Obama says He'll Sidestep Congress if Needed


GOP says Obama policies make people's lives harder

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Republican Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers says the GOP wants to empower Americans and close the gap "between where you are and where you want to be." In the Republican response following the State of the Union address, McMorris Rodgers said Republicans want to focus on jobs "without more spending, government bailouts and red tape." And she said "the president's policies are making people's live harder

UPDATE: Obama warns to sidestep lawmakers, addresses domestic, foreign issues

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama has used his fifth State of the Union address to tell lawmakers that he's still willing to work with Congress. But Obama said he'll sidestep obstructionist lawmakers "whenever and wherever" necessary to reduce the wage gap between rich and poor.

One executive action he'll take is to increase the minimum wage for some federal contract workers to a minimum of $10.10.

The president called on Democrats and Republicans in the House to follow the Senate's lead and approve an overhaul of immigration laws. He called on them to pass legislation this year.

He also addressed foreign policy. He said any U.S. troops that remain in Afghanistan after 2014 will only help continue to train Afghan forces and carry out counterterror operations against extremists.

Obama also said negotiations to limit Iran's nuclear program will be difficult and may not succeed. But he warned Congress that any new economic sanctions against Tehran while the discussions are ongoing will be vetoed.


NEW: Obama: US intelligence programs need public trust

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama says U.S. intelligence systems depend on the public's confidence that privacy rights are not being violated either at home or abroad.

Obama only briefly mentioned one of the biggest controversies that has gripped his administration over the past year in his annual State of the Union speech Tuesday.

He repeated his pledge to overhaul U.S. surveillance programs in cooperation with Congress.

Lawmakers are divided over how far to roll back the National Security Agency programs that collect billions of telephone and Internet records from across the U.S. and the rest of the world every day.

The spy programs were revealed last summer by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.



NEW: Obama: US led push to dismantle Syria stockpile

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama says it was American diplomacy and threat of force that has led to the plan to eliminate Syria's deadly stockpile of chemical weapons.

In his State of the Union speech Tuesday, Obama promised anew to support opposition groups that are fighting to overthrow Syrian President Bashar Assad (bah-SHAR' AH'-sahd) in that country's three-year civil war.

He said the Syrian people deserve a future that is free of dictatorship, terror and fear.

The Obama administration threatened to strike Syria's government, but backed down, after an Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack outside Damascus that the U.S. said killed more than 1,400 people.

The U.N. Security Council in September approved a resolution to eliminate Syria's chemical weapons arsenal.


NEW: Obama calls for limited strikes against al-Qaida

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama says the U.S. must remain vigilant against al-Qaida as the terror network takes root across the Mideast and North Africa.

The president said during his State of the Union speech Tuesday that America can no longer expect to be safe by pursuing overseas terror networks through war -- or even through widespread airstrikes that have been a hallmark of the U.S. fight against extremists.

He said extremism in places like Yemen, Somalia, Iraq and Mali will best be defeated with help from foreign allies and through targeted operations and limited use of unmanned drones.

Obama also called on Congress to lift restrictions on transferring al-Qaida and Taliban detainees held at the U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and finally close the prison.



Obama: Time to `fix our broken immigration system'

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama says Democrats and Republicans in the House want to overhaul immigration laws. He calls on them to pass legislation this year.

In his State of the Union address, Obama says it is time to heed the calls to change immigration laws from business and labor leaders, religious leaders and law enforcement officials.

The Senate passed broad legislation last year that enhances border security and provides a path to citizenship for about 11 immigrants in the United States illegally. Among the proposals under consideration by House Republican leaders is one that would give legal status to immigrants in the U.S. illegally but not citizenship.

The White House has said Obama wants the legislation to lead to citizenship. But Obama did not make that demand Tuesday night.



Obama vows to improve education at all levels

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama is promising to improve American education from preschool to college in his State of the Union address.

Obama promised to connect 15,000 schools and 20 million students with high-speed broadband in the next two years. It's part of the goal he announced last summer to connect 99 percent of students in kindergarten through 12th grade with upgraded technology. Obama says the initiative will be supported by charitable partnerships with companies like Apple, Microsoft, Sprint and Verizon.

He also says his administration will award grants to redesign winning high schools to prepare students for today's job market. He also wants colleges to improve access for low-income students and lower costs. And he renewed his call from last year's address for Congress to fund universal preschool.



Obama calls for new incentives for cleaner fuel

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama is proposing new incentives for trucks to run on natural gas and other alternative fuels.

In his State of the Union address, Obama is also calling for a new tax credit to spur infrastructure for advanced vehicles that run on cleaner fuels, like hydrogen, natural gas or biofuels.

Most of Obama's other proposals on energy and climate change were already announced in a climate change speech last year. Those include new efficiency standards for trucks and environmental standards for drilling on public lands.

Obama is also repeating his 2013 call for Congress to repeal tax provisions that benefit the oil industry. He wants Congress to create a trust that would use oil and gas revenues to fund technology investments to shift cars off of oil.


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