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Obama to lift minimum wage for federal contractors: White House

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Challenging lawmakers to help him create greater economic opportunity, President Barack Obama will use his State of the Union address Tuesday to announce he's raising the minimum wage for new federal contract workers to $10.10 an hour, underscoring a go-it-alone strategy in an election year critical to Democrats' hopes for retaining Senate control.

Obama's speech to a joint session of Congress will be wrapped in a unifying theme: The federal government can play a key role in increasing opportunities for Americans who have been left behind, unable to benefit from a recovering economy.

Yet the president will deliver a split message, pressing issues that will distinguish him and Democrats from Republicans in the 2014 midterm elections.

Illustrating his willingness to act on his own, the White House says Obama will announce that he will sign an executive order increasing the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 for new federal contracts. The measure affects only future contracts, not existing ones, and would only apply to contract renewals if other terms of the agreement changed. As a result, the order would benefit far fewer workers than the number foreseen by advocates of federal contract employees.

Still, the issue dovetails with what will be Obama's broader call for an increase in the national minimum wage to $10.10 and for future increases to be tied to inflation. Obama last year had called for an increase in the minimum wage to $9.

Even as he argues that low income Americans and many in the middle class lack the means to achieve upward mobility, Obama will also feel compelled to take credit for an economy that by many indicators is gaining strength under his watch. As a result, he will talk positively about a recovery that remains elusive to many Americans.

Some Democrats are warning Obama to tread carefully.

"We hope that he does not dwell on the successes of the economy, which may be apparent in employment statistics, the GDP and stock market gains, but which are not felt by folks at the grocery store," Democratic political analysts James Carville and Stan Greenberg wrote in a recent strategy memo.

The president will present Congress with an agenda largely unchanged from what he called for a year ago, but one that nevertheless fits neatly into this year's economic opportunity theme. He will continue to seek an overhaul of immigration laws, an increase in the minimum wage and expanded pre-school education.

But after a year in which those proposals languished and gun control failed, the White House is eager to avoid letting Obama be defined by quixotic ambitions. As a result, he will stress success through executive actions, though their reach would be far more modest than what he could achieve through legislation.

"Congress is slow to action and we're not going to wait for that," White House chief of staff Denis McDonough said in an interview on "CBS This Morning." He told NBC's "Today" show that Obama is not concerned about his public approval ratings as he enters the sixth year of his presidency: "The president doesn't come down to work every day or go up to the residence every night worried about poll numbers."

Obama's biggest and most lasting accomplishment of his second term could be immigration legislation. House Republican leaders lately have sent signals that they are willing to act on piecemeal legislation, and Obama has given them room to work without prodding.

How immigration gets resolved will depend much on what the House is able to pass and if and how it can be reconciled with bipartisan Senate legislation that passed last year. Conservatives are pushing back against any bill that gives legal status to immigrants who are in the country illegally. And some Democrats would prefer to use the unresolved issue to mobilize Hispanic voters for this year's midterm elections.

Eager not to be limited by legislative gridlock, Obama on Tuesday is also expected to announce executive actions on job training, retirement security and help for the long-term unemployed in finding work.

Among them is a new retirement savings plan geared toward workers whose employers don't currently offer such plans. The program would allow first-time savers to start building up savings in Treasury bonds that eventually could be converted into a traditional IRAs, according to two people who have discussed the proposal with the administration. Those people weren't authorized to discuss it ahead of the announcement and insisted on anonymity.

"Tomorrow night, it's time to restore opportunity for all," Obama said Monday on the video-sharing site Vine, part of the White House's broad social media promotion of the speech.

The White House says the hike in minimum pay for federal contract workers would most benefit janitors and construction workers working under new federal contracts, as well as military base workers who wash dishes, serve food and do laundry. The White House says contractors will have time to take the higher minimum wage into account when pricing their bids.

Obama's go-it-alone approach has already irritated Republicans, some of whom claim he is pushing the limits of the Constitution.

"We have a minimum wage. Congress has set it. For the president to simply declare I'm going to change this law that has passed is unconstitutional," Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, said Tuesday on CNN.

"He can work with us to create opportunity and prosperity," wrote Brendan Buck, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio. "Or he can issue press releases."

The approach, some Republicans say, could also backfire by angering GOP leaders who already don't trust Obama's administration.

"The more he tries to do it alone and do confrontation, the less he's going to be able to get cooperation," said John Feehery, a former top House Republican aide.

Obama will follow his State of the Union address with a quick trip Wednesday and Thursday to Maryland, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Tennessee to promote his proposals. On Friday, Obama will hold an event at the White House where he'll announce commitments from several companies to not discriminate against the long-term unemployed during hiring.

Following tradition, the White House has invited several people to sit with first lady Michelle Obama during Tuesday night's address. Among them are General Motors CEO Mary Barra and Cristian Avila of Phoenix, an immigrant who with two younger siblings was brought to the U.S. illegally when Avila was 9. Now 23, Avila is one of the so-called Dreamers who have benefited from an Obama policy allowing young people who immigrated illegally with their parents to avoid deportation. Other guests include two survivors of the Boston Marathon bombing and Jason Collins, an openly gay former NBA player.

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ScripturePassion February 01 2014 at 9:38 PM

If President Obama expects people to live off of $10.10/hour then he's not calling this a Minimum Wage but, instead, a Maximum Wage.

People need to be promoted out of the minimum wage but, under President Obama's economy, income equality will be achieved as everyone move closer to poverty. Trickle-up poverty in action.

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godad3 January 29 2014 at 3:53 PM

2 million + uninvited unskilled guest workers walking across the border every year for the last couple of decades may have decimated the middle class. Had that not been the case wages would have continued to rise due to laws of supply and demand.

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godad3 January 29 2014 at 3:14 PM

Moron-in -Chief

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robertjheadley January 29 2014 at 12:18 PM

Very narrow class of people that can benefit and the class is totally prospective. The irony is that all government contractors will adjust their bids upward to maintain their current margins. The reality is that it will cost the federal government more to have this work done in the future. Go figure. Totally meaningless,

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michaelgary1 January 29 2014 at 10:00 AM

The GOP doesn't care about the American People unless it is a check with about 10 zeros on it. The've been talking the same thing for the past 5 years. Cruz,Lee,etc. are all paid for by the Kochs and the corporate greed machines to keep the middle class at bay.

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robertjheadley January 29 2014 at 12:22 PM

So has Obama, just more rhetoric and broken promises. But the rhetoric is extremely loquacious, just devoid of material content

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lilly295 January 29 2014 at 9:12 AM

I would rather clean out our horse stalls in the bitter cold, than watch obama on tv. Lies. Its like listening to a an annoying knat

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michaelgary1 January 29 2014 at 9:56 AM

Really were are all the plans the GOP had,lilly295? Oh that's right their waiting for permission from the lobbyists to see if the corporations benefit first.

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robertjheadley January 29 2014 at 12:25 PM

Not true, they've submitted several plans. They just don't clear the democract controlled senate. Actually, they currently have a plan submitted that supplements and fills most of the holes in Obamacare.

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schurosky January 29 2014 at 6:12 AM

Ah yes the on going circus of politcial clowns of washington. Watching Obama last night was like watching the interpreter at the Mandela tribute! ( He made a lot of moves, but said nothing, and made absolutely no sense! ) And same with staged emotions of Cathy McMorris-Rodgers, again opening her mouth and saying nothing. We the people! America, is'nt it about time we do something? It's evident throughout the history of Congress, they only do whats good for Congress, not! the people. What do the members of Congess have to worry about, more than half of them are millionares, and will never have to worry about finding a job, or wondering where their next meal will come from, or if they will not have a place to live. Now for once in political history Obama! Do something for all those who voted you into office, who wrok each day to make america the country it should be, make sure that americans can eat and live during these uncertain times.

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JUST A DUDE January 29 2014 at 8:34 AM

Do something for those who voted the President into office? Do something about the GOP Congress who vowed "to make this president fail"! Call the GOP Congress and tell them to pass the American Jobs Act and the Veterans Work Bill for starters. And while you're at it, ask the GOP Congress why they cut the budget for security in Benghazi prior to the unfortunate deaths of four Americans? Why was there no concern for the four thousand American heroes sent to their deaths and countless wounded in Iraq based on a lie of WMD's by G.W. B. (mission accomplished). As I read these posts, it's obvious where ignorance is tolerated, intelligence cannot prevail.

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robertjheadley January 29 2014 at 12:29 PM

I believe Hillary summed it up, "what diference does it make". Oh yeah, she's currently trying to show remorse. She's running for office and her advisers are trying to portray a softer side.

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Paul January 29 2014 at 6:00 AM

If President Obama had the full support of the Military, he would've already had the Legislative and Judicial branches of the government removed.

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BMWBOB January 29 2014 at 4:55 AM

How about raising our social security checks $6,000 a year? Give us some relief too! Last year the government raised mine $10!!!!

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peewee1154 January 29 2014 at 12:46 AM

I cant believe I just posted about help as a VIetnam Vet and and my letters to you go right back to the people that dont help me as I was injurd and MST after years of fighting for my benifits 12 minutes ago. My email just asks me for a 5 dollar donation. Really? Are you kidding? You already have my 5 dollars.

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