President Barack Obama delivered the first State of the Union address of his second term, urging Congress to work with him in implementing a series of legislative initiatives aimed at restoring economic growth, helping the middle class, reforming the immigration system, reducing the number of guns on U.S. streets and fighting climate change.
"Tonight, thanks to the grit and determination of the American people, there is much progress to report. After a decade of grinding war, our brave men and women in uniform are coming home. After years of grueling recession, our businesses have created over six million new jobs. We buy more American cars than we have in five years, and less foreign oil than we have in twenty. Our housing market is healing, our stock market is rebounding, and consumers, patients, and homeowners enjoy stronger protections than ever before," the president said in his address on Tuesday night.
Obama called for a series of measures to help working Americans, focusing on the need to raise the minimum wage.
"Tonight, let's declare that in the wealthiest nation on Earth, no one who works full-time should have to live in poverty, and raise the federal minimum wage to $9.00 an hour. This single step would raise the incomes of millions of working families. It could mean the difference between groceries or the food bank; rent or eviction; scraping by or finally getting ahead," Obama said.
The president also focused on the need for reform of the immigration system in his wide-ranging address.
"Real reform means strong border security, and we can build on the progress my Administration has already made - putting more boots on the southern border than at any time in our history, and reducing illegal crossings to their lowest levels in 40 years," Obama said.
The president laid down some of the features he wanted to see in any immigration reform package sent to him by Congress.
"Real reform means establishing a responsible pathway to earned citizenship - a path that includes 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," Obama said.
The president urged lawmakers to incorporate provisions in immigration favored by businesses.
"And real reform means fixing the legal immigration system to cut waiting periods, reduce bureaucracy, and attract the highly-skilled entrepreneurs and engineers that will help create jobs and grow our economy," Obama said.
The Republican response to the State of the Union address was delivered by Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida in English and Spanish, focusing on the need to spur economic growth.
"Economic growth is the best way to help the middle class. I hope the President will abandon his obsession with raising taxes and instead work with us to achieve real growth in our economy," Rubio said. EFE