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State of the Union: Obama pledges to reignite economy
From: BBC          Published On: February 13, 2013, 04:14 GMT
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State of the Union: Obama pledges to reignite economy

In his speech, Mr Obama also called for federal investment in infrastructure, clean energy and education.

President Barack Obama has 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".

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.

'North Star'

Barack Obama delivers the 2013 State of the Union address Mr Obama argued that "we can't just cut our way to prosperity"

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.

"The families of Oak Creek, and Tucson, and Blacksburg, and the countless other communities ripped open by gun violence - they deserve a simple vote," he said.

Conservative divisions

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.

In it, he attacked Mr Obama's 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, who also made his address in Spanish, referred to the pain felt by residents of the working-class neighbourhood in which he grew up.

He will tell Mr Obama: "I don't oppose your plans because I want to protect the rich. I oppose your plans because I want to protect my neighbours."

The Florida senator will also warn the president that the "tax increases and the deficit spending you propose will hurt middle-class families".

Underscoring conservative divisions, immediately after the Rubio speech Kentucky Republican Senator Rand Paul delivered the Tea Party's rebuttal to Mr Obama's address.

"We are the party that embraces hard work and ingenuity, therefore we must be the party that embraces the immigrant who wants to come to America for a better future," Mr Paul will say, according to a text released in advance.

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