Obama vows agenda redux, implores Dems to fight

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“We should continue the work of fixing our broken immigration system — to secure our borders, enforce our laws, and ensure that everyone who plays by the rules can contribute to our economy and enrich our nation,” he said.

In keeping with his recently toughened, populist tone, Mr. Obama touted several measures he said would ease the pain of the recession on middle-class families. He called on lawmakers to nearly double the child and dependent care tax credit for families earning less than $85,000 a year and to provide a $1.6 billion boost in child care funding. He also proposed $102.5 million more in federal aid to families caring for elderly relatives.

Arguing that a financial regulatory overhaul is central to the interests of health of Main Street, Mr. Obama echoed his previous call for Congress to pass a bill that would expand the government’s authority to break up troubled firms, tax the nation’s biggest banks and limit the scope of their risk-taking.

One day after the Senate killed a bill that would have created a bipartisan task force on reducing the nation’s debt, Mr. Obama said he will create by executive order a similar fiscal commission to come up with ideas for dealing with entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare. Unlike a congressional panel, the body would have no legal authority, however.

Mr. Obama went toe-to-toe with the Supreme Court majority that last week ruled First Amendment free speech protections extend to political ad spending by corporations and unions. The president told Congress to try to whittle down those protections.

“I don’t think American elections should be bankrolled by America’s most powerful interests, and worse, by foreign entities,” Mr. Obama said. “They should be decided by the American people, and that’s why I’m urging Democrats and Republicans to pass a bill that helps to right this wrong.”

The challenge did not appear to sit well with Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., who was part of the majority in that decision and who shook his head and muttered under his breath as the president criticized the ruling.

Mr. Obama also called for more transparency on earmarks, saying some lawmakers post their requests online but calling for all of them to do so on a single Web site. In fact, under rules congressional Democrats announced last year, all lawmakers do post their requests on their own Web sites already — though sometimes they’re tough to find.

“You have trimmed some of this spending and embraced some meaningful change. But restoring the public trust demands more. For example, some members of Congress post some earmark requests online. Tonight, I’m calling on Congress to publish all earmark requests on a single Web site before there’s a vote so that the American people can see how their money is being spent,” he said.

Mr. Obama reaffirmed his commitment to wind down the war in Iraq, saying the administration will pull all combat troops out of the country by August, but will continue to support the government there to promote peace.

He noted several diplomatic efforts, ranging from efforts to fight HIV/AIDS in the developing world to April’s National Security Summit, where 44 nations discuss ways to secure nuclear materials. However, Mr. Obama said the world is more united on threats like Iran and North Korea, both of which “face growing consequences for violating international agreements in pursuit of nuclear weapons. He also announced a new initiative aimed at redesigning the nation’s response to a bioterrorism attack just days after a congressional panel gave the administration an “F” on its preparedness for such a threat.

Mr. Obama will ask Congress to require lobbyists to disclose each contact they make within the administration as well as Congress and to put limits on lobbyist contributions to federal candidates. In addition, he will urge congressional leaders to work around a Supreme Court decision last week that struck down key campaign finance rules.

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