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Obama to Face Republican Congress in State of the Union Speech


FILE - U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during his end of the year press conference in the briefing room of the White House in Washington, Dec. 19, 2014.

President Barack Obama will call for tax increases on the wealthiest Americans during the annual State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress Tuesday -- the first of his presidency completely dominated by opposition Republicans.

Obama will call for raising taxes on profits individuals make from selling assets such as stocks, bonds and real estate, ending tax breaks for inherited estates worth millions of dollars, and imposing a fee on the country's biggest financial firms. The president wants to use the revenues -- estimated at $320 billion over the next 10 years -- to offset tax breaks for middle income Americans and for initiatives such as free tuition for community college students.

Obama's aim is to help those left behind by an economic revival taking hold six years into his tenure, which began with the Democrat facing a crippling financial crisis.

"Now that we have fought our way through the crisis, how do we make sure that everybody in this country, how do we make sure that they are sharing in this growing economy?'' Obama said in a White House-produced YouTube video preview of his speech.

WATCH: White House Video - Behind The Scenes: State of the Union

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Republican opposition

The proposals have already been soundly rejected by Republican lawmakers, who gained control of both the House and Senate after enjoying sweeping victories in last November's midterm elections.

"More Washington tax hikes and spending is the same, old top-down approach we've come to expect from President Obama that hasn't worked,'' said Michael Steel, spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, the top U.S. Republican.

But White House officials are betting that Republicans, also under pressure to help the middle class and needing to prove they can govern, will be willing to compromise on some aspects of the plan.

"So are they going to agree on everything? Absolutely not,'' senior White House adviser Dan Pfeiffer told CBS' "Face the Nation'' on Sunday. "I think we should have a debate in this country between middle class economics and trickledown economics and see if we can come to an agreement on the things we do agree on.''

The president has vowed to veto a number of Republican priorities, including approval of a controversial oil pipeline from Canada to the U.S. Gulf Coast and changes to his signature health care reform law.

The proposals are also likely to be the subject of a debate among potential candidates to replace Obama in 2016, a campaign that is just now getting started.

Obama will take his proposals on the road Wednesday, traveling to Idaho and Kansas to promote them. And he will be interviewed by three YouTube bloggers.

Approval rating

The president is currently enjoying a boost in popularity, thanks to an improving economy, falling unemployment rate, plummeting gas prices and a series of policy achievements, including his decision to ease deportation rules on millions of undocumented immigrants and diplomatic overtures with Cuba.

A new poll issued jointly by the Washington Post and ABC News show Obama with a 50 percent approval rating, a nine-point increase since December.

* Don't miss VOA's live coverage of the State of the Union address today from 8:30pm - 11:00 pm EST (0130-400 GMT)

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