By DIANA NGUYEN
WASHINGTON (Jan. 27, 2010) - President Obama called for a leaner American government, more credit opportunities for small businesses, a new jobs program, financial reforms, and an end to the kind of win-at-all-costs partisanship that's imperiled health care reform during his State of the Union address Wednesday night.
"Rather than fight the same tired battles that have dominated Washington for decades, it's time for something new," Obama said. "Let's invest in our people without leaving them a mountain of debt. Let's meet our responsibility to the citizens who sent us here. Let's try common sense."
The national debt stands at more than $12 trillion, and the federal budget deficit is projected to be about $1.3 trillion, a slight decline from the current fiscal year. Obama said his administration will freeze government spending beginning in 2011, a delay to allow the economy to continue to improve.
Obama acknowledged the problems in the economy and joblessness, and even accepted that his own popularity and credibility has suffered among Americans. Yet, despite all that, and because of the country's spirit, decency and strength, he said, "I have never been more hopeful about America's future than I am tonight."
The line produced his first interruption by applause, after nearly a page of his speech went by with barely a sound from the joint session of Congress gathered to hear him.
The themes resonated with the Maryland congressional delegation's Democrats.
"I thought it was very positive. It brought hope," said Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Cockeysville. "We need to work together."
Sen. Ben Cardin of Baltimore was struck particularly by his not giving up on health care and taking on controversial problems.
"I thought the president showed real strength in taking on the real issues," Cardin said. "He is going to be the agent for change."
Rep. Elijah Cummings said he thought the speech was "outstanding," and he said his rhetoric echoed the themes of his campaign.
"The president did what he did on the campaign, which was to enunciate a clear vision to the American people and to Congress. The president made it clear to not leave health care behind and that it's urgent not to forget the issue of jobs."
Capital News Service staff members Morgan Gibson, Andrew Katz, Tiffany March and Graham Moomaw contributed to this report.