Policy: Entitlements

White House week ahead: Vacation over, Obama tries to hit reset button

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Politics,White House,Brian Hughes,Barack Obama,Labor,Health Care,Entitlements,National Security,PennAve,NSA,Economy,Unemployment

With his more than two-week Hawaiian vacation finished, President Obama now turns to the daunting task of kick-starting a stalled second-term agenda.

Obama this week will focus on what aides are framing as a central theme of 2014: combating income inequality.

The president on Tuesday will meet with Americans who recently lost unemployment benefits, trying to pressure Republicans to extend the emergency aid for three months.

More than 1.3 million Americans lost their unemployment insurance in late December, and the White House sees the issue as a way to paint Republicans as out of touch with those struggling to find work.

The Obama administration estimates that failing to extend unemployment beyond 26 weeks would cost the economy roughly 240,000 jobs.

Behind the scenes, Obama is mulling ways to address National Security Agency surveillance methods. The president pledged to unveil reforms for the agency this month after an outside panel recommended that telephone companies, not the government, store Americans' private information.

And Obama also must turn his attention to his biggest speech of 2014: the Jan. 28 State of the Union address.

Last year, the president used his State of the Union speech to press for additional gun restrictions, comprehensive immigration reform, an increase in the minimum wage, more infrastructure spending and universal preschool.

Facing gridlock on Capitol Hill — and besieged by controversies of their own making — the White House failed to get any of those initiatives across the finish line.

Over the past two weeks, Obama golfed, snorkeled and hiked during a low-key getaway in which he attempted to shake off the worst political stretch of his presidency.

The problem-plagued rollout of Obamacare and the uproar over NSA surveillance methods caused Americans to reassess both how they view the president personally and his administration.

The president returned to Washington on Sunday with daughters Sasha and Malia. First lady Michelle Obama stayed behind in Hawaii -- the president gave her some extra time on the islands as a birthday present.

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