Obama agenda includes regulatory and health reform


Feb 24 (Reuters) - President Barack Obama outlined his agenda for this year to a joint session of the U.S. Congress on Tuesday, promising additional steps to revive the economy and vowing to forge ahead with plans to reform healthcare.

Following are some of the issues Obama said he intended to pursue over the next year:

* REGULATORY REFORM: Obama urged Congress to pursue regulatory reform to prevent the kind of financial crisis that has rocked the U.S. economy over the past year. He said he was committed to changing the irresponsibility on Wall Street and in Washington that undermined U.S. financial firms. "Regulations were gutted for the sake of a quick profit at the expense of a healthy market," he said.

* FISCAL DISCIPLINE: Obama said efforts to restore the United States to financial health had to be accompanied by moves to restore fiscal discipline, and he repeated his promise to cut the deficit in half by the end of his four-year term.

He said the administration had begun going through the budget line by line and had found $2 trillion in savings over the next decade. Obama promised to end waste in education, agribusiness and the Medicare health program for the elderly.

* FINANCIAL STABILITY: Obama said credit markets still were not working as they should and the government was continuing to take action to restore financial stability. He said the administration was moving to create a lending fund to help provide auto loans, college loans and small business loans to get borrowing back to normal.

* CONFRONT HOUSING CRISIS: The president said he had launched a housing plan to help responsible families facing foreclosure to lower their monthly payments and refinance their mortgages.

* HEALTHCARE: Obama said money from the $787 billion economic stimulus plan approved by Congress would be used for research to fight cancer and to computerize health records. But he said the rapidly rising cost of healthcare made further reform an economic imperative. He said his budget plan this week would include a "downpayment" on the principle that all Americans should have access to affordable healthcare. More than 46 million people are uninsured.

* ENERGY INDEPENDENCE: Obama called on Congress to send him legislation that places a market-based cap on U.S. carbon polluting emissions and pushes the production of more renewable energy. He said his budget proposal to be released on Thursday would invest $15 billion a year on wind and solar power, advanced biofuels, clean coal and American-built cars and trucks that are more fuel efficient.

* EDUCATION: Obama said "a good education is no longer just a pathway to opportunity -- it is a prerequisite." He urged all Americans to commit to at least one year or more of higher education or career training, adding "every American will need to get more than a high school diploma." Obama urged Congress to make higher education affordable for all those willing to volunteer in their neighborhoods or serve the country. (Editing by Peter Cooney)



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