EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

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February 13, 2013

Obama: Nation stronger, GOP should back his plans

WASHINGTON (AP) — Uncompromising and politically emboldened, President Barack Obama urged a deeply divided Congress last night to embrace his plans to use government money to create jobs and strengthen the nation's middle class. He declared Republican ideas for reducing the deficit "even worse" than the unpalatable deals Washington had to stomach during his first term.

In his first State of the Union address since winning re-election, Obama conceded economic revival is an "unfinished task," but he claimed clear progress and said he prepared to build on it as he embarks on four more years in office.

"We have cleared away the rubble of crisis, and we can say with renewed confidence that the state of our union is strong," Obama said in an hour-long address to a joint session of Congress and a television audience of millions.

Yet with unemployment persistently high and consumer confidence falling, the economy remains a vulnerability for Obama and could disrupt his plans for pursuing a broader agenda, including immigration overhaul, stricter gun laws and climate change legislation.

Obama also announced new steps to reduce the U.S. military footprint abroad, with 34,000 American troops withdrawing from Afghanistan within a year. And he had a sharp rebuke for North Korea, which launched a nuclear test just hours before his remarks, saying, "Provocations of the sort we saw last night will only isolate them further."

Third District Congresswoman Niki Tsongas said she was disappointed that the president's address did not acknowledge the plight of women and girls of Afghanistan.

"To touch upon it in his speech would have reflected a commitment," she said in an interview with The Eagle-Tribune.

In a prepared statement after the speech, she said that galvanize the resources provided to our servicemembers

"Veterans’ services and support, including quality health and employment services, will ensure that all those who’ve served on our behalf are able to successfully transition from active duty to life on the home front," she said. "Recent developments in the military, such as lifting the ban on women in combat, reflect a much needed military culture change that will lead to a more diverse, skilled and strengthened fighting force.

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