President Barack Obama used his State of the Union address on Tuesday to outline an ambitious agenda he envisions for his second term.
The re-elected president of raising the nationâ€™s minimum wage from $7.25 to $9 and suggested that Congress should avert the $85 billion sequester his administration argues would hurt the economy.
â€śThese sudden, harsh, arbitrary cuts would jeopardize our military readiness,â€ť Mr Obama said. â€śTheyâ€™d devastate priorities like education, energy and medical research. They would certainly slow our recovery, and cost us hundreds of thousands of jobs.â€ť
He also offered some â€śmodest reformsâ€ť aimed to reduce the burden of the Medicare health care entitlement which he admitted was the biggest driver of US debt woes.
However, Mr Obama singled out that the very wealthy and corporate classes would have to do more to shoulder the burden.
â€śCorporate profits have rocketed to all-time highs â€“ but for more than a decade, wages and incomes have barely budged,â€ť the president said.
He called lawmakers for approving new legislation considering gun control and providing a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants already in the country, reports The Hill.
â€śEach of these proposals deserves a vote in Congress. If you want to vote no, thatâ€™s your choice. But these proposals deserve a vote. Because in the two months since Newtown, more than a thousand birthdays, graduations, and anniversaries have been stolen from our lives by a bullet from a gun,â€ť he said.
â€śGabby Giffords deserves a vote,â€ť the president, referring to the former congresswoman attending the address who was shot in the head during a 2011 mass shooting. â€śThe families of Newtown deserve a vote. The families of Aurora deserve a vote.â€ť
Mr Obama also urged Americans to treat everyone equally, regardless of income, race, sex or sexual orientation.
â€śIt is our unfinished task to restore the basic bargain that built this country â€” the idea that if you work hard and meet your responsibilities, you can get ahead, no matter where you come from, what you look like, or who you love,â€ť Obama said, according to excerpts of his remarks.
The impacts of climate change â€“ one of the most important issues â€“ was also given prominence.
â€śFor the sake of our children and our future, we must do more to combat climate change. Yes, itâ€™s true that no single event makes a trend. But the fact is, the 12 hottest years on record have all come in the last 15,â€ť he said, promising to use executive authority if Congress failed to act.
Republicans said Mr. Obama’s speech serves as more evidence of the president’s second-term strategy of adopting a more confrontational stance toward the GOP.
“I was disappointed, but not surprised, by the president’s remarks tonight,” said Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R., Texas). “He laid out a very liberal agenda that called for raising taxes, stricter gun control, and a greater focus on climate change.”
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R., Ala.) predicted that the presidentâ€™s policies would hurt both the government’s bottom line and the nation’s character. “The president’s policies are creating dependency and poverty,” he said.
“No longer can we measure compassion by how much we spend on poverty but how many people we help to lift out of poverty,” Sessions concluded.