President Barack Obama says he is hopeful that the United States will be able to strengthen its economy and create jobs in the new year. The president said he is encouraged by the recent vote in Congress to prevent higher payroll taxes and extend unemployment benefits.
In his final weekly address of the year, President Obama said 2011 was a year of great change and progress.
"We ended one war and began to wind down another," said Obama. "We dealt a crippling blow to al-Qaida and made America more secure. We stood by our friends and allies around the world through natural disasters and revolutions. And we began to see signs of economic recovery here at home, even as too many Americans are still struggling to get ahead."
Obama applauded Democrats and Republicans in Congress for working together to pass a two-month extension of a payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits.
The president credited Americans who contacted Congress in support of the extension, and he called on lawmakers to approve a year-long extension when they return to Washington in January.
"And I expect Congress to finish the job by extending these provisions through the end of 2012," Obama added. "It was good to see members of Congress do the right thing for millions of working Americans, but it was only possible because you added your voices to the debate."
Obama recorded his message from the state of Hawaii, where he is on vacation with his family.
The president said his main goal for the new year is to make America's economic system more fair for the middle class-a theme he is expected to repeat throughout his 2012 re-election campaign.
"As president, I promise to do everything I can to make America a place where hard work and responsibility are rewarded, one where everyone has a fair shot and everyone does their fair share," Obama said. "That's the America I believe in. That's the America we have always known."
In the weekly Republican address, Senator Johnny Isakson said his party's top priority for the new year is to make it easier for small businesses to create jobs. He said Republicans will do so by fighting for lower taxes, fewer regulations and energy security.
President Obama Friday delayed a request to Congress to raise the debt ceiling, the legal limit on the amount of money the U.S. government can borrow.
Obama granted top lawmakers from both parties more time to allow both houses to vote on a largely symbolic bill allowing some legislators to express their opposition to increasing the limit.
The proposed $1.2 trillion increase in the borrowing authority is likely to pass despite the objections.