U.S. President Barack Obama has delivered his annual State of the Union address to Congress, focusing on the nation's fragile economy and calling for reforms on clean energy, immigration and gun control.
Speaking to a joint session of Congress Tuesday night, President Obama said there is "much progress to report." He said it is "our generation's task ... to reignite the true engine of America's economic growth - a rising, thriving middle class."
The president warned that the automatic spending cuts set to take effect if Congress cannot reach a budget deal will jeopardize military readiness, slow economic growth and devastate priorities like education, energy and medical research.
He called for a bipartisan market-based solution to climate change, and said if Congress does not act to protect future generations, he will take executive action to do so. He said he also wants to work with Congress to encourage the research and technology that helps natural gas burn cleaner and protects the air and water.
Mr. Obama also urged Congress to pass legislation on two issues currently under debate on Capitol Hill - gun control and immigration reform.
On Afghanistan, President Obama announced that about half of the U.S. forces currently serving there -- roughly 34,000 -- will be home within a year. At its peak in the decade-long war, the United States had about 100,000 troops in Afghanistan. A full transfer of security control from NATO to Afghan forces is scheduled for 2014.
The president also announced the start of negotiations on a free trade agreement between the United States and the European Union. The 27-nation EU is the United States' largest trading partner.
President Obama said he signed a new executive order that will strengthen cyber defenses by increasing information sharing, and developing standards to protect national security, jobs and privacy. He said Congress must pass legislation to give the government a greater capacity to secure networks and deter attacks.
In the Republican Party response, Senator Marco Rubio said the "free enterprise economy" is the source of middle class prosperity. He accused President Obama of believing it is the cause of the country's economic woes.
Under the U.S. Constitution, the president is required "from time to time" give Congress information about the state of the union and to recommend "such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient."