Obama to Deliver Final State of The Union Address on Tuesday

President Obama will deliver his seventh and final State of the Union address this Tuesday. While no details of the speech have been released, it is likely that the address will focus more on broader themes beyond 2016 rather than specific policy proposals. The President is likely to tout the state of the economy and health exchange enrollment figures as emblematic of his achievements as President. In addition, he is expected to speak about climate change, foreign policy, and social progress and equality. The White House will be offering line-by-line commentary through the online platform Genius shortly after the delivery of the President’s remarks. South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley will deliver the Republican response to the address. Following his State of the Union, the President will travel across the country to highlight the progress he has made during his presidency.

Republicans Gather for Annual Retreat

Congressional Republicans will gather in Baltimore from Wednesday to Friday of this week for their annual retreat to build a policy agenda for the coming year. According to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) office, a replacement plan for the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is likely to be a big focus of the agenda, but Ryan has not offered any details or timeline regarding a replacement plan. The GOP Doctors Caucus is expected to work on a replacement plan in the coming weeks, focusing on previous proposals from Rep. Tom Price (the Empowering Patients First Act) and the Republican Study Committee (the American Health Care Reform Act). Both Republican lawmakers and aides have said that votes on many of their party’s agenda items will be unlikely, both due to the legislative calendar – lawmakers will be in session for only about half the year to allow time for 2016 election campaigns – and the reality of gaining President Obama’s support. Speaker Ryan hopes to release his agenda by March or April. The Democratic retreat will be held in Philadelphia from January 27-29.

Democratic Veteran Members to Retire

Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) announced his plans to retire and not seek another term in office last week. McDermott is a 14-term Congressman and the top Democrat on the House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee. He is a former psychiatrist and Foreign Service medical officer. During his 26 years in the House, he has championed a single payer health care system and an overhaul of how Medicare pays providers. Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) also announced his plans to retire last week. Israel has been a member of the House for 15 years, and has also served as the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

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