Obama challenges Congress to ‘take a vote’ on a package of progressive reforms
President Barack Obama pledged in his annual State of the Union speech to revive the sluggish US economy by creating good, middle-class jobs. The Democratic president promised smarter rather than bigger government for the many, and not just the few and called on Congress 'to take a vote' on a package of progressive reforms..
In his Tuesday address to Congress he also called for efforts to reduce gun violence and urged bipartisan immigration reform.
In the Republican response, Senator Marco Rubio urged Mr Obama to end his obsession with raising taxes.
Speaking in the House of Representatives, Mr Obama told his audience that his generation's task is to reignite the true engine of America's economic growth - a rising, thriving middle class.
Delivering growth and jobs will be the North Star that guides our efforts, he added. But he insisted that nothing he proposes will raise the deficit by a single dime.
Republicans are strongly opposed to increased government spending, amid a rancorous political divide over how to tame the US budget deficit.
Mr Obama proposed reforms to reduce the cost of Medicare, a federal healthcare programme for pensioners, but argued we can't just cut our way to prosperity. In his speech, Mr Obama also called for federal investment in infrastructure, clean energy and education.
People on either side of the gun control debate, which flared up again after December's school massacre in Connecticut, watched the president speak from the gallery.
First Lady Michelle Obama sat with the parents of a Chicago teenage band majorette shot and killed just days after performing at last month's presidential inauguration.
Mr Obama said an overwhelming majority of Americans supported commonsense reform on firearms including tighter background checks and restrictions on weapons of war and massive ammunition magazines.
And he urged gun-control opponents to allow a vote in Congress on his proposals.
In addition, Mr Obama announced the withdrawal of 34,000 US troops from Afghanistan by next year.
Less than a day after North Korea tested a nuclear device, Mr Obama said the US will lead the world in taking firm action in response to these threats.
He praised bipartisan efforts to draw up an immigration reform bill, adding that if he is sent legislation, I will sign it right away.
Mr Obama will take to the road in the coming days to push his economic recovery proposals, stopping in the US states of North Carolina and Georgia and in his hometown of Chicago, Illinois.
Sen Rubio, a possible 2016 Republican presidential candidate, delivered his party's official riposte. He attacked Obama economic policies and said more government isn't going to help you get ahead: it's going to hold you back.
The Cuban-American senator from Florida, who also made his address in Spanish, referred to the pain felt by residents of the working-class neighbourhood in which he grew up.
“I don't oppose your plans because I want to protect the rich. I oppose your plans because I want to protect my neighbours, he said emphasizing that the tax increases and the deficit spending you propose will hurt middle-class families”.