President Barack Obama vowed on Wednesday to boost jobs growth and impose tough new regulations on Wall Street as he recast his agenda after suffering a devastating political setback.
People are out of work. They are hurting. They need our help. And I want a jobs bill on my desk without delay, Obama told the U.S. Congress in his annual State of the Union speech.
Jobs must be our number one focus in 2010, he said.
Obama proposed a three-year freeze on some domestic spending programs to take aim at soaring budget deficits and said he would use his presidential veto to enforce budgetary discipline.
He called for the creation of a bipartisan commission to tackle long-term budget challenges.
The speech follows the loss by his Democratic party of a pivotal U.S. Senate seat in Massachusetts, imperiling legislative priorities like healthcare reform and financial regulation.
He promised not to abandon efforts to overhaul the huge and costly healthcare system.
By the time I'm finished speaking tonight, more Americans will have lost their health insurance. Millions will lose it this year, Obama said. I will not walk away from these Americans. And neither should the people in this chamber.
In keeping with a populist tone that has marked many of his recent speeches, Obama criticized bad behavior and recklessness on Wall Street and demanded Congress pass robust legislation on financial regulation.
He vowed to fight financial industry lobbyists who are seeking to water down the proposed legislation.
We cannot let them win this fight. And if the bill that ends up on my desk does not meet the test of real reform, I will send it back, Obama said.
The speech reflected a starkly different political reality for Obama, who took office a year ago promising wholesale change in Washington but must now salvage a congressional agenda left in tatters by the Republican victory in Massachusetts.
(Additional reporting by Alister Bull, Jeff Mason and Matt Spetalnick, editing by Chris Wilson.)