U.S. President Barack Obama urges Congress to help lift the middle class with higher taxes on the rich and trade deals during Tuesday's State of the Union address. Vanessa Johnston reports.
It's "time to turn the page" from recession and war... That was U.S. President Barack Obama's message during Tuesday's State of the Union speech. (SOUNDBITE) (English) U.S. PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA SAYING: "Tonight, after a breakthrough year for America, our economy is growing and creating jobs at the fastest pace since 1999." Obama touted his "middle-class economic" policies for trimming the jobless rate to 5.6 percent.... (SOUNDBITE) (English) U.S. PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA SAYING: "This is good news people (laughter)" ...and urged the Republican-led Congress to back him as he seeks higher taxes on the rich and trade deals with Europe and Asia. On war, Obama said the U.S. had learned some costly lessons, and was now partnering with other countries to go after extremists, including Islamic State -- or ISIL. (SOUNDBITE) (English) U.S. PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA SAYING: "In Iraq and Syria, American leadership - including our military power - is stopping ISIL's advance. Instead of getting dragged into another ground war in the Middle East, we are leading a broad coalition, including Arab nations, to degrade and ultimately destroy this terrorist group." In a rare moment of bipartisan solidarity, lawmakers waved yellow pencils to show support for free speech -- a nod to the recent Paris attacks. But then it was back to politics. In the Republican response to Obama, Iowa Senator Joni Ernst vowed to fight Obama's agenda. (SOUNDBITE) (English) REPUBLICAN SENATOR JONI ERNST OF IOWA SAYING: "We heard the message you sent in November - loud and clear. And now we're getting to work change the direction Washington has been taking our country." On the Republican wish-list: replacing Obamacare, passing the Keystone pipeline bill, and correcting "executive overreach".