WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama will describe his priorities as common sense bipartisan ideas to strengthen the economy and the middle class, control gun violence and overhaul immigration law in his State of the Union address Tuesday night, a White House aide said Monday.
In a 9 p.m. speech to a joint session of Congress that sets his agenda and tone for the crucial first year of his second term, Obama will challenge lawmakers to seize common ground where it exists, put aside hardened partisan interests and take action on proven bipartisan ideas, the aide said in a preview of the themes.
"We don't view this an opportunity for the president to either sort of bend to the will of Congress or to throw down the gauntlet," the aide said. "Rather, there is an opportunity for us to identify some common ground and move forward."
Obama will introduce new initiatives during the nationally televised speech, the aide said, but he'll also revive four top priorities he has raised in his first term and on the campaign trail because Congress has yet to act on them.
Those priorities are investments in rebuilding infrastructure such as bridges and roads, boosting manufacturing across the country, continuing to expand clean energy, and making education effective and accessible to all.
Among the examples of infrastructure repair will be the work to modernize the coastal areas, roads and transportation systems in New York and other states hit hard by superstorm Sandy to withstand the future effects of climate change.
"One of the benefits of investments in infrastructure is it creates jobs right away," the aide said. "Making sure that we rebuild this infrastructure in a timely fashion will be something the president will talk about."
Obama, however, is expected to repeat the assertive tone of his second inaugural address three weeks ago, when he delivered a surprisingly progressive speech describing fairness and equality as driving forces in his vision for the country.
Obama will say he's all for vigorous debate, but that debate cannot be used to stall action on needed legislation.
Obama will address a Congress in which Democrats picked up seats and Republicans developed cracks in their unity -- not only will Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) deliver the GOP's official response, but Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) will deliver a tea party response.
But the speech is also aimed at the viewers at home, and Obama will stress issues that the Pew Research Center found in a recent poll most concern the public: strengthening the economy, improving the job situation and reducing the budget deficit.
Obama will talk about solving the most pressing issue facing Washington -- finding a way to avoid $82 billion in automatic spending cuts due to kick in on March 1 that could stall the economy.
Obama will say the fix must include smart cuts but also have increased revenue from closing tax loopholes, the aide said, indicating the president has moved little on the issue.
Obama is expected to cover a lot of ground, touching on the economy, taxes and the next fiscal crisis, but also research and exploration, and his work ending the Iraq and Afghan wars, as well as curbing nuclear proliferation.