WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama is urging a divided Congress to boost job creation and strengthen the middle class through a package of government-backed proposals.
In his State of the Union address, Obama is calling for increasing the federal minimum wage, spending more to fix the nation's roads and bridges, and expanding early childhood education.
The president is also pledging to cut the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan in half within a year.
Obama says his proposals would not increase the deficit "by a single dime." But with unemployment persistently high and consumer confidence falling, he is pressing a progressive case for Washington's role in reigniting the economy.
Republicans say President Obama's second-term agenda will bring more tax increases and increase deficit spending. They're vowing to promote economic growth to help middle-class families find good jobs.
Republicans are responding to Obama's State of the Union address with fresh appeals to voters on the economy and promises to rein in federal spending with a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution.
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio says in the Republican address that Obama should "abandon his obsession with raising taxes."
Ohio Sen. Rob Portman says Obama is promoting "the same big-government policies that have failed to get our economy up and running again."
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