Barack Obama (D)
WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) - U.S. President Barack Obama on Wednesday outlined an ambitious agenda, vowing to reign in government spending, impose restrictions on Wall Street and continue seeking an overhaul of the nation's health care system despite political obstacles.
In his address to a joint session of Congress, the president delivered the good news that the worst of the nation's recession is over, but conceded that federal officials must still do more to help get Americans get back to work.
"People are out of work. They are hurting. They need our help. And I want a jobs bill on my desk without delay," Obama said in his annual State of the Union speech.
To help companies get on solid footing, Obama proposed the elimination of all capital gains taxes on small business investment and called for tax incentives for all businesses that invest in new plants and equipment. He also proposed new tax credits for small business that hire workers or raise the wages of current employees.
"Jobs must be our No. 1 focus in 2010," Obama said.
To help restore the nation's fiscal health, Obama proposed a three-year freeze, beginning next year, on non-security discretionary spending and take aim at the soaring national debt. Obama threatened to use his veto pen if lawmakers do not exercise fiscal restraint. He called for the creation of a bipartisan commission to tackle long-term budget issues.
On his No. 1 domestic policy initiative -- health care reform -- Obama urged lawmakers to continue working towards expanding coverage to the uninsured and overhauling the way the U.S. health insurance companies do business.
"By the time I'm finished speaking tonight, more Americans will have lost their health insurance. Millions will lose it this year," Obama said. "I will not walk away from these Americans. And neither should the people in this chamber."
The prospect of Democrats passing a comprehensive health care bill grew bleak last week, after Republican Scott Brown won the U.S. Senate seat formally held by liberal icon Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., for nearly four decades.
Once Brown is seated in the upper chamber, Democrats will lose their filibuster-proof 60-member supermajority. At least 60 votes are needed in the Senate for Democrats to move the health care bill forward amid Republican objections.
"Do not walk away from reform," Obama said. "Not now. Not when we are so close. Let us find a way to come together and finish the job for the American people."
On tightening regulations on the nation's banking and financial service industries, Obama called on Congress to approve far-reaching regulations even in the face of stiff industry opposition.
"We cannot let them win this fight. And if the bill that ends up on my desk does not meet the test of real reform, I will send it back," Obama said.
Despite the bevy of challenges facing the nation, Obama said he has "never been more hopeful about America's future."
He added: "In this new decade, it's time the American people get a government that matches their decency; that embodies their strength. And tonight, I'd like to talk about how together, we can deliver on that promise."
From Legal Newsline: Reach staff reporter Chris Rizo at firstname.lastname@example.org.