State of the Union: Focus on jobs, economy

President Barack Obama speaks in the East Room President Barack Obama speaks in the East Room of the White House in Washington. (Jan. 14, 2013) Photo Credit: AP

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WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama will focus his State of the Union address on boosting job creation and economic growth at a time of high unemployment, underscoring the degree to which the economy could threaten his ability to pursue second-term priorities such as gun control, immigration policy and climate change.

Obama also may use Tuesday's prime-time address before a joint session of Congress to announce the next steps for ending the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan by the end of 2014.

Obama's State of the Union is his second high-profile speech to the nation in about three weeks, after his inaugural address Jan. 21 that opened his second term. White House aides see the two speeches as complementary, with Tuesday's address aimed at providing specifics to back up some of the Inauguration Day's lofty liberal rhetoric.

The president previewed the address during a meeting Thursday with House Democrats and said he would speak "about making sure that we're focused on job creation here in the United States of America." Obama said he would try to accomplish that by calling for improvements in education, boosting clean energy production and reducing the deficit in ways that don't burden the middle class, the poor or the elderly.

The president said he would address taxes and looming across-the-board budget cuts. The White House and Congress have pushed back the automatic cuts once, and Obama wants to do it again in order to create an opening for a larger deficit reduction deal.

"I am prepared, eager and anxious to do a big deal, a big package that ends this governance by crisis," he said last week.

The president also raised expectations for action this year on climate change after devoting a significant amount of time to the issue in his address at the inauguration. But the unemployment rate is persistently high at 7.9 percent, economic growth slowed last quarter and consumer confidence is falling, so the economy could upend Obama's plans to pursue a broader domestic agenda in his final four years in office.

Obama is expected to use his address to press lawmakers to back his immigration overhaul, which includes a pathway to citizenship for 11 million illegal immigrants, and his gun control proposals, including universal background checks and a ban on assault weapons.

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