'We have cleared away the rubble'
President urges congress to act on jobs program
He did reiterate his willingness to tackle entitlement changes, particularly on Medicare, though he has ruled out increasing the eligibility age for the benefit program.
Republicans are ardently opposed to Obama's calls for legislating more tax revenue to reduce the deficit and offset broad the automatic spending cuts — known as the sequester — that are to take effect March 1. The president accused GOP lawmakers of shifting the cuts from defense to programs that would help the middle class and elderly, as well as those supporting education and job training.
"That idea is even worse," he said.
Obama broke little new ground on two agenda items he has pushed vigorously since winning re-election: overhauling the nation's fractured immigration laws and enacting tougher gun control measures in the wake of the horrific massacre of school children in Newtown, Conn. Yet he pressed for urgency on both, calling on Congress to send him an immigration bill "in the next few months" and insisting lawmakers hold votes on his gun proposals.
"Each of these proposals deserves a vote in Congress," he said. "If you want to vote no, that's your choice."
Numerous lawmakers wore green lapel ribbons in memory of those killed in the December shootings in Connecticut. Among those watching in the House gallery: the parents of 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton, shot and killed recently in a park just a mile from the president's home in Chicago, as well as other victims of gun violence.
Obama also called on Congress to tackle the threat of climate change, another issue that eluded him in his first term. The president pledged to work with lawmakers to seek bipartisan solutions but said if Capitol Hill doesn't act, he'll order his Cabinet to seek steps he can take using his presidential powers.
Taking a swipe at those who question the threat of global warming, Obama said, "We can choose to believe that Superstorm Sandy, and the most severe drought in decades, and the worst wildfires some states have ever seen were all just a freak coincidence. Or we can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment of science - and act before it's too late."
- Texas seizes FLDS Church's secluded ranch
- Appeals judges question right to sue in...
- Some countries get Obama, but want his wife, too
- Get married, stay married? No fault divorce...
- How does the world feel about morals and...
- Police: Student ate more pot than recommended...
- Dirty creek, old purse solve four-decade...
- Avalanche sweeps down Everest, killing at...
- Obama: Religious intolerance has... 78
- Utah, Oklahoma same-sex marriage cases... 47
- The dangers of financially illiterate... 31
- Obama: 8 million signed up for health care 27
- Appeals judges question right to sue in... 25
- Report projects health law's subsidies... 21
- Texas seizes FLDS Church's secluded ranch 19
- Police: Student ate more pot than... 18