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Declaring an end to "mindless austerity," President Barack Obama called for a surge in government spending Thursday and asked Congress to throw out the sweeping budget cuts both parties agreed to four years ago when deficits were spiraling out of control.

Obama's proposed $74 billion in added spending — about 7 percent — would be divided about evenly between defense programs and the domestic side of the budget. Although he's sought before to reverse the "sequester" spending cuts, Obama's pitch in this year's budget comes with the added oomph of an improving economy and big recent declines in federal deficits.

In remarks in Philadelphia, Obama told House Democrats gathered for their annual retreat: "We need to stand up and go on the offensive and not be defensive about what we believe in." He mocked Republicans for their leaders' newfound interest in poverty and the middle class, questioning whether they would back it up with substance when it mattered.

Republicans promise to produce a balanced budget blueprint this spring even as they worry about Pentagon spending. The Senate's No. 2 Republican, John Cornyn of Texas, dismissed the Obama proposals as "happy talk," while Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania chided the president for "abandoning spending discipline."

IMAGE: President Barack Obama speaks Thursday in Philadelphia
President Barack Obama addresses House Democrats on Thursday in Philadelphia.Tom Gralish / AP



— The Associated Press