On Tuesday [9:00 p.m. Eastern Time], U.S. President Barack Obama will go before a joint session of Congress for the first time to address the American people on the challenges facing the nation.  The speech is expected to focus largely on the economy.

The president will use the speech to lay out his plans and priorities.

He gave a preview on Monday in remarks to a White House economic summit that brought together lawmakers and experts to discuss ways to bring down the federal budget deficit.

The president noted that he inherited a $1.3 trillion deficit from the Bush administration.  He said his goal is to cut it in half in four years.

"We cannot, and will not, sustain deficits like these without end.  Contrary to the prevailing wisdom in Washington these past few years, we cannot simply spend as we please and defer the consequences to the next budget, the next administration, or the next generation."

The president announced his deficit reduction goal less than one week after he signed into law the largest spending bill in U.S. history.  Mr. Obama emphasized the $787 billion stimulus plan is a one-time expenditure to deal with an economic emergency.  He said the long-term goal must be to cut the federal deficit and balance the budget.

"There is no contradiction from my perspective in doing the recovery package first, but now focusing on the medium and the long term," he said.

The economic summit brought together allies and adversaries of the Obama administration.  Among those attending was Senator John McCain - Mr. Obama's Republican opponent in last year's presidential election.  Also taking part was Republican Representative Eric Cantor, who played a key role in unifying party members in the House of Representatives against the stimulus bill.  He said he welcomed the chance for dialog at the White House.

"It's a great opportunity for us to really come together on some of these very big issues," he said.

Tuesday night's speech will be the next step in the process.

Although Mr. Obama will speak before a joint session of Congress, this will not be a State of the Union Address - the nationally broadcast report  usually delivered at this time of year.

This speech is expected to be narrower in scope, dealing primarily with the economy and to a lesser extent with national security matters.  Mr. Obama will deliver his first formal State of the Union in 2010.