President Barack Obama has warned members of the U.S. Congress that he will act without them to expand opportunities for American families "wherever and whenever" he can.
Delivering his fifth annual State of the Union address at the U.S. Capitol Tuesday night, President Obama called on lawmakers to make 2014 a "year of action." Noting economic progress -- including a rebounding housing market and the U.S. surpassing China as the number one place to invest -- he said this can be a "breakthrough year" for the United States. But he said the question is whether U.S. officials "are going to help or hinder this progress."
Mr. Obama said that while corporate profits and stock prices have rarely been higher, average wages have barely budged, inequality has deepened, and too many Americans are working more than ever just to get by.
On foreign policy, the president warned Congress that he will veto any new sanctions bill that threatens to derail talks on Iran's nuclear program. But he said he will be the first to call for more sanctions if Iran's leaders do not seize the opportunity.
He said negotiations with Iran will be difficult and may not succeed, but if they do, the United States will have resolved a top security challenge without the risks of war.
The president's approval rating has dropped to less than 50 percent. With voters unhappy with the economy and gridlock in Congress, Mr. Obama is looking to make a fresh start in 2014.
Problems with the execution of the president's signature health care law last year sparked outrage from lawmakers and the public. But President Obama used his State of the Union speech to appeal to Republicans not to vote again to overturn it.
He touted the health care program's achievements, saying it gives people peace of mind that they do not have to lose everything if misfortune strikes. He said that because of the new law, no American can be turned down for health insurance because of a pre-existing condition, such as asthma or cancer. And he said a woman will no longer be charged more for health care just because she is a woman.
Mr. Obama is also trying to bounce back from last year's controversies over National Security Agency spying and the 16-day government shutdown during the budget standoff.
He focused his speech Tuesday on ways his administration and Congress can make progress together, calling for action to reform the tax code, create jobs, fund innovation and American energy, improve education opportunities and raise the minimum wage.
He also urged the full Congress Tuesday to approve an immigration reform measure that passed in the Senate last year. The bill stalled in the House of Representatives under intense opposition from conservatives.