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Obama: Nation stronger, GOP should back his plans

Uncompromising and politically emboldened, President Barack Obama urged a deeply divided Congress Tuesday night to embrace his plans to use government money to create new jobs and strengthen the nation's middle class.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Uncompromising and politically emboldened, President Barack Obama urged a deeply divided Congress Tuesday night to embrace his plans to use government money to create new jobs and strengthen the nation's middle class. He declared Republican ideas for reducing the federal deficit "even worse" than the unpalatable deals Washington had to stomach during his first term.

In his first State of the Union address since winning re-election, Obama conceded economic revival is an "unfinished task," but he claimed clear progress and said he was seeking to build on it as he embarks on four more years in office.

"We have cleared away the rubble of crisis, and we can say with renewed confidence that the state of our union is strong," Obama said, speaking before a joint session of Congress and a television audience of millions.

In specific proposals for his second term, Obama called for increased federal spending to fix the nation's roads and bridges, the first increase in the minimum wage in six years and expansion of early education to every American 4-year-old. Seeking support from Republicans, he promised that none of his proposals would increase the deficit "by a single dime."

Obama also announced new steps to reduce the U.S. military footprint abroad, with 34,000 American troops withdrawing from Afghanistan within a year. And he had a sharp rebuke for North Korea, which launched a nuclear test just hours before his remarks, saying, "Provocations of the sort we saw last night will only isolate them further."

Despite the pressing foreign policy concerns, jobs and growth dominated Obama's prime-time address, underscoring the degree to which the economy remains a vulnerability for the president and could disrupt his plans for pursuing a broader agenda, including immigration overhaul, stricter gun laws and climate change legislation.

Standing in Obama's way is a Congress that remains nearly as divided as it was during the final years of his first term, when Washington lurched from one budget emergency to another.

The president implored lawmakers to break through partisan logjams, asserting, "The greatest nation on Earth cannot keep conducting its business by drifting from one manufactured crisis to the next."

"Americans don't expect government to solve every problem," he said. "They do expect us to forge reasonable compromise where we can."

Yet Obama offered few signs of being willing to compromise himself, instead doubling down on his calls to create jobs by spending more government money and insisting that lawmakers pay down the deficit through a combination of tax increases as well as targeted spending cuts.

Rep. Dan Maffei made the following statement regarding the President’s State of the Union Address:

“It was an honor to represent Central New York at tonight’s State of the Union address and to be joined by Army Specialist Ryan Wilcox of Oswego County. I was encouraged by the President’s focus on growing the middle class, creating jobs, and growing our economy, as they are my top priorities as Central New York’s new representative. The President addressed two key areas that I believe are critical to creating more jobs in Central New York; making the right investments in infrastructure and ensuring our children get the best education we can give them from Pre-K through college or trade school. I look forward to working with the President and leaders from both parties to grow our middle class and create more good paying jobs in our region.”

U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand issued the following statement following the State of the Union address:

“In his second inaugural address from the Capitol steps last month, President Obama gave an inspiring speech laying out his vision for moving our nation forward based on our founding principles of equality, fairness and opportunity for every single American. Tonight, the President presented a clear plan to lead us there that Congress must take action on, starting with focusing on middle class families who are finding it harder and harder to get by.

“For too long, Congress has let the smallness of its politics keep us from solving our greatest challenges – all at the expense of middle class families and small businesses. I am hopeful that with a fresh start, we can leave the partisan gridlock and gamesmanship behind us, build consensus around the common, core values that unite us, and do our part to help create new jobs.

“America is home to the brightest minds and hardest workers, everything it takes to grow our economy and compete in the global marketplace. It’s time now to produce the will to harness our full potential. When we do, nothing can stop us from equipping our children with the education to lead us in the new economy, sparking new innovation and stamping more products with the words ‘Made in America,’ all while ending the scourge of gun violence and finishing the journey to full equality, justice and fairness for everyone pursuing the American Dream.

“Tonight, the President called on Congress to act on bipartisan common sense ideas and for the American people to hold us accountable. It is clear the American people are demanding action on a balanced approach to the economy and putting the middle class first. They are demanding action on finally moving forward with common sense legislation to reduce gun violence, create a new accountable immigration system with an earned path to citizenship and a commitment to clean energy. These should not be Democratic or Republican ideas, they are simply the right ideas, and I look forward to working with my colleagues across the aisle in the weeks and months ahead.”

Governor Andrew Cuomo's response to the President's State of the Union address:

"President Obama put forward a bold, comprehensive agenda in his 2013 State of the Union Address that continues to rebuild our nation’s economy and strengthens the middle class.

"The vision President Obama presented tonight is one we embrace here in New York. The President laid out an agenda for a vibrant American future, where we work together to bring jobs back from overseas, train our young people to have the skills they need to succeed in the workforce, and ensure those who work long and hard hours can provide for their families. The President from his first day in office has sought to reform our education system to benefit our students, and the vision he put forward tonight continues this effort by calling for all our children to have access to high quality preschool education. I commend his proposal to raise the federal minimum wage, in recognition that the current rate is not enough to earn a living.

"Since the President delivered his 2012 State of the Union Address just twelve months ago, our nation has felt more than in any year before the tragic consequences of gun violence, from the senseless shooting in Aurora, Colorado, the evil massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, to the murder of two of our first responders in Webster. The President is right to say that action must be taken. The vast majority of Americans believe in sensible gun safety laws, and I commend the President for outlining a series of reasonable measures to reduce gun violence in our nation.

"Over the past months, New Yorkers have been thankful for the President’s leadership and action in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. The federal funding that our Congressional delegation fought so hard for and the President signed into law will be a major help for our state and entire region, and will enable our communities to rebuild smarter and stronger than before. As President Obama begins his second term in office and our nation’s economy begins to get back on track, I look forward to continued collaboration between New York and our federal partners as we work toward finding solutions to the problems we face and building a bright future for our children."
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