US & Canada

Obama State of the Union address: Key points

US President Barack Obama delivering the State of Union address Image copyright Reuters

US President Barack Obama has given his annual State of the Union address, covering issues such as healthcare, inequality and foreign policy. Correspondents say it was probably the last best chance to reset his presidency before attention shifts to the 2016 poll for his successor.


Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionUS President Barack Obama: "Whenever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families, that's what I'm going to do"

Mr Obama voiced his concern at the persistence of income inequality despite the US's income recovery. Inequality has been growing for almost three decades.

"Today, after four years of economic growth, corporate profits and stock prices have rarely been higher, and those at the top have never done better. But average wages have barely budged. Inequality has deepened," he said.

An analysis of tax filings released in September showed the top 1% of US earners collected 19.3% of household income, breaking a record previously set in 1927.

What to do about income inequality (if anything)


Image copyright Reuters

As part of his efforts to address inequality, Mr Obama announced a rise in the minimum wage for new federal contract staff to $10.10 (£6.10). He appealed to Congress to raise the national minimum wage, currently $7.25 per hour, across the board.

"Americans overwhelmingly agree that no one who works full-time should ever have to raise a family in poverty," Mr Obama said.

He also called the continuing pay gap between men and women as an "embarrassment" and called on Congress and business leaders to take action to close it.

"It is time to do away with workplace policies that belong in a "Mad Men" episode," he said.

Obama promises minimum wage boost

One US town's battle over the minimum wage


Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionUS President Barack Obama: "Because of this law, no American can ever again be dropped or denied coverage for a pre-existing condition like asthma, back pain, or cancer"

Mr Obama defended his signature healthcare reforms, saying that they were already helping millions get health insurance.

The troubled roll out of the healthcare bill, known as "Obamacare", hit his popularity ratings hard last year.

"For decades, few things exposed hard-working families to economic hardship more than a broken health care system. And in case you haven't heard, we're in the process of fixing that," Mr Obama said.

Q&A: Obamacare

The 'Obamacare' crisis in 75 seconds


Image copyright AFP
Image caption UN nuclear inspectors have increased activity in Iran as part of efforts to verify the deal

Mr Obama hailed the recent deal between Iran and world powers over its nuclear programme, saying that that US diplomacy had brought Iran to the negotiation table and prevented it from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

Many in Congress are sceptical over the deal and have suggested that they should push for fresh sanctions on Iran.

Mr Obama said he would veto any such sanctions. "For the sake of our national security, we must give diplomacy a chance to succeed," he said.

But he added: "If Iran's leaders do not seize this opportunity, then I will be the first to call for more sanctions and stand ready to exercise all options to make sure Iran does not build a nuclear weapon."

Why are congressional Democrats considering new Iran sanctions?

Q&A: Iran nuclear crisis

Iran nuclear deal: key points


Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionPresident Obama: "This needs to be the year...we close the prison at Guantanamo Bay"

The closure of the US military detention centre at Guantanamo Bay within a year was one of Mr Obama's pledges when first elected in 2008. However, this deadline was missed amid resistance from lawmakers to the idea of bringing prisoners to the US.

Mr Obama said 2014 "needs to be the year Congress lifts the remaining restrictions on detainee transfers and we close the prison at Guantanamo Bay because we counter terrorism not just through intelligence and military action but by remaining true to our constitutional ideals and setting an example for the rest of the world".

Returning Yemenis from Guantanamo Bay

US hails Guantanamo 'milestone'


Image copyright Reuters

The US Senate passed a bill in June which would provide a pathway to citizenship for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the US.

However the bill has yet to be considered by the House of Representatives, where many conservatives object to giving breaks to people who either entered or stayed in the US illegally.

Mr Obama said economists had forecasted that reform would "grow the economy and shrink our deficits by almost $1 trillion in the next two decades."

"When people come here to fulfil their dreams - to study, invent, contribute to our culture - they make our country a more attractive place for businesses to locate and create jobs for everybody. So let's get immigration reform done this year," he said.

America's immigration conundrum

Facebook's Zuckerberg pushes on immigration reform

Climate change

Image copyright Reuters

While backing the increased use of natural gas as a "bridge fuel", Mr Obama called on Congress to back a "smarter tax policy that stops giving $4bn a year to fossil fuel industries that don't need it so we can invest more in fuels of the future that do".

He said the increasing use of solar power should be encouraged as a way of fighting climate change and sustaining jobs that "can't be outsourced".

"When our children's children look us in the eye and ask if we did all we could to leave them a safer, more stable world, with new sources of energy, I want us to be able to say yes, we did."

Q&A: Climate change

More on this story