Obama set for key congress speech

US president to press his economic stimulus plan in first address to both houses.

    Obama is expected to discuss the bolstering of
    US troop numbers in Afghanistan [AFP]

    "Tonight, I want every American to know this: We will rebuild, we will recover, and the United States of America will emerge stronger than before," Obama said in an advance excerpt of the speech released by the White House.

    His speech comes comes amid continuing market turmoil, with US stocks closing at a 12-year low a day earlier.

    Rob Reynolds, Al Jazeera's senior Washington correspondent, said Obama's task was to "try and strike that delicate balance between inspiring oratory.....and at the same time provide cold hard details that give some hope to the markets and financial institutions".

    Economic actions

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    In his first month in office, Obama pushed through his stimulus plan, pledged a programme of government and private sector spending of $2.5 trillion to save the nation's banks and allocated $75 billion to aid the nation's battered housing market.

    He has also pledged to cut the US's $1.3 trillion budget deficit in half over the next four years after hosting a bipartisan summit on "fiscal responsibility" at the White House on Monday.

    Federal regulators also said they planned to launch a revamped programme to shore up the nation's ailing banks, including the option of increasing government ownership in financial institutions.

    Obama is due to unveil details of his proposed 2010 financial budget on Thursday.

    National approval

    Unemployment has risen as the US faces
    an economic crisis [GALLO/GETTY]
    Obama is also widely expected to briefly discuss foreign affairs, stressing the shift in US military focus from Iraq to Afghanistan, bolstered by the increase in troops he has ordered to combat increasingly violent attacks by Taliban fighters.

    Analysts say Obama could also reassert his offer of direct diplomacy with Iran, in contrast to his predecessor, George Bush's policy of isolating Tehran over its nuclear ambitions.

    "I think what you'll hear from the president tonight is a sober assessment about where we are and the challenges that we face," Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, told ABC News on Tuesday.

    A new Washington Post-ABC News poll of US citizens on Tuesday found that 68 per cent of people approved of Obama's job performance, while 64 per cent of those polled backed his stimulus package and the same percentage support his mortgage proposals.

    In addition, two-thirds of those polled said they wanted Democrats and Republicans to co-operate across party lines, even if that means compromising on important issues.

    The economic stimulus package passed the House of Representatives without a single Republican vote and scraped through the senate before being signed into law by Obama in mid-February.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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