State of the Union 2013: Economy, gun control on Obama's radar
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 (1.6 kilometers) from the president's home in Chicago, as well as other victims of gun violence.
Obama's push for overhauling immigration laws has broader appeal. It is one of the few major issues on which badly divided Republicans and Democrats can find common ground. Republicans have long opposed relaxing immigration laws, but are reconsidering their positions as they try to appeal to Hispanics, a growing part of the U.S. electorate that has overwhelmingly favored Democrats.
A bipartisan group of negotiators in the Senate is working to craft legislation embracing Obama's call for a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants but making such a path contingent on first securing the border, a linkage Obama has not supported.
But there's no guarantee the Senate bipartisan plan will find favor with the full Senate or the House. The first test may come Wednesday morning when the Senate Judiciary Committee opens its hearings on a comprehensive immigration overhaul.
Earlier Tuesday, in a meeting with television correspondents and anchors, House Speaker John Boehner said immigration is about the only item on Obama's list that has a chance of passing this year. He said the president is more interested in getting a Democratic majority in both chambers next year and said he doesn't believe Obama "has the guts" to take on liberals in his party over spending cuts.
One of the leading Republican voices for immigration reform, Sen. Marco Rubio, was tapped to deliver the official Republican response. Rubio, a 41-year-old Cuban-American, is one of the party's brightest stars and a possible 2016 presidential candidate.
Rubio accused Obama of opposing the free-enterprise system. He said Obama's solution "to virtually every problem we face is for Washington to tax more, borrow more and spend more."
Republicans are united in their opposition to Obama's proposals for more spending at a time of huge deficits. Obama said his proposals to increase spending on manufacturing, infrastructure and clean-energy technologies would be fully paid for, though he did not specify how he would offset the cost of his proposals.
"Nothing I'm proposing tonight should increase our deficit by a single dime," Obama said.
He called for increased spending to fix roads and bridges, the first increase in the minimum wage in six years and expansion of early education to reach every American 4-year-old.
He also urged lawmakers to end a cycle of partisan budget fights that has repeatedly put the United States on the brink of a government shutdown, default or other crises.
"Americans don't expect government to solve every problem," he said. "They do expect us to forge reasonable compromise where we can."
Obama addressed relatively briefly the looming fiscal crises confronting the nation - the deep automatic spending cuts or "sequester" set to take effect March 1, followed by the government running out of money to fund federal agencies on March 27. The president made clear he will continue to press for the rich to pay more in taxes, a position Republicans have rejected.
Republicans, meanwhile, made clear they are in little mood to cooperate.
"We are only weeks away from the devastating consequences of the president's sequester, and he failed to offer the cuts needed to replace it," Boehner said in a statement. He said the president "appears to have chosen a go-it-alone approach to pursue his liberal agenda."
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