President Obama has quietly racked up a series of legislative victories during the past few months as lawmakers have enthusiastically embraced his calls for a higher minimum wage, paid sick leave and universal pre-kindergarten. Instead of Capitol Hill, those victories happened in city halls, state houses and county buildings far from Washington. At least six major cities — Chicago, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Seattle, Tacoma, Wash., and Washington, D.C. — have passed paid sick leave laws in the four months since Obama called for state and local action in this year’s State of the Union Address. Since the 2013 address when Obama called for an increase in the minimum wage, 17 states and six major cities have taken action, including Los Angeles last week.
Obama’s state-and-local strategy may be unprecedented in its scope and ambition. Though previous administrations have appointed top advisers to listen to concerns of state and local officials, the Obama White House appears to be the first to aggressively use those same channels to encourage them to adopt Obama’s policies. The strategy has been more effective on some policies than others. Since last September, more than 200 mayors have signed on to the My Brother’s Keeper initiative, a commitment to help boys and young men of color. The state-and-local strategy effort has been particularly effective on paid leave policies, which Obama championed in his State of the Union Address this year. “Forty-three million workers have no paid sick leave — 43 million. Think about that,” Obama said. “So I’ll be taking new action to help states adopt paid leave laws of their own.” That pledge came with a $1 million budget from the Department of Labor to help fund feasibility studies for state and local governments, which will begin to be awarded this summer.
“At the annual State of the Union address at the U.S. Capitol, Chuck Kennedy captured this poignant moment between the First Lady and U.S. Army Ranger Sgt. First Class Cory Remsburg. Cory first met the President in 2009 at a D-Day ceremony in Normandy. Four months later, Cory was badly injured in Afghanistan and in a coma for three months. In early 2010, shortly after Cory came out of his coma, the President happened to be visiting patients at Walter Reed Hospital. As he walked into one of the patient’s rooms, hanging on the wall was a photo I had taken of the President and Cory in Normandy. The President then realized that he had met this badly injured Army Ranger at Normandy. Two years later, we were visiting Arizona, where Cory had gone home to further recuperate. The President asked if Cory would be able to greet him backstage. Amazingly, Cory was able to salute the President and walk across the room aided by a walker to shake hands with the President.” (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
February 4, 2014
“Members of Congress vie for the President’s attention following a meeting with the House Democratic Caucus in the East Room of the White House.” (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
“The President talks with some of his national security advisors before a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin about the situation in Ukraine. I’m sure there will be people quick to comment about his wearing casual clothes and having his feet on his coffee table. Let’s keep perspective in mind: it was a Saturday, and a President is the President whether he’s wearing a suit on a weekday or casual clothes on a weekend. And a President, any President, isn’t disrespecting the office if he puts his feet on a table or a desk; he’s just being relaxed.” (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)