President Barack Obama used his State of the Union address on Tuesday night to try to push past the fiscal battles that plagued his first term — and still threaten his second — as he laid out an agenda he hopes will shape his legacy.
Obama's overarching message was that other things matter beside the Republicans' seemingly all-consuming drive for deficit cutting,embodied in a looming showdown just three weeks away over automatic across-the-board spending cuts.
Those other things, he told Congress, include some traditionally liberal causes, like raising the federal minimum wage and pursuing climate initiatives, and some that have gained bipartisan support, such as immigration reform and curbing gun violence.
"Most of us agree that a plan to reduce the deficit must be part of our agenda," Obama said. "But let's be clear: deficit reduction alone is not an economic plan."
But with Washington so deeply divided, Obama's speech appeared unlikely to go far in helping the Democratic president and his Republican opponents find common ground to ease the ideological gridlock.