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Obama Speech to Focus on Income Inequality, Immigration

U.S. President Barack Obama will address the huge income gap between the poorest and wealthiest Americans when he delivers the annual State of the Union address Tuesday night before a joint session of the U.S. Congress.

The president has been unsuccessful in urging lawmakers to approve an increase in the U.S. minimum wage rate since raising the issue in last year's State of the Union speech. Mr. Obama will repeat the call in Tuesday's speech, and will announce plans to sign an executive order increasing the minimum wage for employees of companies signing new contracts with the federal government.

The order -- which will increase contractors' minimum wages from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour -- is one of the many Mr. Obama plans to issue this year in his strategy to enact his priorities without seeking approval of Congress, which is bitterly divided between a Republican-led House of Representatives and the Democratic-led Senate.

Mr. Obama will also urge the full Congress to pass an immigration reform measure that passed in the Senate last year. The bill stalled in the House under intense opposition from conservative lawmakers, but there are signs of growing support for the bill among House Republican leaders.

The president is attempting to boost his job approval numbers, which have fallen below 50 percent after a series of controversies and setbacks last year, including the botched debut of the online portal for Americans to shop for affordable insurance under the nation's new health care law.

Mr. Obama is also aiming to build support for congressional Democrats ahead of this year's scheduled midterm elections.