"If people are hungry, you want to make sure that we're spending appropriately so that nobody goes hungry," said Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vt., who sits on the Senate Budget Committee. "If we're spending money on weapons systems that are no longer relevant in the fight against terrorism, you want to eliminate that."
Obama acknowledged concerns from his own party that the government cannot freeze spending in tough economic times.
"I agree, which is why this freeze will not take effect until next year, when the economy is stronger," he said. "But understand – if we do not take meaningful steps to rein in our debt, it could damage our markets, increase the cost of borrowing, and jeopardize our recovery – all of which could have an even worse effect on our job growth and family incomes."
Meanwhile, conservatives say that the president is not cutting nearly enough federal spending.
"We've been on quite a binge over the last 12 months, and it's going to take a lot more than just this kind of modest freeze to get us back on the right track," said Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
Obama tonight pushed for a bipartisan commission to make recommendations on how to reduce the national debt, despite the Senate's voting Tuesday against a measure that would have created an entity, modeled after the Base Closure Commission, to issue such recommendations.
The fiscal commission vote failed with 53 votes, seven shy of the required 60. Even seven of the bill's original cosponsors voted against it. Obama said tonight he will issue an executive order to "allow us to go forward" with such a measure because he refused "to pass this problem on to another generation of Americans."
The president said tonight that the commission "can't be one of those Washington gimmicks that lets us pretend we solved a problem."
"The commission will have to provide a specific set of solutions by a certain deadline," he said.
But one of the lead sponsors of the failed bill, Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., said a commission created by executive order and not by Congress itself was of questionable worth.
"I don't see how that's effective, because there's no assurance at all of a vote on the recommendations of the commission," Conrad told reporters Tuesday.
The Senate bill would have required Congress to vote on its recommendations.
Obama renewed his pledge to repeal the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" ban on gays and lesbians serving openly in the military.
"This year, I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are," Obama said.
Though he planned to work on the repeal this year, Obama did not seem to guarantee it would be repealed in 2010.
The president ran through a list of domestic policy priorities he wants to push this year, including an education overhaul.
"The idea here is simple: instead of rewarding failure, we only reward success," he said. "Instead of funding the status quo, we only invest in reform -- reform that raises student achievement, inspires students to excel in math and science, and turns around failing schools that steal the future of too many young Americans, from rural communities to inner cities."