Obama Addresses the State of the Union - KTTC Rochester, Austin, Mason City News, Weather and Sports

By Chris Conte

Obama Addresses the State of the Union

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WASHINGTON D.C. (AP/KTTC)-- President Barack Obama took a significant step toward retooling his presidency with a challenge to lawmakers to rise above partisan differences to tackle economic and budget problems "decades in the making."

In a State of the Union address made somber by the recent Arizona shootings, Obama on Tuesday night coupled a call for budget restraint with a plea for more American innovation to allow the United States to better compete in the global economy.

"The rules have changed" and the U.S. must not let itself be left behind by other fast-growing economies like China and India, Obama said.

Obama and newly empowered Republicans each framed their rival political themes, ones that will carry them to the 2012 elections.

 Ever since what he called his party's "shellacking" in the midterm elections, Obama has moved to mend fences with business and move toward the center. He extended existing Bush-era tax cuts, introduced new ones, completed a free-trade agreement with South Korea, and ordered a government-wide review of regulations with a goal of weeding out ones that hinder business.

 For the first time, Obama vowed Tuesday night to veto any bills sent to him that include "earmarks," pet spending provisions pushed by individual lawmakers. It was a turnabout for the president, who in 2009 said earmarks were fine if "done right."

But it wasn't all concessions. Obama strongly defended his health care overhaul from GOP efforts to dismantle it.

 In all his recent dealings, Obama "had to bow to practical realities," said Thomas Mann, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. "What he is contesting," Mann adds, "is the Republican characterization of him as this out-of-control liberal."

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