Published Thursday, January 30, 2014 at 1:00 am / Updated at 4:48 pm
state of the union
World-Herald editorial: Bipartisanship missing in State of the Union

Just when a couple of small bridges had begun to span the partisan gulch that is paralyzing Congress, President Barack Obama vowed to go it alone if need be.

“I am eager to work with all of you,” he told Congress in his State of the Union address Tuesday night. But ...

“America does not stand still, and neither will I. So wherever and whenever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families, that’s what I’m going to do.”

The president announced some modest executive actions he can take without congressional approval, including raising the minimum wage for some federal contractors and establishing a retirement savings program for lower-income workers.

At the same time, Obama said he wasn’t giving up on Congress and renewed calls for many of his previous now-stalled legislative priorities, such as extending unemployment insurance and raising the minimum wage across the board.

“As president, I’m committed to making Washington work better and rebuilding the trust of the people who sent us here,” he said. “I believe most of you are, too.”

So his speech offered a curious mix of messages, “we’re all in this together” on one hand and “my way or the highway” on the other. Reactions among Democrats and Republicans in Congress predictably split along party lines.

Executive orders aren’t uncommon. According to the Washington Post, Obama signed 167 through 2013. The Post said that’s fewer than every president in the same time period dating to Harry Truman. President George H.W. Bush signed 166 in a single four-year term.

But the timing of the president’s pledge to bypass Congress was unfortunate.

After three years of increasing partisan rancor reached fever pitch with last fall’s government shutdown and Senate Democrats invoking the “nuclear option” on presidential appointees, a few positive steps recently had been taken in the direction of more collaboration.

Two weeks ago, Republicans and Democrats in Congress finally came together and passed a spending bill that neither side much likes, but which is an improvement over fiscal cliffs and persistent lack of budgets.

This week, Congress is voting on a compromise farm bill, which nobody loves but which is years overdue and will save between $16 billion and $23 billion over current funding.

And encouragingly, both Democrats and Republicans have been talking about steps they might take to address illegal immigration, a devilish problem to be sure, as well as the best ways to grow the nation’s economy.

Recent opinion polls have put Congress’ job approval in the 13 percent-to-14 percent range. The president fares somewhat better, but more Americans also are unhappy with his job performance than approve of it.

An NBC-Wall Street Journal poll this week found six of 10 Americans describing the state of the union as “divided” or “troubled.” Just 13 percent characterized it as “hopeful,” and only 3 percent said it is “strong.”

The Constitution divides power between the legislative and executive branches, and voters have divided control of the legislative branch. Public opinion largely rejects the fringe in either direction.

In Washington’s current hothouse climate, it may be impossible for either side to cooperate. But how refreshing it would have been had the president talked not about going it alone but about what used to be called bipartisanship.

Cult murderer's death row appeal denied, but execution in limbo
Beau McCoy strikes Obama doll in TV ad; Democrats are not happy
17 senators in Nebraska Legislature hit their (term) limits
Police identify 21-year-old shot in ankle near 30th, W Streets
19-year-old arrested in connection with March shooting
Police: Slaying of woman in Ralston apartment likely over drugs
Keystone XL pipeline backers blast 'political expediency' as foes hail ruling to delay decision
Nebraska senators to study tax issues over break
Interstate construction to cause lane shifts, closings in Omaha area
Teenager arrested after woman's purse is snatched outside Omaha store
Kelly: A California university president returns to her Nebraska roots on Ivy Day
Omahan charged in fatal shooting in Benson neighborhood
Friday's attendance dips at Millard West after bathroom threat
High school slam poets don't just recite verses, 'they leave their hearts beating on the stage'
Crack ring's leaders join others in prison as a result of Operation Purple Haze
Haze in area comes from Kansas, Oklahoma
Man taken into custody in domestic dispute
Omaha judge reprimanded for intervening in peer attorney's DUI case
Intoxicated man with pellet gun climbs billboard's scaffold; is arrested
Police seek public's help in finding an armed man
Saturday forecast opens window for gardening; Easter egg hunts look iffy on Sunday
Database: How much did Medicare pay your doctor?
Last day of 2014 Legislature: Praise, passage of a last few bills and more on mountain lions
New public employee pay data: Douglas, Lancaster, Sarpy Counties, plus utilities
A voice of experience: Ex-gang member helps lead fight against Omaha violence
< >
Kelly: A California university president returns to her Nebraska roots on Ivy Day
The main speaker at today's Ivy Day celebration at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln is a college president who grew up roping calves and earned her Ph.D. at the prestigious Oxford University in England.
Breaking Brad: Stuck in a claw machine? You get no Easter candy
I know of one kid in Lincoln who will be receiving a lump of coal from the Easter Bunny, just as soon as he's extricated from that bowling alley claw machine.
Breaking Brad: Mountain lion season's over, but the bunny's fair game!
Thursday was the last day of a Nebraska Legislature session. Before leaving town, legislators passed a bill to hold a lottery to hunt the Easter Bunny.
Breaking Brad: At least my kid never got stuck inside a claw machine
We need a new rule in Lincoln. If your kid is discovered inside the claw machine at a bowling alley, you are forever barred from being nominated for "Mother of the Year."
Breaking Brad: How many MECA board members can we put in a luxury suite?
As a stunt at the Blue Man Group show, MECA board members are going to see how many people they can stuff into one luxury suite.
Deadline Deal thumbnail
The Jaipur in Rockbrook Village
Half Off Fine Indian Cuisine & Drinks! $15 for Dinner, or $7 for Lunch
Buy Now
< >
Omaha World-Herald Contests
Enter for a chance to win great prizes.
OWH Store: Buy photos, books and articles
Buy photos, books and articles
Travel Snaps Photo
Going on Vacation? Take the Omaha World-Herald with you and you could the next Travel Snaps winner.
Click here to donate to Goodfellows
The 2011 Goodfellows fund drive provided holiday meals to nearly 5,000 families and their children, and raised more than $500,000 to help families in crisis year round.
Want to get World-Herald stories sent directly to your home or work computer? Sign up for's News Alerts and you will receive e-mails with the day's top stories.
Can't find what you need? Click here for site map »