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MIAMI (CBSMiami) — President Barack Obama appealed directly to congress on multiple fronts during his State of the Union address on Tuesday evening.
He called for big change in U.S.-Cuba relations and for the authorization of the use of force against ISIS terrorists.
Even though his party no longer controls both chambers of congress, he made it clear he still wants to get a lot done during his final two years in office.
President Obama’s 6th State of the Union address was his first in front of a Republican-controlled Congress.
Despite the deep partisan divide, he promised to work across party lines in what he calls the “4th quarter of his presidency.”
“If we’re going to have arguments, let’s have arguments but let’s make them debates worthy of this body and worthy of this country,” said President Obama.
The president spoke about the economy, stressing the importance of the middle class in the overall success of our financial system.
He said the economy is growing and creating jobs at the fastest pace since 1999.
“Our unemployment rate is now lower than it was before the financial crisis. More of our kids are graduating than ever before; more of our people are insured than ever before,” said the president.
On taxes, he proposed a tax cut for childcare.
He also spoke of raising the federal minimum wage and earned paid sick leave for all workers.
“Welcome home Alan. We’re glad you’re here,” said the president.
Alan and Judy Gross joined the first lady as her guests for the evening. Gross was released from a Cuban prison last month marking the start of an effort to renew diplomatic relations between the U-S and the communist country.
“This year, Congress should begin the work of ending the embargo,” said the president.
The president also touched on the ISIS threat.
Last summer, South Florida journalist Steven Sotloff was among those beheaded at the hands of the extremist group.
Mr. Obama has vowed to fight back.
“We will continue to hunt down terrorists and dismantle their networks, and we reserve the right to act unilaterally,” said the president.
Republicans tapped freshman Iowa senator Joni Ernst to deliver the party’s response.
“The new Republican Congress you elected is working to make Washington understand that too. And with a little cooperation from the President, we can get Washington working again,” said Ernst.
Local leaders on both sides also had a few words for the president after the State of the Union.
Florida Democratic Senator Bill Nelson released a statement saying in part, “If history repeats itself… We’re going to have trouble getting things done…Because you’re going to get into this partisan warfare… That the republicans are going to reject some of the good ideas that the president offered.”
Republican Senator Marco Rubio focused on the economy, saying in a statement “President Obama tonight bragged about how the economy is doing better. But too many people are not experiencing it… because they’re stuck between low wages and a high cost of living.”
Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen fired back at the president’s Cuba plan saying in part, “Lifting the embargo would be a betrayal to more than 11 million Cubans who live under a tyrannical communist regime. The administration has offered concessions to the Castro brothers… receiving little to nothing in return. Cuba has murdered American citizens, harbored fugitives and aided terror organizations. By negotiating with an avowed enemy, the President jeopardizes our national security.