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Live Updates: State of the Union

January 21, 2015

Read the transcript of Obama’s speech here and the transcript of Sen. Joni Ernst’s GOP response here, and follow along for news and analysis of Obama’s proposals, responses, and more.

  • Divya Verma
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  • Divya Verma
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  • Hunter Schwarz
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President Obama’s remark about winning both campaigns was the moment that spurred the most conversation during the State of the Union, according to Twitter data.

The most tweeted topics were community college, equal pay, climate change, tax reform, and healthcare.

  • Niraj Chokshi
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President Obama's speech, as delivered. (Wordle)

President Obama’s speech, as delivered. (Wordle)

The above word cloud shows the relative frequency with which the president used various words in his speech, as delivered on Tuesday night.

  • Katie Zezima
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  • Mark Berman
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Here are the complete remarks of Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), who is delivering the Republican response to the State of the Union.

  • Mark Berman
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A few of the politicians who may wind up running to succeed Obama in office issued responses to his speech:

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R), who lost to Obama in 2012 and is considering a third presidential campaign in 2016, called the speech “disappointing” in a Facebook post.

“True to form, the President in his State of the Union speech is more interested in politics than in leadership,” he wrote. “More intent on winning elections than on winning progress, he ignores the fact that the country has elected a Congress that favors smaller government and lower taxes.”

Rick Santorum, a former presidential candidate and U.S. senator, issued a statement that was critical of what he called Obama’s “only passing reference to national security.”

“He failed to pay any meaningful attention to the threat of radical Islamic terrorists,” Santorum (R) said. “President Obama calls for a broader, smarter strategy, but that is not possible if he refuses to articulate who our enemies are. We need someone in the White House with the experience to navigate our national security challenges and the fortitude to be straight with the American people on how to tackle them. Inauguration Day 2017 cannot come soon enough.”

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) posted a video response on Facebook:

Jeb Bush, the former governor of Florida, praised the official Republican response given by Sen. Joni Ernst.

“It’s unfortunate President Obama wants to use the tax code to divide us – instead of proposing reforms to create economic opportunity for every American,” Bush (R) posted on Facebook. “We can do better. My friend Joni Ernst offered a great contrast, outlining a positive, conservative vision for reform. I hope President Obama will be mindful of the strong message American voters sent in November and will work with our new Congressional majority on achieving solutions we know have broad-based appeal.”

Other possible candidates, like Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R), criticized the speech before it had occurred.

  • Dennis Brady
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The shift in recent years away from blockbuster drugs aimed at millions of patients toward more specialized treatments aimed at an individual’s genetic makeup has been rapid and profound. On Tuesday evening, the approach known as personalized, or precision, medicine got a boost from President Obama.

“I want the country that eliminated polio and mapped the human genome to lead a new era of medicine — one that delivers the right treatment at the right time,” Obama said in a prepared copy of his State of the Union address. He said he intends to launch a new Precision Medicine Initiative “to bring us closer to curing diseases like cancer and diabetes — and to give all of us access to the personalized information we need to keep ourselves and our families healthier.”

The brief mention was short on details about the goals of such an initiative, how it would be funded and who would benefit. But the push comes at a time when the biotech industry is soaring, largely because of recent success in using genetic research to target promising new treatments to very specific disease populations.

Of the 41 new drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration last year, nearly half were aimed at rare diseases that affect 200,000 or fewer Americans. The push toward more personalized medicines in recent years has led to breakthroughs in treatments for a growing range of diseases, including hepatitis C and specific types of cancer.

“In some patients with cystic fibrosis, this approach has reversed a disease once thought unstoppable,” Obama said.

One of those patients, 27-year-old medical student William Elder, Jr. , was a guest of Michelle Obama’s guests in the House chamber on Tuesday evening. Diagnosed with cystic fibrosis nearly two decades ago, Elder once might have been expected to survive only into early adulthood. But he has benefitted from a much-heralded drug known as Kalydeco, approved by the FDA in 2012, that targets the underlying cause of cystic fibrosis for a subset of patients with a specific genetic mutation. Like many new targeted medicines, the price tag of the drug has caused concern among patients and insurers – it runs about $300,000 per year. But for patients who can reap its benefits, the drug has been nothing short of a miracle.

“For most of medicine’s history, and with notable exceptions like blood transfusion, physicians have been forced to approach prevention and treatment of disease based on the expected response of an average patient because that was the best that could be done,” Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, wrote recently in the Journal of the American Medical Association. “However, a more precise, personalized approach to medicine is becoming possible. One major reason is that the cost of sequencing a human genome has declined substantially and is approaching $1000—an astounding figure considering that it cost about $400 million to produce the first sequence of the human genome a little more than a decade ago.”

  • Niraj Chokshi
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The Washington Blade reports on an alleged State of the Union first.

Indeed, a review of archived addresses since shows no mention of either term since at least 1990.

  • Terri Rupar
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Rep. Marsha Blackburn looks at her phone during the address. (Ricky Carioti/The Post)

Rep. Marsha Blackburn looks at her phone during the address. (Ricky Carioti/The Post)

  • Katie Zezima
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President Obama had lunch with Rebekah Erler, the woman he mentioned in the speech, last year in Minneapolis. Our colleague David Nakamura wrote about it in June.

First lady Michelle Obama applauds on  Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015, before President Barack Obama's State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress. From left are, Anthony Mendez, Mrs. Obama, Rebekah Erler and Jill Biden. (AP/J. Scott Applewhite)

Left to right: Anthony Mendez, First Lady Michelle Obama, Rebekah Erler and Jill Biden. (AP/J. Scott Applewhite)

  • Washington Post
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“Obama’s State of the Union speech is one, giant hug for Elon Musk,” writes Brian Fung over on The Switch.

To be sure, Obama has a particular obsession with solar. But it’s hard to avoid noticing the considerable overlap here with SpaceX, Tesla and SolarCity.

In Obama’s eyes, Musk may as well change his name to Midas.

  • Mark Berman
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During a section on improving politics and moving forward, Obama made a departure from his prepared remarks. “I have no more campaigns to run,” he said, remarks that drew some applause from those in attendance. He followed that by adding a line that was not in the address released by the White House: “I know, because I won both of them.”

  • Katie Zezima
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“I have no more campaigns to run,” Obama said. “I know because I won both of them.”

The White House quickly tweeted this line, and the response was what you might expect:

  • Wesley Lowery
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“We may have different takes on the events of Ferguson and New York. But surely we can understand a father who fears his son can’t walk home without being harassed. Surely we can understand the wife who won’t rest until the police officer she married walks through the front door at the end of his shift. Surely we can agree it’s a good thing that for the first time in 40 years, the crime rate and the incarceration rate have come down together, and use that as a starting point for Democrats and Republicans, community leaders and law enforcement, to reform America’s criminal justice system so that it protects and serves us all.”

After a year in which a series of high profile deaths of unarmed black men at the hands of police officers reignited debate about law enforcement and justice in minority communities, President Obama invoked the unrest in Ferguson, Mo and New York City in tonight’s State of the Union address.

“That’s a better politics. That’s how we start rebuilding trust. That’s how we move this country forward. That’s what the American people want,” Obama said. “That’s what they deserve.”

Protests and, at times, violent riots, broke out last August in Ferguson, Mo following the shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown by a white police officer. After months of national spotlight, a grand jury declined to charge the officer, Darren Wilson, prompting new riots and renewed protests across the country. Weeks later, a grand jury in New York declined to charge the NYPD officer who choked and killed Eric Garner whose final words “I can’t breathe” became a protest rallying cry.

Many have questioned how, as the first minority president of a nation whose domestic issues are often belied by race and ethnicity, Obama should best handle the tension in Ferguson and protests across the country. The president has publicly addressed Ferguson and the current tension between protesters and law enforcement at least half a dozen times. During those remarks, he has stuck to a similar script: avoiding remarks about the specifics of any individual cases, stressing that law enforcement officers make tremendous sacrifices, but insisting that the distrust between many communities and police is real and must be undone.

The comments tonight were the first time since 2010 that Obama directly referred to issues of racial civil rights during his State of the Union speech.

In that speech, his first State of the Union address, Obama invoked the 1965 Bloody Sunday march in Selma, Alabama that was a major turning point in the Civil Rights Movement’s push for voting rights legislation. That march, during which police officers attacked protesters leaving many injured, was recently recreated in the movie “Selma,” and the White House announced earlier in the day Tuesday that Obama will visit Selma in March to mark the 50th anniversary.

“It’s tempting to look back on these moments and assume that our progress was inevitable, that America was always destined to succeed. But when the Union was turned back at Bull Run and the Allies first landed at Omaha Beach, victory was very much in doubt. When the market crashed on Black Tuesday and civil rights marchers were beaten on Bloody Sunday, the future was anything but certain,” Obama said near the beginning of the 2010 speech. “These were the times that tested the courage of our convictions and the strength of our union. And despite all our divisions and disagreements, our hesitations and our fears, America prevailed because we chose to move forward as one nation, as one people.”

Obama again addressed Selma in tonight’s speech, invoking the march led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders in calling for Congress to work to expand ballot access — which has been a major legislative focus for some Democrats since the Supreme Court gutted parts of the Voting Rights Act two years ago.

“We may go at it in campaign season, but surely we can agree that the right to vote is sacred; that it’s being denied to too many; and that, on this 50th anniversary of the great march from Selma to Montgomery and the passage of the Voting Rights Act, we can come together, Democrats and Republicans, to make voting easier for every single American,” Obama said tonight.

  • Terri Rupar
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Editorial cartoonist Ann Telnaes is live-sketching the State of the Union address. You can follow her on Twitter or Instagram or here, with us.

The different reactions to equal pay during #SOTU

A photo posted by Ann Telnaes (@anntelnaes) on

  • Katie Zezima
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Obama said he has seen same-sex marriage go from a “wedge issue used to drive us apart to a story of freedom across our country, a civil right now legal in states that seven in ten Americans call home.”

  • Katie Zezima
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“Over the past six years, the pundits have pointed out more than once that my presidency hasn’t delivered on this vision.  How ironic, they say, that our politics seems more divided than ever.  It’s held up as proof not just of my own flaws – of which there are many – but also as proof that the vision itself is misguided, and naïve, and that there are too many people in this town who actually benefit from partisanship and gridlock for us to ever do anything about it. I know how tempting such cynicism may be.  But I still think the cynics are wrong. I still believe that we are one people.  I still believe that together, we can do great things, even when the odds are long.”

  • Katie Zezima
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“You know, just over a decade ago, I gave a speech in Boston where I said there wasn’t a liberal America, or a conservative America; a black America or a white America – but a United States of America.  I said this because I had seen it in my own life, in a nation that gave someone like me a chance,” Obama said, reflecting on the 2004 Democratic National Convention speech that vaulted him to national fame.

  • Katie Zezima
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As Americans, we respect human dignity, even when we’re threatened, which is why I’ve prohibited torture, and worked to make sure our use of new technology like drones is properly constrained.  It’s why we speak out against the deplorable anti-Semitism that has resurfaced in certain parts of the world.  It’s why we continue to reject offensive stereotypes of Muslims – the vast majority of whom share our commitment to peace,” he said, which is why the U.S. defends free speech and condemns “the persecution of women, or religious minorities, or people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.”

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