State of the Union: President Obama promises job creation without adding to the deficit

WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama is pledging to create "good, middle-class jobs" without adding to the nation's deficit.

In excerpts released ahead of his State of the Union address, Obama calls job creation his "North Star." He's imploring Congress to focus on how to attract more jobs to the U.S., equip Americans to compete for those positions and ensure that hard work leads to a decent living.

The president says none of his new economic proposals would increase the deficit "by a single dime." He says the country needs a smarter government, not a bigger government.

Another expected topic of the speech is an announcement about troops being brought home.

A person familiar with President Barack Obama's State of the Union address says he will announce that 34,000 U.S. troops will be home from Afghanistan one year from Tuesday.

 

-- Obama calls for raising minimum wage to $9 an hour --

 

President Barack Obama wants an increase in the minimum hourly wage from the current $7.25 to $9 by the end of 2015. Obama also proposes the minimum wage be required to keep pace with inflation.

The current rate took effect in 2009. Nineteen states and the District of Columbia have higher minimum wage rates than the federal requirement. Washington state's is highest at $9.19.

The proposal, which Obama made during his State of the Union address Tuesday, is sure to draw opposition from business groups and congressional Republicans who say higher rates increase costs and reduce employment. The White House says the new wage would raise pay for more than 15 million workers and indirectly help millions more.

Obama wants the rate to increase in stages over three years.

 

-- Obama: Consensus for more checks for gun buyers --


President Barack Obama is emphasizing the need for more background checks for gun buyers in his State of the Union address, saying that overwhelming majorities of Americans favor the proposal as a way to keep firearms from criminals.

Obama said Tuesday night that senators from both parties are working on legislation to prevent people from legally buying guns and then giving them to criminals.

He said police chiefs want lawmakers to ban "weapons of war" and magazines carrying large amounts of ammunition so law enforcement officers won't be outgunned.

The president proposed all those ideas after the December killings of 20 first-graders in Connecticut. But expanded background checks is the only one he described as having vast support -- a description that matches public polling and reflects congressional sentiment too.

 

-- Obama calls al-Qaida 'shadow of former self' --

 

President Barack Obama says al-Qaida is a "shadow of its former self," and does not pose the kind of threat to America that requires tens of thousands of U.S. troops to fight abroad.

In his State of the Union address Tuesday, the president said U.S. troops will continue pursuing the remnants of al-Qaida in Afghanistan for a number of years.

He noted that various al-Qaida affiliates have emerged elsewhere in the world in recent years, including in Yemen and Somalia. Instead of sending large numbers of U.S. troops to fight there, he said, the U.S. aim will be to help those countries provide their own security and to help allies fight al-Qaida, as the French have done in the African nation of Mali.

 

-- Obama wants expanded access to pre-school --

 

President Barack Obama wants all 50 states to provide pre-kindergarten schools for 4-year-olds, a plan that the White House says will result in better prepared students and ultimately a more educated workforce.

Obama's plan, unveiled in his State of the Union address Tuesday, would provide federal government support to the states to provide access to preschool for all low- and moderate-income 4-year-olds.

Obama also wants the federal government to give the states incentives to provide full-day kindergarten.

Obama campaigned in 2008 on a plan for universal pre-school. Advocates say such a plan results in improved student test scores and reduced spending on government assistance programs. Skeptics say that evidence of positive results is limited and that preschool can encourage children to spend less time with their parents.

 

-- Obama on immigration: 'Let's get this done' --

 

President Barack Obama is renewing his call for a comprehensive overhaul of the immigration system, telling Congress during his State of the Union address: "Now let's get this done."

He asked for a bill in the next few months and pledged to sign it "right away."

Obama wants legislation that would create a pathway to citizenship for the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the U.S., among other steps.

Eight Republican and Democratic senators are working to complete a bill by next month.

An aide says the four Democrats in the group -- Chuck Schumer of New York, Dick Durbin of Illinois, Robert Menendez of New Jersey and Michael Bennet of Colorado -- plan to update Obama on their progress during a meeting at the White House on Wednesday.

 

-- Obama announces new panel to examine voting --

 

President Barack Obama is creating a commission directed to help improve voting, a reaction to widespread complaints about lengthy waits, growing photo ID requirements and shortened early voting periods.

Obama in his State of the Union address said his commission would be non-partisan and said he would ask top lawyers for his re-election campaign and the campaign of 2012 rival Mitt Romney to lead the panel.

Obama said that when Americans choose not to vote because they can't wait hours to cast their ballot, "we are betraying our ideals"

Congress has also begun to look at voting, with Democrats and Republicans sparring over whether ID laws, attempts to purge voter rolls and restricted early voting were legitimate efforts to stop fraud or mainly Republican strategies to hold down Democratic votes.

 

-- Obama says Congress must strengthen cybersecurity --

 

President Barack Obama is telling Congress to pass legislation that will strengthen the government's ability to protect America's computer networks from attacks from foreign countries, hackers and other enemies.

Obama issued his call Tuesday during his annual State of the Union address. He made the remark the same day he signed an executive order that begins the development of voluntary standards to protect crucial industries like banking, power and transportation, and that increases information sharing between government and industry about cyberthreats.

The president says America faces a rapidly growing threat from its enemies. He says they are trying to learn how to sabotage the power grid, financial institutions and the air traffic control system.

 

-- Obama calls NKorea nuclear test a 'provocation' --

 

President Barack Obama says North Korea will only achieve the security and prosperity it seeks by meeting its international obligations, not by conducting nuclear tests.

Obama called Tuesday's nuclear test by Pyongyang a "provocation" and said it will only serve to further isolate North Korea from the rest of the world.

Addressing the issue in his State of the Union speech, Obama said the U.S. will stand by its allies in the region, strengthen its own missile defenses and lead the world in taking "firm action" in response to such threats.

North Korea's official news agency said the test was carried out to counter what it called "ferocious" U.S. hostility that undermines its peaceful, sovereign right to launch satellites.

 

-- GOP to warn Obama against tax increases, spending --

 

Republicans say President Barack Obama's second-term agenda will bring more tax increases and deficit spending, hurting middle-class families at the expense of economic growth.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio says in excerpts released ahead of his Republican response to Obama's State of the Union address that he hopes the president will "abandon his obsession with raising taxes" and try to grow the economy.

Rubio says the nation needs a balanced budget amendment to curb spending and says he won't support changes to Medicare that will hurt seniors like his mother.

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, in excerpts from his tea party response, says Washington acts in a way that your family never could -- spending money it doesn't have and borrowing from future generations.

 

-- Signs of unity in a divided Congress --

 

President Barack Obama's State of the Union address is producing fleeting moments of bipartisanship in a divided Congress.

Republicans are sitting with Democrats. Republicans have hugged Democrats. Republicans have even warmly greeted a Democratic president.

After Obama slowly walked down the center aisle, he made a special effort to talk to Republican Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois, who only returned to Washington last month after suffering a massive stroke.

The tradition of the president's address to the joint session of Congress packs the House chamber. Lawmakers rise in unison to cheer and applaud on some issues, like support for Mideast ally Israel or support for veterans, or sit silently in opposition.