.

It en­ables the seizure of as­sets of people aid­ing North Korea’s nuc­le­ar pro­gram, hu­man-rights ab­uses, and oth­er il­li­cit activ­it­ies, and goes after banks that are aid­ing the Py­ongy­ang re­gime.

Demo­crats back the meas­ure. House Demo­crat­ic Lead­er Nancy Pelosi pre­dicts it will have “strong bi­par­tis­an sup­port.”

But Re­pub­lic­ans are already us­ing the bill—and a sep­ar­ate meas­ure on Ir­an—to at­tack Obama. House Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Kev­in Mc­Carthy, in a state­ment late last week an­noun­cing the votes, ac­cused the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion of a “weak and in­ad­equate” re­sponse to North Korea and Ir­an.

A second bill that’s far more con­tro­ver­sial, slated for a vote Wed­nes­day, would make it much tough­er for the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion to waive cer­tain sanc­tions against Ir­an.

Demo­crats call it a clear ef­fort to un­ravel to nuc­le­ar deal un­der which Ir­an is get­ting sanc­tions re­lief in re­turn for freez­ing its nuc­le­ar-en­rich­ment pro­gram.

Mc­Carthy, however, touted the bill ahead of the vote. “This bill will stop the ad­min­is­tra­tion from of­fer­ing sanc­tions re­lief to in­di­vidu­als or banks un­less we are cer­tain they do not sup­port ter­ror, the Ir­a­ni­an Re­volu­tion­ary Guard, Ir­an’s bal­list­ic-mis­sile pro­gram, or its con­ven­tion­al-weapons pro­gram,” he said in a state­ment.

While the North Korea bill has sup­port across the aisle, the GOP re­treat comes as House GOP lead­er­ship is set­ting up 2016 as a year to provide a sharp polit­ic­al con­trast with Demo­crats ahead of choos­ing a new pres­id­ent.

Speak­er Paul Ry­an said last week that 2016 would be a “year of ideas,” adding: “My ba­sic premise for tak­ing this job is mak­ing sure that we of­fer the coun­try a clear choice for the dir­ec­tion that we want to lead.”

Here’s what else is on tap this week:

ENERGY

The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s con­tro­ver­sial rule re­de­fin­ing its Clean Wa­ter Act jur­is­dic­tion will re­appear on the House floor, with a vote planned on a res­ol­u­tion of dis­ap­prov­al for the Wa­ters of the United States rule. The meas­ure, which already passed the Sen­ate in a 53-44 vote, is sure to face a pres­id­en­tial veto. The House is also set to bring up a bill that would block the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s at­tempts to reg­u­late moun­tain­top re­mov­al min­ing.

The House Sci­ence Com­mit­tee will vote Tues­day on a bi­par­tis­an bill that would sup­port fed­er­al re­search and de­vel­op­ment in­to ad­vanced nuc­le­ar-re­act­or tech­no­logy in an at­tempt to help the private sec­tor bet­ter de­vel­op nuc­le­ar power.

HEALTH

The much-prom­ised Obama­care re­peal bill has been sent to the pres­id­ent’s desk, where Obama promptly ve­toed it. But this week, mem­bers will turn to the next step: craft­ing a plan to re­place the health care bill. At the GOP re­treat in Bal­timore, mem­bers’ ideas will be so­li­cited and a pro­cess and timeline for ham­mer­ing out a re­place­ment will be dis­cussed, Ash­Lee Strong, a spokes­wo­man for Ry­an, told Na­tion­al Journ­al last week.

Ad­di­tion­ally, the Sen­ate Health, Edu­ca­tion, Labor, and Pen­sions Com­mit­tee will hold a hear­ing Tues­day to vote on the nom­in­a­tion of Dr. Robert Cal­iff to head the Food and Drug Ad­min­is­tra­tion. In a Novem­ber hear­ing, Cal­iff faced some tough ques­tions from lib­er­als, such as on his re­la­tion­ship with the phar­ma­ceut­ic­al in­dustry from Sen. Eliza­beth War­ren and wheth­er he sup­ports im­port­ing pre­scrip­tion drugs from Canada and oth­er ma­jor in­dus­tri­al­ized coun­tries from Sen. Bernie Sanders.

TECHNOLOGY

The House En­ergy and Com­merce Com­mit­tee’s Com­mu­nic­a­tions Sub­com­mit­tee will hold a hear­ing Tues­day morn­ing to con­sider four com­mu­nic­a­tions bills. Two of the bills would lim­it the Fed­er­al Com­mu­nic­a­tions Com­mis­sion’s net-neut­ral­ity rules: one by per­man­ently ex­empt­ing small busi­nesses from dis­clos­ure re­quire­ments and the oth­er by bar­ring the agency from reg­u­lat­ing In­ter­net-ser­vice prices. The pan­el will also con­sider bills aimed at pro­tect­ing am­a­teur-ra­dio op­er­at­ors and com­batting spam text mes­sages.

The Fed­er­al Trade Com­mis­sion will hold a con­fer­ence on Thursday to dis­cuss pri­vacy and data-se­cur­ity is­sues. The agency’s chair­wo­man, Edith Ramirez, will give open­ing re­marks, fol­lowed by dis­cus­sions fea­tur­ing oth­er agency of­fi­cials and aca­dem­ics.

WHITE HOUSE

Pres­id­ent Obama will give his sev­enth and fi­nal State of the Uni­on ad­dress on Tues­day at 9 p.m. EST. Aides say it will be “non­tra­di­tion­al,” in that the lame-duck pres­id­ent won’t urge Con­gress to send a slew of bills to his desk. In­stead, he’ll take a “big-pic­ture ap­proach to some of the chal­lenges and op­por­tun­it­ies that we face as a coun­try,” a seni­or White House Of­fi­cial said last month.

The pres­id­ent will hew to tra­di­tion in his post-State of the Uni­on it­in­er­ary, however: On Wed­nes­day, he’ll head to Omaha, Neb­raska, and then to Bat­on Rouge, Louisi­ana, to push his vis­ion for the coun­try in the years ahead. After par­ti­cip­at­ing in a town hall in Bat­on Rouge on Thursday, he’ll re­turn to Wash­ing­ton.

Jason PlautzBrendan SassoRebecca Nelson and Rachel Roubein contributed to this article.

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