Obama Challenges Republicans in State of Union Speech

Obama Challenges Republicans in State of Union SpeechObama Challenges Republicans in State of Union Speech

US President Barack Obama put foreign policy achievements and improving US economy at the center of his sixth State of the Union address.

He struck a defiant tone for his dealings with the new Republican-led Congress on Tuesday, calling on his opponents to raise taxes on the rich and threatening to veto legislation that would challenge his key decisions, Reuters reported.

Obama vowed to veto any Republican effort to roll back his signature healthcare law and his unilateral loosening of immigration policy.

“It is now time,” he told lawmakers and millions watching on television, to “turn the page” from recession and war and work together to boost those middle-class Americans who have been left behind.

In an ironic remark toward Republicans he said, “I have no more campaigns to run,” when a smattering of applause rose from Republicans at that prospect, but added, “I know because I won both of them.”

  Guantanamo Guarantee

Obama pledged to make good on his promise to close the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, saying it was “time to finish the job.”

He made a renewed push in recent weeks to transfer inmates out of the remote prison, which is located at a US naval base in southeastern Cuba.

As of last week, after the transfer of five more detainees, 122 inmates remained at the facility in Guantanamo Bay, which was set up to hold terror suspects after the September 11 attacks.

“It makes no sense to spend $3 million per prisoner to keep open a prison that the world condemns and terrorists use to recruit,” Obama said. “Since I’ve been president, we’ve worked responsibly to cut the population of Guantanamo in half. Now it’s time to finish the job. And I will not relent in my determination to shut it down. It’s not who we are.”

  Cuba Policy

The US President urged lawmakers in his Tuesday speech to prepare the way to ending the half-century embargo on Cuba.

“Our shift in Cuba policy has the potential to end a legacy of mistrust in our hemisphere,” Obama told US lawmakers in his State of the Union address.

On the eve of ground-breaking talks in Havana to discuss normalizing diplomatic ties with the communist-run Caribbean island, Obama said there was no more “phony excuse for restrictions in Cuba.”

The highest-ranking US delegation to visit Havana since the 1980s meet Cuban officials for talks on Wednesday and Thursday.

The meeting will be the first since the historic announcements in December by Obama and Cuban leader Raul Castro that their countries will normalize ties that broke off in 1961.

Obama told Congress that his administration was “ending a policy that was long past its expiration date. When what you’re doing doesn’t work for fifty years, it’s time to try something new.”

He said the shift in US policy “stands up for democratic values, and extends the hand of friendship to the Cuban people.”

“And this year, Congress should begin the work of ending the embargo,” he added.