Obama calls for political unity in State of the Union address

WASHINGTON - (AP) - Pleading for unity in a newly dividedgovernment, President Barack Obama implored Democratic andRepublican lawmakers to rally behind his vision of economic revivalfor an anxious nation, declaring in his State of the Union addressTuesday night: "We will move forward together or not at all." To a television audience in the millions, Obama addressed aCongress sobered by the assassination attempt against one if itsown members, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Her seat sat empty, and manylawmakers of competing parties sat together in a show of civility.Yet differences were still evident, as when Democrats stood toapplaud his comments on his health care law, while Republicans satmute next to them. In his best chance of the year to connect with the country,Obama devoted most of his prime-time address to the economy, theissue that dominates concern in a nation still reeling from amonster recession - and the one that will shape his own politicalfortunes in the 2012 election. The president unveiled an agenda of carefully balanced politicalgoals: a burst of spending on education, research, technology andtransportation to make the nation more competitive, alongsidepledges, in the strongest terms of his presidency, to cut thedeficit and smack down spending deemed wasteful to America. In one new example, Obama said he would veto any bill withearmarks, the term used for lawmakers' pet projects. That drew arebuke from his party even before he spoke, as Senate MajorityLeader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said the president had "enough poweralready" and that plans to ban earmarks were "a lot of prettytalk." Obama's proposals Tuesday night included cutting the corporatetax, providing wireless services for almost the whole nation,consolidating government agencies and freezing most discretionaryfederal spending for the next five years. In the overarching themeof his speech, the president told the lawmakers: "The future isours to win." Yet, Republicans have dismissed his "investment" proposals asmerely new spending. Republican Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, giving the GOP'sresponse, said the nation was at a "tipping point" leading to adire future if federal deficits aren't trimmed. Ryan promotedbudget cuts as essential to responsible governing, speaking fromthe hearing room of the House Budget Committee, which he nowchairs. Obama entered the House chamber to prolonged applause, and tothe unusual sight of Republicans and Democrats seated next to oneanother rather than on different sides of the center aisle. And hebegan with a political grace note, taking a moment to congratulatethe new Republican speaker of the House, Rep. John Boehner. Calling for a new day of cooperation, Obama said: "What comesof this moment will be determined not by whether we can sittogether tonight but whether we can work together tomorrow." On anight typically known for its political theater, the lawmakerssometimes seemed subdued, as if still in the shadow of the Arizonashootings.

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