WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama said on Saturday he would use his annual State of the Union address to urge both parties to act to lift U.S. growth and create more jobs.
“My number one focus is going to be making sure that we are competitive, that we are growing, and we are creating jobs not just now but well into the future,” he said in a video e-mailed to members of his Organizing for America grassroots movement.
Obama’s speech on Tuesday to a joint session of the U.S. Congress will show how he plans to rise above the political gridlock that marked his first two years in the White House, shaping his 2012 re-election prospects.
With U.S. unemployment at 9.4 percent, Obama said deficits and debt must be dealt with in a “responsible way,” acknowledging the need to cut spending without undermining the country’s gradual recovery.
“We’re up to it, as long as we come together as a people - Republicans, Democrats, Independents - as long as we focus on what binds us together as a people,” the Democratic president said.
Obama’s approval ratings have improved in recent weeks, in part because Americans seem pleased with his decision to strike deals with Republicans to extend tax cuts and spur growth after his party’s heavy losses in the November 2 elections.
Republicans took control of the House of Representatives and gained seats in the Senate.
But voters are also worried by the U.S. budget deficit and rising debt, and the White House has said fiscal discipline will be an important part of Obama’s speech.
Republicans have called for $100 billion in cuts to government spending, and a bipartisan presidential debt commission has urged a bold overhaul of the U.S. tax code, alongside stiff curbs on federal spending.
The White House will lay out its full fiscal plans in an annual budget expected during the week of February 13. It has emphasized the need to make targeted choices that protect priorities like education, infrastructure investment and innovation.
Obama, whose video gave no details of measures to be outlined during his speech, has been pushing for ways to spur job creation and ease unemployment in the wake of his party’s recent election defeat.
He stirred some Democratic opposition by agreeing with Republicans to extend Bush-era tax cuts, while making several key staffing choices that signaled a shift toward the political center.
On Friday, he named General Electric Co Chief Executive Jeffrey Immelt as his top outside economic adviser in a bid to improve strained White House ties with big business.
Immelt, whose appointment was cheered by the powerful U.S. Chamber of Commerce, will chair a presidential council on competitiveness and jobs that is designed to encourage private investment and hiring.
“We’re going to have to out-innovate, we’re going to have to out-build, we’re going to have to out-compete, we’re going to have to out-educate other countries,” Obama said.
Additional reporting by Chuck Abbot; editing by Paul Simao