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6 big topics left out of the State of the Union

Obamacare was barely mentioned in the speech.
Obamacare was barely mentioned in the speech.
WPA Pool / Getty News Images
Dylan Matthews is a senior correspondent and head writer for Vox's Future Perfect section and has worked at Vox since 2014. He is particularly interested in global health and pandemic prevention, anti-poverty efforts, economic policy and theory, and conflicts about the right way to do philanthropy.

President Obama's State of the Union address touched on lots of different topics: from the Ferguson protests to the war against ISIS, from same-sex marriage to tax policy. But there were also some striking gaps. Here were a few of the biggest omissions from the speech:

1) Obamacare

The Affordable Care Act — Obama's defining policy accomplishment — was never mentioned by name during the speech. Nor did Obama mention that people can currently sign up for insurance under the law (open enrollment runs until February 15). There were a couple oblique references to the falling uninsured rate and the health-cost slowdown and to a new "Precision Medicine Initiative to bring us closer to curing diseases like cancer and diabetes," but that was it.

2) K–12 education

Obama touched on childcare and on expanding access to higher education, but on K–12 he just mentioned the rising high-school graduation rate and improving test scores. He said nothing about the ongoing process of reauthorizing No Child Left Behind. And the phrases "pre-K" and "early childhood education" don't show up in the transcript.

3) Gun control

While he alluded to the shootings in Tucson and Newtown, Obama did not mention or call for measures to restrict access to high-ammunition guns or improve background checks.

4) North Korea

Obama mentioned the Sony hack, but didn't refer to the country by name or otherwise talk about our foreign policy toward it. Given how much the regime thrives on international attention, this might have been a strategic call.

5) His own tax proposals

Obama's tax plan, which was unveiled days before the State of the Union and which the White House pushed hard to the press, was alluded to in the speech, but the actual details — like a new dual-earner tax credit — were left out or only glancingly mentioned.

6) Calling for comprehensive immigration reform

Throughout Obama's entire presidency, whenever he's discussed immigration — even when taking massive steps on his own to change immigration policy through executive actions — he's asked Congress to pass a permanent, comprehensive immigration reform bill. Tonight, he didn't. He made a backhanded response to "past debates" and promised to veto any bill that killed his executive actions, but didn't ask Congress to find a permanent solution.

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