WASHINGTON (BP) -- The United States has made "much progress" because of the "grit and determination" of its citizens, President Obama said Tuesday (Feb. 12) in a State of the Union speech in which he promoted a litany of initiatives at the start of his second term.
In his fifth State of the Union address, Obama quickly addressed the economy in a 61-minute speech filled with proposals for government programs. He steered clear, however, of such moral and religious liberty issues as his administration's abortion/contraception mandate that was implemented following passage of the health care law. He delivered only a nod to same-sex marriage, which he supports.
Pro-family and Republican leaders criticized the president's recommendations for what they described as his over-reliance on government instead of the American people and the family.
Speaking before a joint session of Congress and a national television audience, Obama said it is this generation's "unfinished task to restore the basic bargain that built this country -- the idea that if you work hard and meet your responsibilities, you can get ahead, no matter where you come from, no matter what you look like, or who you love."
He called for compromise between the parties, saying, "The American people don't expect government to solve every problem. They don't expect those of us in this chamber to agree on every issue. But they do expect us to put the nation's interests before party."
During his speech, Obama:
-- Called for votes in Congress on tougher background checks for purchasing guns and restrictions on assault weapons and large ammunition magazines -- in what was likely the emotional high point of the address.
-- Urged an increase in the minimum wage to $9 from $7.25, with a tie to the cost of living afterward.
-- Announced 34,000 troops would return home from Afghanistan this year.
-- Promised executive action to combat climate change if Congress does not pass cap-and-trade legislation, even though the issue has lost much of its credibility and momentum in recent years.
-- Pushed for adoption of comprehensive immigration reform, including border security and a path to citizenship that requires "passing a background check, paying taxes and a meaningful penalty, learning English and going to the back of the line behind the folks trying to come here legally."
-- Promoted a solution to sequestration, which involves sizable, automatic cuts to defense and non-defense spending, without adopting proposals to reduce only domestic expenditures.
He also reiterated his administration's controversial changes to the military that permitted inclusion of open homosexuals and expanded roles for women in combat.
"We will ensure equal treatment for all service members, and equal benefits for their families -- gay and straight," Obama said. "We will draw upon the courage and skills of our sisters and daughters and moms, because women have proven under fire that they are ready for combat." Continued...