Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — In his weekly address, President Obama repeated calls for some of the programs he spoke of in his State of the Union address on Tuesday, such paid leave, greater access to child care, and two free years of community college.

“Middle-class economics means doing more to help Americans upgrade their skills through opportunities like apprenticeships and two years of free community college, so we can keep earning higher wages down the road,” Obama said.

The president also suggested tax reform in in “closing loopholes” in the tax code.

Obama said that he knows there are Republicans in the new Congress that disagree with his latest proposals, but that he looks forward to “hearing their ideas for how we can pay for what the middle class needs to grow.”

Read the full transcript of the president’s address:

Hi, everybody. This week, in my State of the Union Address, I talked about what we can do to make sure middle-class economics helps more Americans get ahead in the new economy.

See, after some tough years, and thanks to some tough decisions we made, our economy is creating jobs at the fastest pace since 1999. Our deficits are shrinking. Our energy production is booming. Our troops are coming home. Thanks to the hard work and resilience of Americans like you, we’ve risen from recession freer to write our own future than any other nation on Earth.

Now we have to choose what we want that future to look like. Will we accept an economy where only a few of us do spectacularly well? Or will we commit ourselves to an economy that generates rising incomes and rising chances for everyone who makes the effort?

I believe the choice is clear. Today, thanks to a growing economy, the recovery is touching more and more lives. Wages are finally starting to rise again. Let’s keep that going – let’s do more to restore the link between hard work and growing opportunity for every American.

That’s what middle-class economics is – the idea that this country does best when everyone gets their fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules.

Middle-class economics means helping workers feel more secure in a world of constant change – making it easier to afford childcare, college, paid leave, health care, a home, and retirement.

Middle-class economics means doing more to help Americans upgrade their skills through opportunities like apprenticeships and two years of free community college, so we can keep earning higher wages down the road.

Middle-class economics means building the most competitive economy in the world, by building the best infrastructure, opening new markets so we can sell our products around the world, and investing in research – so that businesses keep creating good jobs right here.

And we can afford to do these things by closing loopholes in our tax code that stack the decks for special interests and the superrich, and against responsible companies and the middle class.

This is where we have to go if we’re going to succeed in the new economy. I know that there are Republicans in Congress who disagree with my approach, and I look forward to hearing their ideas for how we can pay for what the middle class needs to grow. But what we can’t do is simply pretend that things like child care or college aren’t important, or pretend there’s nothing we can do to help middle class families get ahead.

Because we’ve got work to do. As a country, we have made it through some hard times. But we’ve laid a new foundation. We’ve got a new future to write. And I’m eager to get to work.

Thanks, and have a great weekend.

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United States Congress(WASHINGTON) — In this week’s Republican Address, Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska spoke on how the Keystone XL pipeline represents an important infrastructure project following President Obama’s State of the Union address on Tuesday.

Murkowski, chairwoman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, says she believes America is ready for the role of an energy superpower and lawmakers in Washington can start by passing legislation approving construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline, and President Obama signing the bill into law.

“It’s time we embrace the opportunities before us. Republicans have a positive agenda that will help create jobs, keep energy affordable, and increase our security,” Murkowski said. “Over the next two years, it is our hope that President Obama will be a partner in our efforts, and that he will start by finally approving the Keystone XL pipeline.’

Murkowski argues the benefits of the construction of the pipeline will create jobs and keep energy prices affordable for all Americans.

Read the full transcript of the Republican address:

Hello. I’m Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. This past week, President Obama, in his State of the Union address, laid out his plans for America. And as part of his speech, he called on Congress to pass an infrastructure bill that will create jobs and make our nation stronger for decades to come.

I welcomed that message, and the fact is, we’ve already started. For over two weeks now, the Senate has been working hard on a bipartisan bill to approve the Keystone XL pipeline. This important infrastructure project will support thousands of jobs. It would carry both American and Canadian oil, in the cleanest and safest way, and help keep energy affordable for American families.

After more than 2,300 days of presidential indecision, it’s important for us to act. The world is watching to see whether the United States is willing to lead as a global energy superpower that respects its neighbors, trades with its allies, and builds needed infrastructure. I believe we are ready for that role – and our leadership can start with the approval of Keystone XL.

The new Republican congress you elected has only been in office a few weeks now, but already we’ve made important strides towards making congress function again and getting Washington back to work. We’re fulfilling the promises made in the recent elections, and considering legislation in an open and a transparent manner where both Republicans and Democrats can offer their ideas.

Now, here’s an interesting fact: more amendments were voted on in the Senate just this past week, than were voted on during all of 2014. Our approach to this energy infrastructure bill is one that allows members from both parties – and every state – the chance to have their voices heard.

Once Congress approves the Keystone XL pipeline with bipartisan support, we will have an opportunity to put forth additional energy solutions that will grow our economy and help hardworking Americans.

We are focusing on energy because it is vital to our prosperity, and a strategic asset that we can use to assist our allies and trading partners. It is in our interest to continue making our energy abundant, affordable, clean, diverse, and secure. And I am confident we can reach those goals by strengthening our supply, modernizing our infrastructure, supporting energy efficiency, and ensuring federal accountability.

As Chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, I will do my best to ensure the Senate approves broad energy legislation this year. The last time that happened was in 2007. That was a time of scarcity, but America is now producing more energy than ever before. We’ve seen firsthand that American supply matters to global prices – and the only question now is whether we’re going to take the steps necessary to keep energy affordable.

We can start by looking to Alaska, where we have tremendous amounts of oil just waiting to be produced. We have prolific resources in our National Petroleum Reserve and offshore. If we also unlock just a fraction of the non-wilderness portion of ANWR, we could bring about a huge range of economic benefits. Some may consider this controversial, but it really is not. Even the head of the Alaska Democratic Party wrote a piece this week, urged that it be opened. It’s time we embrace the opportunities before us.

Republicans have a positive agenda that will help create jobs, keep energy affordable, and increase our security. Over the next two years, it is our hope that President Obama will be a partner in our efforts, and that he will start by finally approving the Keystone XL pipeline.

Thank you for listening.

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Photo by Junko Kimura/Getty Images(NEW DELHI) — With new bounce in his step at home amid rising poll numbers, President Obama is pivoting to his agenda abroad.

Mr. Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama depart Saturday morning for a three-day visit to India aimed at bolstering ties with a rising economic and military ally, and garnishing his legacy on foreign affairs.

“He sees this as a potentially transitional if not transformational moment for the relationship because we have a very strong and clear indication from India’s leadership that they want to elevate our bilateral cooperation and our global cooperation,” said deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes.

The trip may end up being more symbolic in nature than producing many major policy agreements. Still, experts say Obama will make history on several fronts:

1. First American President to Visit India Twice:

Six U.S. presidents have visited India since its independence in 1947. Barack Obama will become the only one to visit twice.

“It is extremely significant for the president to go back to India a second time, to do it only as an India trip, to be the guest for Republic Day,” said Richard Rossow, an expert in U.S.-India relations at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Obama scheduled his State of the Union address to specifically accommodate this trip, his aides say. He could have had an easy excuse to pass on the invitation. It also comes unusually soon after the two leaders held a summit in Washington four months ago.

“The symbolism of all this is tremendous,” Rossow said.

The Obamas most recently visited in November 2010, becoming only the second president after Richard Nixon to visit India in his first term.

2. First American as ‘Chief Guest’ of Republic Day

For the first time in India’s 65 year history, an American president has the high honor to be the nation’s chief guest for an elaborate pageant of military and cultural pride on Republic Day.

Russia’s Vladimir Putin has had the honor. So, too, Nelson Mandela, the president of Iran, Queen of England, Japanese prime minister – even high-level officials from neighboring rival Pakistan.

“Frankly it took us by some surprise,” Rhodes said of the invitation to Obama from Prime Minister Narenda Modi.

“There’s great affinity between the U.S. and India. But there’s also a history that is complicated and that would have made it seem highly unlikely that a US leader would be sitting with India’s leaders at a Republic Day ceremony as chief guest,” he said.

The president and first lady will spend several hours viewing the parade and participating in ceremonial events and receptions that mark the 1950 birth of the world’s largest democracy.

3. Unprecedented: POTUS to Spend Hours Outdoors Amid Terror Threats

Wherever the American president goes, so does his super-sized security apparatus. But never before has it been brought to bear on another country’s biggest national holiday celebration, in a capital city that’s one of the most densely-populated in the world.

Obama and Modi will spend several hours outdoors on an open-air viewing platform watching the Republic Day parade as tens of thousands of Indians pour into the streets – a potentially risky setting that U.S. Secret Service generally prefers to avoid.

“There’s not been a similar event that he’s attended overseas,” Rhodes said. “So this is unique in that case.”

There will be a seven-layer ring of security along the Republic Day route, according to local media reports. Satellites and drones – operated both by Indian and American security services – are expected to fly overhead.

More than 15,000 closed-circuit TV cameras will monitor the crowd, while more than 100,000 Indian policy and paramilitary forces are on the ground, according to India’s Mail Online.

India’s top military officials have warned of potential terror strikes by Pakistani militants against soft targets in and around New Delhi ahead of Obama’s visit, putting officials and security services on high alert.

4. From Blacklist to Best Friend: Modi & Obama

Perhaps never before has a world leader gone from being on a U.S. blacklist – denied a visa and cutoff from diplomatic outreach – to being a top priority of an American president in such a short turn.

Just one year ago, Modi was still sidelined by the U.S. for his alleged role in one of the deadliest religious riots in modern Indian history. He was accused of condoning the killing of some 2,000 Muslims in the state where he was governor; a complicity he has denied.

But all has been absolved, at least from the U.S. diplomatic perspective. After a summit with Obama in September, their relationship blossomed in unexpectedly positive ways, diplomatic observers and administration officials say.

“This is a seminal moment in the bilateral relationship,” said Phil Reiner, the administration’s top adviser for South Asia. “The extension of this invitation by the Prime Minister really continues to set a different tone for our reinvigorated partnership.”

5. Doubling Down on Defense Deals

President Obama will see an awful lot of Russian military hardware paraded before him on Republic Day. The Russians have been India’s top defense supplier for decades.

But that’s starting to change, and Obama hopes to accelerate U.S. defense deals.

Overhead on Monday, he may spot an American-made C130J Hercules transport plane or a C17 Globemaster during the ceremonial fly-over. Soon the Indians could be adding a new batch of Chinook and Apache helicopters to their fleet as well.

A number of defense deals are waiting in the wings, including one to bring production of lightweight American-designed Howitzer artillery to India. Some are expected to be sealed shortly after Obama leaves.

There’s also word that renewal of the 10-year Defense Framework between the two countries is in the works – a key piece of Obama’s “pivot to Asia” program and plan to counterbalance the rise of China.

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(WASHINGTON) — Kevin Johnson may have lost to the Chicago Bulls in the 1993 NBA Finals, but he swallowed his pride and gave a Bulls-themed introduction for President Obama at the White House on Friday.

Johnson, the Sacramento mayor and former Phoenix Suns guard, took the podium in the East Room before the president delivered remarks to the U.S. Conference of Mayors. After raving about the president’s political and governing achievements, Johnson referenced Obama’s reputation for talking–and playing–“a little hoop.”

Johnson then pulled out his smartphone and played The Alan Parsons Project’s “Siruis,” used by the Chicago Bulls as the team’s theme song.

Delivering an NBA-esque announcement, Johnson listed Obama as “standing six foot one, 180 pounds, southpaw, from Columbia University, via Punahou High School in Honolulu, the point guard of Pennsylvania Ave., the 44th president of the United States of America, Barack Obama!”

Obama thanked Johnson and noted that he thought Bulls walkout music must bring back bad memories for the former Suns guard.

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Pete Marovich/Getty Images(LAS VEGAS) — Just before she heads to Iowa for the first major conservative showcase of the 2016 election cycle, Sarah Palin said “of course” she’s interested in the 2016 presidential election.

“Yeah, I mean, of course, when you have a servant’s heart, when you know that there is opportunity to do all you can to put yourself forward in the name of offering service, anybody would be interested,” Palin told ABC News’ Neal Karlinsky while serving wild boar chili to the homeless in Las Vegas Thursday.

When asked again if she could be “possibly” interested in a presidential campaign, she answered, “We definitely had enough of seeing that — America has had enough of seeing that — sign on the Oval Office door saying, ‘No Girls Allowed.’ I know that.”

While serving up bowls to those gathered in line, the former Alaska governor clarified, “It doesn’t necessarily have to be me, though, but no, America is definitely ready for real change.”

“It doesn’t have to be myself, but yes…happy to drive that competition, because competition will make everyone better and produce more and be more candid regarding their solutions they will offer this country. I am very interested in that competitive process and, again, not necessarily me,” she said.

Palin was in Las Vegas for the annual Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade Show and made a side trip to serve chili at the Salvation Army in downtown Las Vegas. She was joined by her daughter, Bristol Palin, and they both wore hats and aprons advertising The Sportsman Channel, where Palin hosts Amazing America with Sarah Palin.

Palin will be one of many big Republican names and possible presidential candidates in the Hawkeye State Saturday for the Iowa Freedom Summit, a conservative confab hosted by Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa. Others taking the stage include New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, and former neurosurgeon and conservative star Ben Carson.

When asked about the familiar names already popping up in the potential GOP primary, including Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush, neither of whom will attend the Iowa Freedom Summit, the 2008 GOP vice presidential nominee quipped, “I can’t wait for new energy.” She added there had “better be a competition and not a coronation,” making it clear that she thinks that’s the only way Republicans can beat Hillary Clinton, if the former first lady and secretary of state emerges as the Democratic nominee.

“Big competition, and that competition in the GOP…will surface that candidate who can take on Hillary, be ready for Hillary and show the nation what it is going to take to get the country back on the right track — because we can’t afford status quo, because status quo lately has been Latin for, ‘We are getting screwed,’ and status quo has got to go,” she said.

As for who she wants to see as that “right candidate,” she described the person as someone who will “turn things around, someone who will, in some respects, I don’t know, maybe be considered a bit avant garde, to the establishment anyway, because this next person has got to realize this is war, this is war for our hunters’ future.”

“I want to help find that candidate that realizes that [their standing in the next election is] not what matters, that’s not what is at stake,” Palin said. “What’s at stake is our children and our grandchildren’s future.”

Palin even weighed in on the “ready for” campaigns, while not specifically referring to “Ready for Hillary” or “Ready for Warren.”

“[I] wonder what are our friends in the White House think when their peeps are out there trucking around chirping we are ready for change, for someone else,” Palin said. “You wonder what they think they are going to accomplish in the next two years if even their own people are going, ‘Man, this isn’t working. We need change.’”

Palin added she doesn’t believe 2016 is “going to be about the establishment on either side of the aisle.”

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Hemera/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The Democratic National Committee announced on Friday that next year’s Democratic National Convention will be held the week of July 25, 2016.

Three cities — Columbus, Ohio; New York and Philadelphia — remain in contention to host the convention. The DNC is expected to announce its pick for host city in the coming weeks.

“This is the next step to finalize where and when we will nominate the 45th President of the United States, highlight the Democratic Party’s agenda of fighting for expanded opportunity and contrast it with the Republican Party’s commitment to the fortunate few,” DNC Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz said in a statement Friday.

“We are still in discussions with three excellent cities and are looking forward to a diverse and inclusive convention that displays our party’s values,” she added.

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ABC News(WASHINGTON) — As a congressman from Iowa, Republican Steve King will be in a unique position to have his say in 2016 presidential politics.

While the outspoken conservative says he’s not picking favorites among the crop of likely Republican candidates just yet, ABC News’ Jeff Zeleny got an early glimpse at King’s 2016 thinking by asking him to offer one-word descriptions of some of the likely Republican candidates.

Here’s the exchange between Zeleny and King:

Jeff Zeleny: So we’re going to go through a little bit of a lightning round here. [What’s] the first word that comes to your mind to describe this list of people. Mitt Romney.

Steve King: I have to think about that a little bit — consummate businessman.

Zeleny: Okay, that’s two words but I’ll take it. Marco Rubio.

King: American exceptionalism. Two words again.

Zeleny: Rick Santorum.

King: Faithful Catholic.

Zeleny: Ted Cruz.

King: Constitutionalist.

Zeleny: Jeb Bush.

King: Family success, generational family success.

Zeleny: Okay, that’s three words. This is government expansion. Chris Christie.

King: Strong, bold and confident, if I’m going to three words here.

Zeleny: Final one here: Mike Huckabee.

King: I think it would be faithful pastor to America.

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US House of Represenatatives(WASHINGTON) — For 2016 political spectators, all eyes will be on Iowa this weekend, as a group of likely Republican presidential contenders converge in the state to attend the Iowa Freedom Summit hosted by Rep. Steve King.

Before heading to the summit, the Iowa Republican sat down with ABC News/Yahoo! News at The Dubliner pub in Washington, D.C. to discuss the field of GOP candidates, which he believes to be “the biggest and most robust ever.”

King, an outspoken conservative who hopes to wield his influence over the next presidential race, said he plans to endorse a candidate at some point, but he’s not picking favorites yet.

And when it comes to finding an alternative to President Obama, he isn’t picky. King said he’d gladly take any among a half-dozen of the current likely contenders over Obama.

“There are a half-a-dozen candidates, plus or minus a little bit, that I would put their names in a hat and draw one out and be really happy as a replacement to the president we have today,” King said.

King directly praised former 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney as a potential 2016 contender.

“I personally like Mitt Romney and [his wife] Ann, and I respect him and his family, and I have said that their five sons were in 99 counties in Iowa, and there’s not a negative narrative that came out of all of that,” he said. “I’m not making an endorsement nor leaning in a direction, but I want to encourage those who are looking at the presidency to come to Iowa and compete.”

In addition to Romney, there are many faces among the crop of likely candidates who are familiar to Iowa voters.

But that’s not a concern to King.

“The experience of being a candidate before is valuable in a contest like this…especially in Iowa,” he said. “The nomination process is a crucible that brings out the best in the candidates, sorts things out, and the ideas, the planks for the platform, emerge also in that kind of competition.”

One issue that is of particular interest to King when it comes to deciding whom he will endorse: their stance on immigration reform. King is strongly against giving immigrants who came to the United States illegally a pathway to citizenship.

“I am looking for a full-spectrum constitutional conservative who has reverence for their own oath to the Constitution, and one who will work to restore the rule of law, and one who will be used to restore the soul of America,” King said.

He explained that his stance on the issue is grounded in a strict interpretation of the Constitution and respect for the rule of law — something he says has been “damaged severely under this president.”

King stirred up controversy on Twitter earlier this week when he called one of the guests invited to sit with first lady Michelle Obama during the State of the Union — someone the White House would call a “DREAMer” — a “deportable.”

King defended his use of the term “deportable,” calling it an accurate “legal term.”

“I would just direct people that have any question about that to AUSC 1227, which is the section in the U.S. Code that is titled this: ‘Deportable Aliens,’” he said. “I mean, it is a legal term.”

Asked if his uncompromising stance on immigration makes him an “outlier” in his party, King embraced the label.

“If by outlier you mean, in the classical sense, that my voice on these issues leads us to the place where a lot of the rest of the public is going to get eventually, once they think that through, perhaps I am an outlier,” he said.

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Architect of the Capitol(WASHINGTON) — As the annual March for Life event took place in Washington Thursday, House Republican lawmakers passed pro-life legislation that was more limited in scope than was previously intended.

The bill, which was approved by a vote of 239-to-179, would cut taxpayer funding for abortions.

However, due to a rebellion by a group of Republican women, the House leadership changed course and opted not to bring up a measure further limiting abortions after 20 weeks.

The bill yanked from the floor schedule, known as the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, would have rolled back the current policy from 24 weeks to 20 weeks.

However, many GOP women, including North Carolina Republican Renee Ellmers, opposed a provision in the bill that requires rape victims to report the incident to authorities in order to get an abortion.

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US Senate(WASHINGTON) — Sen. Marco Rubio has begun taking concrete steps toward launching a presidential bid, asking his top advisors to prepare for a campaign, signing on a leading Republican fundraiser, and planning extensive travel to early-voting states in the coming weeks, ABC News has learned.

“He has told us to proceed as if he is running for president,” a senior Rubio advisor tells ABC News.

Leading the effort to raise the $50 million or more he’ll need to run in the Republican primaries will be Anna Rogers, currently the finance director for American Crossroads, the conservative group started by Karl Rove that raised more than $200 million to help elect Republicans over the past two elections.

Rogers will begin working at Rubio’s political action committee on Feb. 1 and would become the finance director of Rubio’s presidential campaign.

Rubio, 43, will gather on Friday and Saturday at the Delano Hotel in Miami with 300 supporters and major donors to his Reclaim America PAC to discuss his political future.

Aides expect Rubio will make a final decision in the comings weeks, but his schedule for the next month already looks more like the schedule of a presidential candidate than a senator.

ABC News has learned Rubio plans to skip all votes in the Senate next week and instead take a campaign fundraising swing through California with events in Beverly Hills, Newport Beach, Rancho Sante Fe and Costa Mesa. He also plans fundraising stops in Texas and Chicago.

Rubio has also scheduled a book tour that will take him to all the early primary states. A senior aide to the Florida senator tells ABC News Rubio’s book tour will include stops in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Florida and Nevada. The first stop is tentatively scheduled for February 13 in Des Moines.

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