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Is Obama as good as his word?

By Robert Yoon, CNN Political Research Director
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2010: We need 'serious financial reform'
  • The president kept his promise to pass health care reform
  • New GOP-controlled House voted to repeal the law; repeal unlikely to pass Senate
  • Obama didn't succeed on immigration reform, which he called "a difficult issue"

Washington (CNN) -- President Obama makes his second State of the Union address Tuesday night, which will be his fourth address to Congress.

How did Obama's deeds measure up against his words in last year's address? Here are 10 key statements Obama made in his 2010 address and how events played out over the year.

Energy policy

"To create more of these clean energy jobs, we need more production, more efficiency, more incentives. ... It means making tough decisions about opening new offshore areas for oil and gas development."

Obama announced on March 31, 2010, his plan to end a moratorium on oil and natural gas exploration and drilling along the East Coast, saying the plan was "part of a broader strategy that will move us from an economy that runs on fossil fuels and foreign oil to one that relies on homegrown fuels and clean energy."

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Less than a month later, a massive explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig led to the BP oil disaster which spewed an estimated 205 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico over the course of 85 days. As a result, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar quietly announced on December 1 that the administration was reversing its earlier decision and would keep the moratorium in place until regulations and procedures could be reviewed and strengthened.

Foreign trade

"We will double our exports over the next five years, an increase that will support 2 million jobs in America. To help meet this goal, we're launching a National Export Initiative that will help farmers and small businesses increase their exports, and reform export controls consistent with national security. We have to seek new markets aggressively, just as our competitors are. If America sits on the sidelines while other nations sign trade deals, we will lose the chance to create jobs on our shores. But realizing those benefits also means enforcing those agreements so our trading partners play by the rules. And that's why we'll continue to shape a Doha trade agreement that opens global markets, and why we will strengthen our trade relations in Asia and with key partners like South Korea and Panama and Colombia."

Exports from January through November went up 16.7%. At that rate, the United States would slightly more than double the level it was at as of the 2010 State of the Union. In March, the administration launched the National Export Initiative, which has, among other things, helped double the loans made to U.S. exporters. The multilateral trade negotiations that began in Doha, Qatar, continue to drag on between the world's largest trading powers with few developments since last year's State of the Union. Meanwhile, trade deals with South Korea, Panama and Colombia are all in place, but await congressional approval.

Health care reform

"Our approach would preserve the right of Americans who have insurance to keep their doctor and their plan. It would reduce costs and premiums for millions of families and businesses. And according to the Congressional Budget Office -- the independent organization that both parties have cited as the official scorekeeper for Congress -- our approach would bring down the deficit by as much as $1 trillion over the next two decades."

Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act into law on March 23, 2010, two months after his State of the Union address. The legislation cleared the Senate in December 2009 and the House on March 21 with no Republican votes.

The law represents the most sweeping overhaul of the nation's health care system since the enactment of Medicare and Medicaid in 1965. Most notably, it requires most Americans to have health insurance or pay a fine, significantly expands eligibility for Medicaid, requires large employers to provide coverage and would extend coverage to 32 million previously uninsured Americans. Although the plan had a price tag of roughly $940 billion over 10 years, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says it would actually lower the deficit by $143 billion over the same period.

Republicans campaigned heavily against the new law, winning back the House and making gains in the Senate in the 2010 midterm elections. On January 19, 2011, the new GOP House majority passed a bill to repeal the health care law on a largely party-line vote. The repeal is unlikely to pass in the Democratic-controlled Senate or survive President Obama's veto. The Congressional Budget Office says repealing the law would increase the deficit by roughly $230 billion over 10 years.

Government spending

"Starting in 2011, we are prepared to freeze government spending for three years. Spending related to our national security, Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security will not be affected. But all other discretionary government programs will. ... And if I have to enforce this discipline by veto, I will. ... We will continue to go through the budget, line by line, page by page, to eliminate programs that we can't afford and don't work. We've already identified $20 billion in savings for next year."

President Obama did submit a budget in 2010 that would have frozen federal spending for three years. The spending freeze was never implemented since Congress still hasn't passed a budget for 2011. Instead, the government has been operating -- and spending -- through a temporary funding measure. Obama's proposed budget included 126 spending cuts that would have saved $23 billion, but those cuts, like the proposed spending freeze, were never implemented, because of the budget impasse in Congress.

Bush tax cuts

"To help working families, we'll extend our middle-class tax cuts. But at a time of record deficits, we will not continue tax cuts for oil companies, for investment fund managers, and for those making over $250,000 a year. We just can't afford it."

Obama supported extending Bush-era tax cuts for lower- and middle-income Americans, but had long opposed extending them for the wealthiest Americans. GOP leaders on the Hill supported extending the tax cuts for all Americans regardless of income.

With the tax cuts set to expire at the end of the year, Obama ultimately signed a compromise tax package on December 17 that contained provisions that neither side was entirely happy with. The new law extends the Bush-era tax cuts for all income levels for two years, including for Americans making more than $250,000. It also cuts the payroll tax by 2 percentage points for a year and extends unemployment benefits for 13 months, a provision backed by Democrats.

At the bill-signing ceremony, Obama called the overall bill "a substantial victory for middle-class families across the country." But he also added, "there are some elements of this legislation that I don't like. There are some elements that members of my party don't like. There are some elements that Republicans here today don't like. That's the nature of compromise."

In the end, Obama kept his promise to extended middle-class tax cuts and broke his promise to discontinue tax cuts for those making more than $250,000.

Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq

"And in Afghanistan, we're increasing our troops and training Afghan security forces so they can begin to take the lead in July of 2011, and our troops can begin to come home."

Obama followed through on his plan, first announced in December 2009, for a troop surge in Afghanistan consisting of 30,000 additional military personnel. Despite a major shuffle at the top --Gen. Stanley McChrystal's controversial interview with Rolling Stone magazine prompted Obama to replace him with Gen. David Petraeus -- the administration concluded in its recent review of its Afghanistan-Pakistan policy that the surge has been working and that plans to begin withdrawing troops in July 2011 are still on track.

The administration has an ultimate goal for local Afghan security forces to take control of all security operations in the country by 2014.

"As we take the fight to al Qaeda, we are responsibly leaving Iraq to its people. As a candidate, I promised that I would end this war, and that is what I am doing as President. We will have all of our combat troops out of Iraq by the end of this August."

Obama announced in an Oval Office address on August 31, 2010, that the U.S. combat mission in Iraq had ended, with the last U.S. combat brigade having left the country two weeks earlier. Technically, the roughly 50,000 U.S. troops that remain are there to advise and instruct Iraqi security forces, but they are armed and can engage in combat if necessary.

"But make no mistake: This war is ending, and all of our troops are coming home."

All U.S. troops are scheduled to leave Iraq by December 31, 2011, according to a U.S./Iraqi security agreement reached in November 2008 during the final weeks of the Bush administration. Obama reiterated the planned 2011 withdrawal date when he announced the end of the U.S. combat mission last August. Though a significant number of U.S. troops remain in Iraq, the planned end-of-year withdrawal deadline appears to be on track.

Strategic arms treaty

"Now, even as we prosecute two wars, we're also confronting perhaps the greatest danger to the American people -- the threat of nuclear weapons. I've embraced the vision of John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan through a strategy that reverses the spread of these weapons and seeks a world without them. To reduce our stockpiles and launchers, while ensuring our deterrent, the United States and Russia are completing negotiations on the farthest-reaching arms control treaty in nearly two decades."

The United States and Russia did go on to complete negotiations on the START nuclear arms accord, and Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed the agreement on April 8, 2010. Obama made ratification of the treaty one of his top foreign policy priorities of 2010 and urged the Senate to take action before the end of the year.

The Senate approved the New START accord on December 22, 2010. The lower chamber of the Russian parliament approved the treaty on December 24, but it has yet to clear the upper house.

Don't ask, don't tell

"This year, I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are."

Obama delivered on his promise to work with Congress to pass legislation repealing the military's "don't ask, don't tell" law. He signed the bill into law on December 22, meeting his goal to do so by the end of 2010.

Though winning congressional approval was by far the largest hurdle to clear in allowing gays to serve openly in the armed forces, the ban will remain in effect for the foreseeable future until the Pentagon completes its lengthy implementation process, which includes updating regulations and officially certifying that the change can be made without a negative impact on readiness or recruitment. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in January 2011 that the ban will definitely be lifted, but avoided offering any specific timetable.

Equal pay

"We're going to crack down on violations of equal pay laws -- so that women get equal pay for an equal day's work."

Since delivering these these remarks, Obama established the National Equal Pay Enforcement Task Force, which brought together several federal agencies -- the Justice and Labor departments, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Office of Personnel Management -- to improve enforcement of equal pay laws.

The task force released several recommendations in July, including better coordination among agencies, improved private-sector data collection, and a public education campaign for employers and workers. The task force, as well as Obama, also called on Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would have updated the landmark Equal Pay Act of 1963.

The legislation passed in the House in January 2009, but it languished in the Senate until it was finally killed in a procedural vote during the lame-duck session of November 2010. Obama blamed the bill's defeat on "a partisan minority of senators" (the bill had 58 votes in favor), and added: "Despite today's vote, my administration will continue to fight for a woman's right to equal pay for equal work."

Immigration reform

"And we should continue the work of fixing our broken immigration system -- to secure our borders and enforce our laws, and ensure that everyone who plays by the rules can contribute to our economy and enrich our nation."

Congress did not consider a comprehensive immigration reform bill in 2010. Efforts to pass a more limited bill, the DREAM Act, which would have created a path to citizenship for some illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. as children, passed the House in December but failed to clear a procedural hurdle in the Senate later that month.

In April 2010, three months after his State of the Union address and one month after signing the controversial health care reform bill into law, Obama reiterated his desire to tackle immigration reform but also acknowledged the difficulties in doing so. "This is a difficult issue. It generates a lot of emotions, and the politics are difficult. But I've been unwavering in saying what we need to do. I think that I can get a majority of Democrats to support a comprehensive approach. But I need some help on the Republican side," he told reporters on April 28. "So it's a matter of political will. Now, look, we've gone through a very tough year, and I've been working Congress pretty hard. So I know there may not be an appetite immediately to dive into another controversial issue."

At an end-of-year news conference in December, the president called the failure to pass the DREAM Act "maybe my biggest disappointment" but added that he remained committed to the issue. "So my hope and expectation is that, first of all, everybody understands I am determined and this administration is determined to get immigration reform done. It is the right thing to do," he said at a news conference on December 22.

CNNMoney Senior Producer Penelope Patsuris contributed to this report.

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