US President Barack Obama vowed Tuesday night in his State of the Union address to use all his executive powers to push his agenda if Congress doesn’t agree with his priorities.
In his address before a joint session of Congress and millions of Americans watching on television, Obama put urgency behind his pledge to close the Guantanamo Bay prison, saying, “With the Afghan war ending, this needs to be the year Congress lifts the remaining restrictions on detainee transfers and we close the prison at Guantanamo Bay.”
Obama vowed during his 2008 presidential campaign to close the prison with his first year in office, but he never followed through on the pledge.
“Guantanamo will be closed no later than one year from now,” Obama declared as he signed an executive order in the Oval Office on the subject on the first full day of his presidency.
Over 150 detainees are imprisoned in the US-run detention center in Cuba, many of them without charge or trial for more than a decade. Last February, Guantanamo’s detainees began a hunger strike to protest against the harsh conditions of their incarceration.
During his address, Obama also renewed his threat to veto new sanctions on Iran if the anti-Iran bill passes Congress.
He urged lawmakers to provide the time and space the US needs to continue ongoing nuclear negotiations with Tehran.
Earlier in the month, an Iran sanctions bill gained support of nearly 60 senators. The bill is aimed at pressuring Iran while the country is negotiating with world powers, including the US, over its nuclear energy program.
The talks ultimately made progress in November after a decade-long nuclear standoff, leading to a historic interim deal in Geneva, where nuclear negotiating delegations had days of intense talks.
President Obama also vowed during his address to sidestep Congress “whenever and wherever” necessary to narrow economic disparities between America’s rich and poor.
The president unveiled an array of modest executive actions to increase the minimum wage for federal workers from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour and make it easier for millions of low-income people to save for retirement.
Republicans resisted Obama’s call last year to raise the rate to $9.
“America does not stand still and neither do I,” Obama said. “Americans overwhelmingly agree that no one who works full time should ever have to raise a family in poverty.”
He promised to issue an executive order requiring federal contractors to pay at least $10.10 an hour.
Nearly 47 million people in America are leaving below the poverty line.