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Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels delivered the Republican response to the State of the Union address on Tuesday night. Watch the video:
The latter part of Obama’s address wins more applause than some of the earlier parts. The reason? It’s focused on national security, an area on which members on both sides of the aisle have had fewer disputes during this Congress.
“Above all, our freedom endures because of the men and women in uniform who defend it,” Obama says, his biggest applause line of the night.
He goes on to recount the story of Osama bin Laden’s death, mentioning by name Hillary Clinton and Bob Gates, who he notes is “a man who was George Bush’s defense secretary.”
As the address wraps up, Obama makes his way out of the chamber -- and is greeted with several enthusiastic rounds of applause from Democratic lawmakers standing near the exit, including Rep. Steve Rothman (D-N.J.), Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), and others.
Obama pledged to “maintain the finest military in the world” even as his administration moved forward with his agreement with Congress to slash projected increases in defense spending by about $480 billion over the next decade.
He gave no hint of how he intends to square that circle, but details should be forthcoming Thursday, when the Pentagon is scheduled to release the basic outline of the Obama administration’s proposed defense budget for 2013.
For the first time since the mid 1990s, the Pentagon is actually seeing its budget shrink. Congress recently approved a $531 billion defense budget for 2012, excluding the costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Obama’s proposal for 2013 is expected to be about 1 percent less. That may not sound like much, but it’s about $50 billion less than it had projected two years ago.
— Craig Whitlock , Pentagon and National Security Reporter
The Twitterverse was abuzz with Obama’s State of the Union this evening. Here’s a look at the topics that garnered some of the highest activity during his speech, according to the folks at Twitter Government:
“Spilled Milk” (14,131 tweets per minute at 9:51pm ET)
Innovation / Steve Jobs (13,956 TPM at 9:38pm ET)
Education / College Tuition (12,870 TPM at 9:35pm ET)
Energy (11,811 TPM at 9:41pm ET)
Institutional Reform (11,017 TPM at 10:04pm ET)
Obama got big applause for his standard “no options off the table” line on Iran, but only a smattering from either side of the aisle when he followed it by saying that “a peaceful resolution of this issue is still possible” if Tehran changes its nuclear policy.
He also gave a shout-out to what administration officials have said is one of the foundations of his foreign policy, standing for “the rights and dignity of all human beings--men and women; Christians, Muslims, and Jews.” Noting that “we have a huge stake” in the outcome of the revolutions roiling the Arab world, he made no mention of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute; no mention of Israel at all except for noting the “iron-clad committment” to Israel’s security and ongoing military cooperation.
— Karen DeYoung, National Security Correspondent
Obama spoke about the importance of good teachers, and said the government needs to keep them in the classroom and give them resources and flexibility to do their jobs. Without naming it, he referenced his administration’s signature school reform effort, Race to the Top, and credited it with persuading nearly all states to raise academic standards for primary and secondary education.
He sounded familiar themes of education reform, saying that great teachers should be rewarded and weak teachers removed. He challenged every state to keep students in school until they either graduate from high school or turn 18 – an attempt to reduce the number of dropouts, which is about one in four students nationally.
Obama said he wanted to give schools flexibility, so that educators could teach with creativity and stop teaching to the test. Critics have complained that the main federal education law, No Child Left Behind, places too much emphasis on testing, and that the Obama administration has not done enough to moderate the “drill and kill” test culture.
Education can be an economic catalyst, urging communities and the private sector to turn community colleges into career centers, where unemployed workers can learn new skills that fit the needs of employers, Obama said. He pointed to a partnership between Siemens Energy and the Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte, where the company and the college are training engineers and machinists to work in an expanded Siemens gas turbine facility.
’When Americans owe more in tuition debt than credit card debt...Congress needs to stop the interest rates on student loans from doubling— The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) January 25, 2012
Obama also hammered away on the theme of college affordability. College costs have increased at more than twice the rate of inflation over the past several decades and student loan debt burdens have grown significantly. He urged Congress to stop interest rates on student loans from doubling in July and to extend the tuition tax credit. But he also said he was putting colleges and universities on notice to rein in costs and adopt creative measures such as shortening the undergraduate program from four years to three or adopting technology such as online classes to save money.
— Lindsey Layton, Education Reporter
A few of Obama’s lines tonight are garnerning the applause of only Republicans in the chamber.
“The executive branch also needs to change,” Obama says after calling for a change in Senate rules. The line gets enthusiastic applause from a few House Republicans.
Obama also says he believes what Abraham Lincoln believed: “Government should do for people only what they cannot do better by themselves, and no more,” he says.
Notably, it’s mostly Republicans, not Democrats, who applaud.
President Obama’s call for rich Americans to pay higher taxes, made before he took office, began as an economic argument: It’d begin to reverse growing income inequality and be the best way to pay for the nation’s top priorities, such as developing sources of cleaning energy and improving access to higher education.
But as demonstrated in the State of the Union address, the tax argument has morphed into a moral issue for the president -- and a centerpiece of his decision to recast himself as a populist in the 2012 campaign.
“The president did not make much news in this area. Obama called for Congress to pass the “Buffett Rule” to make sure people earning more than $1 million pay at least the same tax rate as middle class Americans -- elaborating that he thinks these millionaires should pay at least 30 percent of their income in taxes. He declared he would not raise taxes on those making less than $250,000. And he called on Congress to extend the payroll tax cut through the end of the year.”
The executive strategy seems to fit with Obama’s belief that Americans share his belief system – that the government has a pro-active role to play in managing the economy in order to spread prosperity. Repeatedly during his speech, he described this mentality in terms of “American values.”
“We need to change our tax code so that people like me, and an awful lot of Members of Congress, pay our fair share of taxes,” Obama said. “Do we want to keep these tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans? Or do we want to keep our investments in everything else – like education and medical research; a strong military and care for our veterans? Because if we’re serious about paying down our debt, we can’t do both.”
— Zachary A. Goldfarb, White House Correspondent, Economic Policy
President Obama had plenty of nice words to say about oil and gas Tuesday night, saying, “We have a supply of natural gas that can last America nearly one hundred years, and my administration will take every possible action to safely develop this energy.” Even as he said he would require “all companies that drill for gas on public lands to disclose the chemicals they use,” he declared, “The development of natural gas will create jobs and power trucks and factories that are cleaner and cheaper, proving that we don’t have to choose between our environment and our economy.”
But oil and gas industry officials didn’t shower the president with praise in return. Independent Petroleum Association of America Chairman Virginia “Gigi” Lazenby issued a statement saying that it was nice the president thought energy jobs mattered. “But the truth behind the veil is that this tremendous broad-based economic and energy security success is largely in spite of this administration’s, at times, harshly anti-oil and natural gas policies, not because of them,” she said.
And Charlie Drevna, president of the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers, said in an interview before the speech, “The proof is in the action, and not the speech.” Referring to the controversial proposal to build and operate an oil pipeline between Canada and the U.S. Gulf Coast, which the administration just rejected last week, Drevna said, “A good action would be to give us the Keystone pipeline.”
— Juliet Eilperin, Environmental Correspondent
Apparently, there’s bipartisan appreciation for bad jokes.
Obama cracks a joke about a regulation that “could have forced some dairy farmers to spend $10,000 a year proving they could contain a spill -- because milk was somehow classified as an oil.”
“With a rule like that, I guess it was worth crying over spilled milk,” he says, to some laughs from the crowd.
President Obama’s announcement of yet another effort to allow homeowners to refinance their mortgages and yet another effort to investigate wrongdoing by lenders underscored how the nation’s housing market has become one of the most persistently difficult challenges facing the White House.
While the economy has recovered—albeit not sufficiently—since Obama came to office, the housing market has been dead, leaving millions of people owing more than properties are worth and facing foreclosure. A range of efforts by the Obama administration to the address the issue have fallen short.
During his address, Obama said he would send legislation to Capitol Hill to make it easier for homeowners to pay lower interest on their mortgages. That, he said, could save folks up to $3,000 per year. The refinance proposal followed several others made by his administration, including one in the fall that was targeted at people who owed more on their properties than their homes were worth.
Unlike earlier proposals, the new refinance measure will cover not only home loans guaranteed by federal mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, but also those owned by private investors, according to senior administration officials.
The president also announced he was forming a new Financial Crimes Unit of federal prosecutors and state attorneys general to intensify investigations into improper lending practices that were at the heart of the financial crisis.
This is nothing new. Obama formed a similar task force over two years ago to accomplish the same objective. The task force has brought a number of high profile cases, but many observers have been disappointed that regulators and prosecutors have been unable to bring a criminal case against a high-profile banking executive involved in the financial crisis.
A settlement to hold accountable banks for disregarding foreclosures laws has been in the works for more than a year, but with no result yet.
During the debt talks over the past year, Democrats have knocked around the idea of counting the savings from winding the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as going toward cutting the budget.
It’s an idea that Republicans have rejected time and again as budgeting “gimmickry.” And it’s one they reject again Tuesday night when Obama brings it up as a potential way of paying for new infrastructure spending.
“Take the money we’re no longer spending at war, use half of it to pay down our debt, and use the rest to do some nation-building right here at home,” he says, to applause from the Democratic side of the chamber.
President Obama jolted thousands of federal employees this month when he vowed to seek congressional authorization to establish a new Cabinet-level department responsible for trade and investment, job training and economic development.
The move would merge dozens of agencies, bureaus and offices responsible for trade and commerce and lead to the elimination of at least 3,000 federal jobs.
The proposals stemmed from a pledge Obama made in his 2011 State of the Union address, when he lamented the disparate nature of the federal bureaucracy and joked that at least two departments – Commerce and Interior – share federal responsibility of salmon.
The topic of government reorganization accounted for 15 sentences of Obama’s 2011 address.
On Tuesday, the issue earned just three: “The executive branch also needs to change,” Obama said. “Too often, it’s inefficient, outdated and remote. That’s why I’ve asked this Congress to grant me the authority to consolidate the federal bureaucracy so that our government is leaner, quicker, and more responsive to the needs of the American people.”
If presidential priorities are measured in sentences and word count, Obama’s reorganization plans won’t earn much of a push from the White House this year. And the fate of salmon will remain a multijurisdictional affair.
— Ed O’Keefe, The Federal Eye
As Obama has begun to get into the parts of his speech that don’t necessarily win bipartisan support, the partisan breakdown of the chamber becomes clear.
Despite several dozen lawmakers joining together to sit with others from across the aisle, the left side of the House chamber is still predominantly Democratic, and the right side is overwhelmingly Republican.
That means when Obama announces his support for comprehensive immigration reform, for instance, it’s the left-hand side – and a few scattered Democrats on the right -- that gives him a standing ovation.
Meanwhile, every year there’s the question of which Supreme Court justices will show up for the State of the Union. Tonight, it appears five are in the house: Justices Elena Kagan, Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Anthony Kennedy and Chief Justice John Roberts.
Before he even mentioned the words “economy” or “jobs,” President Obama listed a series of successes in the national security field that no political opponent could challenge--Osama bin Laden dead, no more Americans fighting in Iraq, gains against the Taliban and the withdrawal of about a third of the “surge” troops he sent to Afghanistan.
It’s too bad, he said, that other American institutions have “let us down” and haven’t learned from the military’s example. The U.S. armed forces, Obama noted without naming names, are “not consumed with personal ambition. They don’t obsess over their differences. They focus on the mission at hand. They work together.”
“Imagine what we could accomplish if we followed their example.”
— Karen DeYoung, National Security Correspondent
How do you think Obama is doing so far? Join our colleagues at The Fix for a live chat of the president’s State of the Union address.
Obama announces the creation of his new Trade Enforcement Unit, which he says “will be charged with investigating unfair trade practices in countries like China.”
“Our workers are the most productive on Earth, and if the playing field is level, Americans will always win,” he says, to a standing ovation from the entire chamber.
When it comes to trade and jobs, China, of course, has been a favorite target for Republican and Democratic lawmakers alike. (For more on that, see this summer’s debate on the China currency bill, which passed the Senate with overwhelming bipartisan support.)
“We bet on American workers. We bet on American ingenuity. And tonight, the American auto industry is back,” Obama says, drawing sustained applause.
He continues: “What’s happening in Detroit can happen in other industries.” It’s a line that draws applause from one lawmaker in particular – freshman Rep. Hansen Clarke (D-Mich.), who claps alone for an enthusiastic few seconds.
Obama goes on: “It can happen in Cleveland and Pittsburg and Raleigh.”
The mention of Cleveland gets a solo clap from another lawmaker – Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), sitting two seats to the left of Clarke.
President Obama arrives, greeted by lawmakers from both sides of the aisle. He makes his way over to where Gabby Giffords is seated and gives her a hug – and the chamber erupts into big cheers.
At the podium, Obama is using a teleprompter – but he’s also got a binder before him with the text of his speech typed out in large print.
In front of Obama, in the third row on the Republican side of the chamber, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) is seated next to an empty chair. That’s because he was planning to attend the speech together with Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), who is recovering at a Chicago hospital
Manchin and Kirk are among the many bipartisan-minded members who had planned to pair off for this year’s speech, just as they did last year in the weeks after the Tucson shooting.
The entire House is on its feet as Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) arrives in the chamber. It’s her second time back in the chamber since last year’s Tucson shooting and her first time back since August, when she made a surprise appearance for the debt-ceiling vote.
Giffords’s August appearance was a highly emotional one, and several members of Congress reacted with shock at the time – with some even weeping openly and standing on chairs to catch a glimpse of her.
This time, Giffords’ arrival was expected, and members don’t react with the same sort of disbelief, although members do greet her joyfully as she takes her spot at the front of the Democratic side. Giffords announced on Sunday that she plans to resign her seat at the end of the week.
Giffords’ husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, gives a wave to Giffords from up on the balcony, where he is standing next to Dr. Jill Biden, Vice President Biden’s wife.
After Giffords, Michelle Obama enters the chamber to a standing ovation. She’s wearing a royal blue dress and takes her spot in the balcony on the right side of the chamber, next to Kelly.
Next up is the president’s Cabinet. One member who is something of an unexpected sight: Bill Daley, the outgoing White House chief of staff who is being succeeded by OMB Director Jack Lew.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is skipping the State of the Union address as this year’s “designated survivor.” As our colleague Ed O’Keefe explains, one Cabinet secretary is chosen to miss the speech each year as a security precaution. Find a list of other “survivors” over at Federal Eye.
Two things will be different tonight compared to last year’s State of the Union address.
Bill Livingood, the longtime House sergeant-at-arms, retired late last year. In his place is the new sergeant-at-arms, Paul Irving.
The sergeant-at-arms is the chief protocol and security officer of the House, and the person responsible for announcing the president’s arrival in the chamber.
Another thing that will be different tonight: For the first time, there will be no House pages present during the president’s address. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced in August that the program was coming to an end.
The nation is watching on State of the Union night – and members of Congress know it.
Several dozen lawmakers are wearing bright colors tonight, in the hopes of catching the yes of viewers tuning in on millions of TVs across the country.
See if you can spot Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), both wearing bright orange; Reps. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), Cathy McMorris-Rogers (R-Wash.) and Gwen Moore (D-Wis.), all clad in bright green; and Reps. Shelley Berkley (D-Nev.) and Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), clad in fuchsia and deep purple.
Among the gentlemen, Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) stands out: he’s wearing a light-blue bowtie.
What happens at the Capitol on State of the Union day? Here’s an inside look at some of the day’s action.
Statuary Hall, on the second floor of the Capitol just north of the House chamber, serves as the post-State of the Union “spin room,” where members of Congress and other visitors give their take on how the president’s address went.
Below, Statuary Hall gets ready for business Tuesday afternoon.
Reporters, photographers, staff and others gather in the House Press Gallery on the third floor of the Capitol, ahead of Obama’s speech.
Greetings, liveblog readers! We’re live in the House chamber ahead of tonight’s State of the Union address, which kicks off at 9 p.m. Eastern.
Tonight’s speech will be President Obama’s third State of the Union (his first address to a joint session, in February 2009, was technically a message to Congress and not a State of the Union).
.It will also be his sixth address to Congress overall; he delivered a September 2009 speech on health care reform (during which Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) famously yelled, “You lie!”) as well as a September 2010 address on jobs
Join us as we follow the night’s developments, and be sure to refresh this page often and check @2chambers on Twitter for the latest.
Among the special guests in the house tonight are Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) and her husband, astronaut Mark Kelly. Giffords, who was shot in the head at a constituent event last year in Tucson, is making her first return to the House chamber since August, when she made an emotional, unexpected visit to vote for the debt-ceiling deal.
With hours to go before President Obama’s speech, the Washington press corps (including our very own Felicia Sonmez, top) descended upon the Capitol. For live Tweets on tonight’s address, follow politics bloggers Sonmez (@2chambers, Chris Cillizza (@TheFix) Ed O'Keefe (@edatpost), or subscribe to our #SOTU Twitter list.