Obama wants Congress to replace the cuts — known as the sequester — with a combination of new revenue from tax reform and more targeted spending reductions.
“So let's set party interests aside, and work to pass a budget that replaces reckless cuts with smart savings and wise investments in our future,” Obama said.
“And let's do it without the brinksmanship that stresses consumers and scares off investors. The greatest nation on Earth cannot keep conducting its business by drifting from one manufactured crisis to the next.”
In the Republican response to the president's speech, Sen. Marco Rubio, of Florida, said, “We don't have to raise taxes to avoid the president's devastating cuts to our military. Republicans have passed a plan that replaces these cuts with responsible spending reforms.”
And while Rubio accused Obama of wanting a bigger government, the president said the nation needed a “smarter government that sets priorities and invests in broad-based growth.”
The president also announced that he would accelerate the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, bringing home 34,000 over the next 12 months.
On energy, the president said the natural gas boom had “led to cleaner power and greater energy independence. That's why my administration will keep cutting red tape and speeding up new oil and gas permits.”
He proposed that some of the revenue from oil and gas exploration on public land be used on research and technology “to shift our cars and trucks off oil for good.”
In the Republican response, Rubio said alternative energy sources should be part of the portfolio.
“But God also blessed America with abundant coal, oil and natural gas,” Rubio said. “Instead of wasting more taxpayer money on so-called “clean energy” companies like Solyndra, let's open up more federal lands for safe and responsible exploration.”
The president made a pitch for immigration reform legislation that would guarantee a secure border and include “a responsible pathway to earned citizenship.”
Rubio said, “We need a responsible, permanent solution to the problem of those who are here illegally. But first, we must follow through on the broken promises of the past to secure our borders and enforce our laws.”