Obama: Nation stronger, GOP should back his plans

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.