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President Barack Obama on Thursday called on Congress and state governments to increase paid leave for American workers, the latest in a series of ambitious new policies he is rolling out ahead of the State of the Union address.

The president directed federal agencies to allow workers six weeks of paid leave to care for a new child or sick family members. Obama is also asking Congress for $2 billion in new funds to help states form paid family and medical leave programs and to pass legislation that would give federal employees an additional six weeks of paid parental leave.

"This is an issue that spans geography, it spans demographics," Obama told reporters at a cafe in Baltimore, Maryland. "Working families, middle class folks all across the country are concerned about it and the good news is we really can do something about it"

He made the stop with Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., before addressing a Senate Democratic retreat.

-- Andrew Rafferty