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Obama's New Year's resolution? Fix the economy

By Reuters

US President Barack Obama has set his New Year's resolution high for 2011: repair the struggling economy.

In his weekly radio and Internet address on Saturday, the vacationing president said recent data showed the economic recovery was gaining traction even as millions of Americans are still out of work.

"Our most important task now is to keep that recovery going," Obama said. "As president, that's my commitment to you: to do everything I can to make sure our economy is growing, creating jobs, and strengthening our middle class. That's my resolution for the coming year."

Unemployment of nearly 10 per cent and dissatisfaction with Obama's efforts to spur an economic recovery from the worst recession in decades helped fuel Republican victories in congressional elections in November.

Republicans will control the House of Representatives next year and Democrats will have a smaller majority in the Senate, a new political reality that will affect Obama's ability to push through his policy priorities.

The president, who forged a deal with Republicans to extend Bush-era tax cuts in the waning days of 2010, sought to strike a bipartisan note in his address.

"In a few days, a new Congress will form, with one house controlled by Democrats, and one house controlled by Republicans -- who now have a shared responsibility to move this country forward," he said.

"I'm willing to work with anyone of either party who's got a good idea and the commitment to see it through."

One area where Democrats and Republicans will be challenged to work together is on deficit and debt reduction.

Senator-elect Kelly Ayotte, a Republican from New Hampshire, said her party was ready to spearhead that effort.

"Congress must get serious about meaningful debt reduction," she said in the weekly Republican address.

"This isn't a Republican problem or a Democrat problem -- it's an American problem that will require tough decision-making from both parties. Republicans are ready to lead that fight."