Obama in State of the Union: America is turning the page

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Obama in State of the Union: America is turning the page
US President Barack Obama hosts a 'surprise meeting' with people who wrote him personal letters throughout the year, and who will attend as guests at tonight's State of the Union address, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, January 20, 2015. Seated alongside Obama are: Victor Fugate (L) of Kansas City, Missouri; Rebekah Erler of Minneapolis, Minnesota (2nd L), Carolyn Reed (2nd R) of Denver, Colorado; and Katrice Mubiru (R), Woodland Hills, California. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
Capitol police patrol the Capitol Hill in Washington on January 20, 2015 before US President Barack Obama delivers the State of the Union. AFP PHOTO/NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
A worker polishes stanchions in Statuary Hall before the State of the Union address on Capitol Hill January 20, 2015 in Washington, DC. US President Barack Obama will on Tuesday demand a hostile Congress increase taxes on the rich, in a State of the Union address that sets the stage for coming election battles.AFP PHOTO/BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
US Republican Senator from Ohio Rob Portman speaks to the press as US Republican Senator from West Virginia Shelley Moore Capito (L), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) and Republican Senator from Nebraska Deb Fisher (2nd R) look on at the Capitol in Washington,DC on January 20, 2015 hours before US President Barack Obama delivers the State of the Union. AFP PHOTO/NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: (AFP OUT) U.S. President Barack Obama (C) meets with four of the letter writers who will join the first lady and Dr. Biden as guests of the Administration for tonight's State of the Union Address, in the White House on January 20, 2015 in Washington, DC. Obama's State of the Union speech will include a proposal to increase taxes on the wealthy, and a proposal to require employers to provide paid sick leave to their workers. (Photo by Jim Lo Scalzo-Pool/Getty Images)
President Barack Obama meets with four of the letter writers who will join the First Lady and Dr. Jill Biden at the State of the Union address, Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. Clockwise, foreground, from left are, Victor Fugate of Kansas City, Md., Rebekah Erler of Minneapolis, the president, Carolyn Reed of Denver and Katrice Mubiru of Woodland Hills, Calif. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
A worker moves stanchions before the State of the Union address on Capitol Hill January 20, 2015 in Washington, DC. US President Barack Obama will on Tuesday demand a hostile Congress increase taxes on the rich, in a State of the Union address that sets the stage for coming election battles. AFP PHOTO/BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: (AFP OUT) U.S. President Barack Obama meets with four of the letter writers who will join the first lady and Dr. Biden as guests of the Administration for tonight's State of the Union Address, in the White House on January 20, 2015 in Washington, DC. Obama's State of the Union speech will include a proposal to increase taxes on the wealthy, and a proposal to require employers to provide paid sick leave to their workers. (Photo by Jim Lo Scalzo-Pool/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: (AFP OUT) U.S. President Barack Obama is seen through a window of the Oval office as he meets with four of the letter writers who will join the first lady and Dr. Biden as guests of the Administration for tonight's State of the Union Address, in the White House on January 20, 2015 in Washington, DC. Obama's State of the Union speech will include a proposal to increase taxes on the wealthy, and a proposal to require employers to provide paid sick leave to their workers. (Photo by Jim Lo Scalzo-Pool/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama hosts a 'surprise meeting' with people who wrote him personal letters throughout the year, and who will attend as guests at tonight's State of the Union address, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, January 20, 2015. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama hosts a 'surprise meeting' with people who wrote him personal letters throughout the year, and who will attend as guests at tonight's State of the Union address, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, January 20, 2015. Seated alongside Obama are: Victor Fugate (L) of Kansas City, Missouri and Rebekah Erler of Minneapolis, Minnesota (2nd L). AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
US Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell speaks to the press at the Capitol in Washington, DC on January 20, 2015 just hours before US President Barack Obama delivers the State of the Union. AFP PHOTO/NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
US Capitol police officers standing guard outside the US Capitol in Washington, DC on January 20, 2015 where in just hours US President Barack Obama will deliver the State of the Union. AFP PHOTO/NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
US Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell speaks to the press at the Capitol in Washington, DC on January 20, 2015 just hours before US President Barack Obama delivers the State of the Union. AFP PHOTO/NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
Joni Ernst, a newly elected senator from Iowa, rehearses the Republican party's response to US President Barack Obama's State of the Union address on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, January 20, 2015. AFP PHOTO/JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
Joni Ernst, a newly elected senator from Iowa, rehearses the Republican party's response to US President Barack Obama's State of the Union address on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, January 20, 2015. AFP PHOTO/JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) practices the Republican response she will give after U.S. President Obama's State of the Union address, on Capitol Hill January 20, 2015 in Washington, DC. Later this evening U.S. President Barack Obama will deliver his sixth and final State Of The Union adress to the nation. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: The early morning sun begins to rise benhind the US Capitol building on January 20, 2015 in Washington, DC. Later this evening US President Barack Obama will deliver his sixth State Of The Union address to the nation. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) practices the Republican response she will give after U.S. President Obama's State of the Union address, on Capitol Hill January 20, 2015 in Washington, DC. Later this evening U.S. President Barack Obama will deliver his sixth and final State Of The Union adress to the nation. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 16: U.S. President Barack Obama (R) and British Prime Minister David Cameron (L) participate in a joint news conference at the East Room of the White House January 16, 2015 in Washington, DC. The two leaders had an Oval Office meeting earlier discussing bilateral issues including economic growth, international trade, cybersecurity, Iran, ISIL, counterterrorism, Ebola, and Russias actions in Ukraine. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 16: U.S. President Barack Obama (R) and British Prime Minister David Cameron (L) participate in a joint news conference at the East Room of the White House January 16, 2015 in Washington, DC. The two leaders had an Oval Office meeting earlier discussing bilateral issues including economic growth, international trade, cybersecurity, Iran, ISIL, counterterrorism, Ebola, and Russias actions in Ukraine. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama speaks during a press conference with Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron in the East Room of the White House on January 16, 2015 in Washington, DC. US President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron vowed Friday to help France and others defeat the threat of global terrorism with stronger cooperation and surveillance. In his first meeting with a foreign leader since last week's extremist attacks in Paris, Obama reaffirmed Washington's close ties with its 'indispensable ally' Britain and vowed both would support France.AFP PHOTO/MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 16: U.S. National Security Adviser Susan Rice (C) sits in the audience of a joint news conference conducted by U.S. President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron in the East Room of the White House January 16, 2015 in Washington, DC. The two leaders had an Oval Office meeting earlier discussing bilateral issues including economic growth, international trade, cybersecurity, Iran, ISIL, counterterrorism, Ebola, and Russias actions in Ukraine. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 16: U.S. President Barack Obama (R) and British Prime Minister David Cameron (L) participate in a joint news conference at the East Room of the White House January 16, 2015 in Washington, DC. The two leaders had an Oval Office meeting earlier discussing bilateral issues including economic growth, international trade, cybersecurity, Iran, ISIL, counterterrorism, Ebola, and Russias actions in Ukraine. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 16: U.S. President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron participate in a joint news conference at the East Room of the White House January 16, 2015 in Washington, DC. The two leaders had an Oval Office meeting earlier discussing bilateral issues including economic growth, international trade, cyber security, Iran, ISIL, counterterrorism, Ebola, and Russias actions in Ukraine. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama (R) and British Prime Minister David Cameron walk at the White House in Washington on January 15, 2015 prior to a working dinner. AFP PHOTO/NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama returns to the White House in Washington on January 15, 2015 after traveling to Baltimore where he met with Democratic senators at the Senate Democratic Issues Conference. AFP PHOTO/NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama speaks about increasing family leave for working Americans after having lunch at Charmington's Cafe in Baltimore, Maryland, January 15, 2015. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama speaks about increasing family leave for working Americans with Mary Stein (R), Amanda Rothschild (2nd L) and Vika Jordan (L) after having lunch at Charmington's Cafe in Baltimore, Maryland, January 15, 2015. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 15: President Barack Obama walks out of the Oval Office to Marine One while departing the White House January 15, 2015 in Washington, DC. President Obama is traveling to Baltimore MD. to meet with Senate Democrats during a private strategy retreat. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama signs a presidential memorandum on paid leave to federal employees in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington on January 15, 2015. AFP PHOTO/NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
WATERLOO, IA - JANUARY 14: U.S. President Barack Obama, joined by Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, and Cedar Falls Utilities General Manager Jim Krieg, arrives for a fiber-optic splicing demonstration during a visit to Cedar Falls Utilities on January 14, 2015 in Cedar Falls, Iowa. Obama spoke of plans to increase access to affordable high-speed broadband internet service across the nation. (Photo by Brandon Pollock-Pool/Getty Images)
WATERLOO, IA - JANUARY 14: U.S. President Barack Obama inspects a piece of fiber-optic cable during a visit to Cedar Falls Utilities on January 14, 2015 in Cedar Falls, Iowa. Obama spoke of plans to increase access to affordable high-speed broadband internet service across the nation. (Photo by Brandon Pollock-Pool/Getty Images)
WATERLOO, IA - JANUARY 14: U.S. President Barack Obama speaks to a packed room at Cedar Falls Utilities on January 14, 2015 in Cedar Falls, Iowa. Obama spoke of plans to increase access to affordable high-speed broadband internet service across the nation. (Photo by Brandon Pollock-Pool/Getty Images)
CEDAR FALLS, IA - JANUARY 14: U.S. President Barack Obama, greets employees and guests at the Cedar Falls Utilities office January 14, 2015 in Cedar Falls, Iowa. Obama laid out new steps to increase access to affordable, high-speed broadband across the country. (Photo by Steve Pope/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama waves from the steps of Air Force One prior to departing from Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, January 14, 2015. Obama is traveling to Cedar Falls, Iowa, to speak about increasing access to high speed and affordable internet. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama greets guests after speaking about increasing access to high speed and affordable internet at Cedar Falls Utilities in Cedar Falls, Iowa, January 14, 2015. The town of Cedar Falls has built their own private high-speed internet network and runs it like a public utility. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama arrives alongside Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson (L) to speak about cybersecurity at the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center in Arlington, Virginia, January 13, 2015. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, VA - JANUARY 13: U.S. President Barack Obama delivers remarks at the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center (NCCIC) on January 13, 2015 in Arlington, Virginia. President Obama discussed efforts to improve the government's ability to collaborate with industry to combat cyber threats. (Photo by Kristoffer Tripplaar-Pool/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 13: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (L) (R-KY) answers questions following a weekly policy luncheon with Senate Republicans at the U.S. Capitol January 13, 2015 in Washington, DC. McConnell discussed a meeting he attended with U.S. President Barack Obama earlier in the day at the White Hous. Also pictured is Sen. John Thune (R) (R-SD). (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) speaks during a press conference on Capitol Hill January 13, 2015 in Washington, DC. House Democrats spoke about US President Barack Obama's executive actions on immigration. AFP PHOTO/BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) speaks during a press conference on Capitol Hill January 13, 2015 in Washington, DC. House Democrats spoke about US President Barack Obama's executive actions on immigration. AFP PHOTO/BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 13: U.S. President Barack Obama (R) speaks as meets with congressional leaders in the Cabinet Room of the White House January 13, 2015 in Washington, DC. President Obama met with congressional leaders to discuss issues including the economy and the nationals security. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 13: U.S. President Barack Obama (R) speaks as Speaker of the House Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) (3rd L), House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) (2nd L), and House Majority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) (L) listen during a meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House January 13, 2015 in Washington, DC. President Obama met with congressional leaders to discuss issues including the economy and the nationals security. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama (C) speaks alongside House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (L), Republican of California, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (2nd L), of California, Speaker of the House John Boehner (3rd L), Republican of Ohio, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (4th R), Republican of Kentucky, Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (3rd ), Democrat of Illinois, Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (2nd R), Republican of Texas, and Senator Chuck Schumer (R), Democrat of New York, prior to a meeting of the bipartisan, bicameral leadership of Congress in the Cabinet Room at the White House in Washington, DC, January 13, 2015. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 13: U.S. Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) listens as members of the House Republican leadership speak at a press conference at the U.S Capitol on January 13, 2015 in Washington, DC. Boehner and other members of the Republican congressional leadership are scheduled to meet with U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House later today. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 12: (AFP OUT) U.S. President Barack Obama delivers a speech at the Federal Trade Commissions offices, January 12, 2015 in Washington, DC. Obama talked about his plan to improve confidence in technology by tackling identity theft and improving consumer and students privacy. (Photo by Aude Guerrucci-Pool/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama pauses while speaking at the Federal Trade Commission January 12, 2015 in Washington, DC. Obama spoke about internet security and privacy. AFP PHOTO/BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 12: (AFP OUT) U.S. President Barack Obama delivers a speech at the Federal Trade Commissions offices, January 12, 2015 in Washington, DC. Obama talked about his plan to improve confidence in technology by tackling identity theft and improving consumer and students privacy. (Photo by Aude Guerrucci-Pool/Getty Images)
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WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama urged Americans Tuesday night to "turn the page" on years of economic troubles, terrorism and lengthy wars, arguing that his presidency had ushered in an era of smarter American leadership and a growing U.S. economy.

"It's now up to us to choose who we want to be over the next fifteen years, and for decades to come," Obama said in excerpts released ahead of his State of the Union address.

Obama was to speak to a Congress controlled by Republicans for the first time in his presidency. But the policies the president was to call for suggested that he had no plans to curtail his own agenda in favor of GOP priorities.

Instead, Obama was proposing higher taxes on the wealthiest Americans with the revenue to be used to pay for middle class tax credits and to make community college free. Key elements of the president's economic proposals appear unlikely to pass Congress, and he appeared to also be focused on setting the tone for the 2016 election and selling the story of an economy now ready to move off austerity footing.

"The verdict is clear," Obama said. "Middle-class economics works. Expanding opportunity works. And these policies will continue to work, as long as politics don't get in the way."

New Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst, giving the Republican response, called for cooperation, too, saying, "There's a lot we can achieve if we work together." But Ernst, in her prepared remarks, saw a less rosy version than Obama's view of the economy, and she took him to task.

"We see our neighbors agonize over stagnant wages and lost jobs. We see the hurt caused by canceled health care plans and higher monthly insurance bills," she said. "But when we demanded solutions, too often Washington responded with the same stale mindset that led to failed policies like Obamacare. It's a mindset that gave us political talking points, not serious solutions."

While the economy was expected to dominate the president's address, he was also promoting his recent decision to normalize diplomatic relations with Cuba and launch a military campaign against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. In two potential areas of compromise with Republicans, he was to call on Congress to pass cybersecurity legislation and a new authorization for military action in the Middle East.

"I call on this Congress to show the world that we are united in this mission by passing a resolution to authorize the use of force against ISIL," Obama said, referring to the Islamic State group.

The centerpiece of the president's address was to be a bread-and-butter Democratic tax proposal that could increase the capital gains rate on couples making more than $500,000 annually to 28 percent, require estates to pay capital gains taxes on securities at the time they're inherited and slap a fee on the roughly 100 U.S. financial firms with assets of more than $50 billion.

Much of the $320 billion in new taxes and fees would be used for measures aimed at helping the middle class, including a $500 tax credit for some families with two spouses working, expansion of the child care tax credit and a $60 billion program to make community college free.

Obama is also asking lawmakers to increase paid leave for workers. And he's moved unilaterally to lower a mortgage insurance rate that could help attract first-time homebuyers.

In a bid to build momentum for Obama's second-to-last State of the Union address, the White House rolled out many of the president's most significant proposals ahead of the speech. And rather than deliver a speech littered with policy proposals, administration official said Obama instead planned to talk more about the values that undergird his agenda and sell a story of economic recovery.

Indeed, the economy is on stronger footing than at any other point in Obama's presidency, with growth on the upswing and unemployment rate below 6 percent. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., cast Obama's proposals for building on the economic gains as little more than "talking-point proposals designed to excite the base but not designed to pass."

McConnell urged Obama to work with Republicans to shore up Medicare and Social Security and balance the budget, not just propose "more tired tax hikes."

The Republican response, which traditionally follows the president's State of the Union address, was to be delivered by Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst, who began her first term just two weeks ago. It's the second year in a row Republicans have tapped a woman for the post-speech response, underscoring the degree to which the party is trying to shore up its appeal with female voters.

Both the White House and Republicans were stacking their guest lists for Tuesday's prime-time address with people who put a human face on their policy positions.

Among those scheduled to sit with first lady Michelle Obama were Chelsey Davis, a student from Tennessee who plans to graduate from community college in May; Dr. Pranav Shetty, who has been working on the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, and Alan Gross, who was released from a Cuban prison last month as part of Obama's decision to normalize relations with the communist island nation.

House Speaker John Boehner announced that his guest would be Cuban dissident Jorge Luis García Pérez, who spent 17 years in a Cuban prison. Florida Republican Sen. Macro Rubio was bringing Rosa Maria Paya Acevedo, whose father was a well-known Cuban dissident who was killed in a car accident that his family believes was suspicious.

Obama is expected to tout his decision to resume relations with Cuba after a half-century of estrangement. He may reiterate his call for Congress to lift the decades-long economic embargo on Cuba, though administration officials say they don't expect lawmakers to move on that request quickly.

Other foreign policy matters expected to get a mention in the State of the Union address are the ongoing nuclear negotiations with Iran, and Russia's actions in Ukraine.

The morning after the State of the Union, Obama was headed to a pair of conservative-leaning states to promote his agenda for his seventh year in office: Idaho and Kansas.

Sen. Chuck Schumer Talks Obama, Middle Class Issues And State Of The Union


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