WHITE HOUSE — U.S. President Barack Obama has begun a four-state trip to amplify economic themes from his State of the Union address.
The traditional road trip after a State of the Union address first took the president to a Washington suburb in Maryland, where he spoke at a Costco store.
Standing in front of about three dozen workers and the backdrop of an American flag Wednesday, he renewed his call on Congress to "give America a raise" by increasing the minimum wage.
"Americans overwhelmingly agree, nobody who works full-time should ever have to raise a family in poverty. And that is why I firmly believe it is time to give America a raise," said the president.
Obama noted that entry-level employees at Costco make $11.50 an hour, while the average hourly wage exceeds $20. Currently, the official federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour.
Obama wants the federal level raised to $10.10. In his State of the Union address Tuesday, he announced his intention to sign an executive order, one of many expected in coming months, to raise the minimum wage for workers operating under future federal government contracts.
The president also renewed his pledge not to stand still in the absence of congressional action to help American families who are still struggling to get by.
Noting improvements in the economy, including lower unemployment, increasing manufacturing jobs, he said 2014 could be a breakthrough year, provided Congress does not fuel more uncertainty. He was referring to last year's government shutdown driven by Republican protests against his health care reform law, commonly referred to as Obamacare.
Obama said, "The question for folks in Washington is whether they are going to help that progress or hinder that progress, whether they are going to waste time creating new crises for people and new uncertainty like the shutdown, or are we going to spend time creating new jobs and new opportunities?"
On Capitol Hill, Republicans continued their attacks on Obama's overall approach on the economy and his State of the Union pledge to take unilateral executive action where he can.
"The president wants to keep doing the same old thing, just without as much input from the people's elected representatives in Congress. Basically, all the same policies, less of that pesky democratic accountability," Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell.
Senator Patty Murray is a Democrat from the state of Washington. "President Obama talked about ways he is going to make this year a year of action and I know that is what the American people are expecting," said Murray.
Vice President Joe Biden was also on the road, speaking at Monroe Community College in Rochester, New York about Obama's initiatives to expand education and training.
President Obama's second stop Wednesday was a U.S. Steel Corporation plant near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. There, he discussed his proposal to create a new savings program for workers at companies that do not offer retirement plans.
After a stop back in Washington, Obama continues his post-State of the Union tour Thursday with speeches at a General Electric facility near Milwaukee, Wisconsin and a high school in Nashville, Tennessee.