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Live updates: State of the Union

January 29, 2014

President Obama is delivering his fifth State of the Union speech to a joint session of Congress. He is stressing executive actions he will take this coming year — what aides say will be a touchstone of his style of governance in his final years in office. Check here for the latest updates and analysis on the speech and accompanying pageantry.

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  • Natalie Jennings
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Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) delivered the official Republican response to President Obama’s State of the Union address. Hers was followed by three other Republicans’ rebuttals:  Sen. Mike Lee (Utah) delivered the tea party response, Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.) gave a response on his YouTube page and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Fla.) delivered a Spanish-language only version.

Watch Rodgers, Lee and Paul’s remarks here, then read Robert Costa and Paul Kane’s analysis of what the splintered response from Republicans says about the party.

  • Jaime Fuller
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The Washington Post editorial board’s take on the State of the Union: “President Obama’s patience with Congress is at an end.’

Jennifer Rubin writes, “If you expected an excessively long State of the Union address, a disingenuous defense of Obamacare and small-ball unilateral moves, you were not disappointed. On the other hand, liberals can’t be that thrilled either.”

On the Plum Line, Ryan Cooper has this to say on Obama and climate-change legislation: “This is a good signal that President Obama intends to finish what he has started.”

  • Jaime Fuller
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  • Josh Hicks
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Before ending his speech with a reference to wounded veteran Cory Remsburg, President Obama briefly alluded to the massive backlog of disability claims that has plagued the Department of Veterans Affairs for years.

“We’ll keep slashing that backlog so our veterans receive the benefits they’ve earned, and our wounded warriors receive the health care – including the mental health care – that they need,” Obama said.

But he did not use the word “disability” when talking about the issue, or at all during the speech, so listeners may have wondered what he was referring to.

The inventory stood at 391,000 cases when Obama took office, and it reached a peak of 900,000 in March 2013, with some cases taking close to a year for resolution. The backlog has since been reduced by 34 percent, according to the administration.

  • Aaron Blake
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Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) isn’t the official GOP responder or even the tea party responder, but he still recorded a 9-minute-plus response to Obama’s address.

Here’s the full video:

  • Aaron Blake
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  • Jaime Fuller
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We’ll get in-depth analyses of Obama’s speech and his policy proposals tomorrow; until then, the best we have is Twitter. Here’s a sample of reactions to Obama’s fifth State of the Union.

  • Paul Kane
  • ·

Here’s what House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) had to say after Obama’s speech:

“After five years, President Obama is clearly out of ideas. With few bipartisan proposals, Americans heard a president more interested in advancing ideology than in solving the problems regular folks are talking about. Instead of our areas of common ground, the president focused too much on the things that divide us – many we’ve heard before – and warnings of unilateral action. The president must understand his power is limited by our constitution, and the authority he does have doesn’t add up to much for those without opportunity in this economy.”

  • Doug Wong
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Chris Cillizza posts a “handful of major takeaways” on President Obama’s speech.

  • Karen Tumulty
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The most emotional moment of President Obama’s State of the Union address was his recognition of the struggles of Army Ranger Cory Remsburg.

But even as the story tugged at America’s heart, one of Obama’s appointees argued that there was something missing.

“I wish all the legislators clapping for Cory would pass legislation that helps people with disabilities,” said Equal Employment Opportunity Commissioner Chai R. Feldblum. “The president could have helped that if he had included disability when he mentioned the inherent dignity and equality of all people, and listed race, sex, religion and sexual orientation, but not disability.”

In 2012, the Senate rejected ratification of a global treaty that aims to improve services and rights of the disabled. The Convention on the Rights of Persons received  only 61 votes — five short of the two-thirds needed.

  • Doug Wong
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One of the best seats in the House during the State of the Union has to be next to the first lady. Most of the guests represent a point the president wants to make through his speech. This graphic shows who was seated next to Michelle Obama tonight.

  • Aaron Blake
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“Americans deserve more opportunities to achieve a better life, and that’s going to require a free enterprise economy that’s creating more middle class jobs and a government with less debt. While the president discussed some areas of common interest, the heart of his 2014 agenda is clearly more about working alone than with the American people’s representatives on the major reforms we need.

“President Obama missed an opportunity on several fronts, especially by insisting that Washington keep spending more money than it takes in, keep dictating to entrepreneurs how to run their businesses, and failing to level with the American people about how we can save our retirement programs. We need a real opportunity agenda that helps people seize the enormous potential that the coming years hold.”

  • Doug Wong
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Brad Plumer outlines seven initiatives that President Obama said he was ready to act on his own if he can’t get Congress to pass legislation.

That meant anything from executive orders to partnerships with corporations.

“So,” Obama said, “wherever and whenever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families, that’s what I’m going to do.”

But what does that entail, exactly? Below are seven of the biggest steps Obama said he’d take on his own. Some of them are pretty marginal. Others, like his environmental regulations for power plants, are potentially far-reaching.

Read the full post here.

  • Aaron Blake
  • ·

A little nod to the immigration issue here, but no real indication about which direction House leadership is headed in.

“Yes, it’s time to honor our history of legal immigration,” McMorris Rodgers said. “We’re working on a step-by-step solution to immigration reform by first securing our borders and making sure America will always attract the best, brightest, and hardest working from around the world.”

The GOP is torn over this issue, with some leaders wanting to talk about a path to citizenship and most of the GOP base balking at that prospect.

One of the big questions of 2014 is what kind of immigration bills the House GOP produces. Tonight probably didn’t shed much light on that.

  • Aaron Blake
  • ·

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) was picked for this speaking slot in large part because of her biography — growing up an a farm, being elected to Congress and having three children, including one born just two months ago.

McMorris Rodgers talked more Tuesday, though, about her first-born, who was born with Down syndrome.

“But when we looked at our son, we saw only possibilities. We saw a gift from God,” McMorris Rodgers said. “Today we see a 6-year old boy who dances to Bruce Springsteen, who reads above grade level and who is the best big brother in the world. We see all the things he can do, not those he can’t.”

  • Ernesto Londoño
  • ·

Iraq and Egypt, two countries that have been keeping administration staffers up at night in recent weeks, did not get substantive mentions in tonight’s speech.

Last year, Obama pledged to people in the Middle East: “We will stand with citizens as they demand their universal rights and support stable transitions to democracy.”

This year there was no mention of Egypt, whose first democratically elected president was ousted by the military last summer in a coup. Since then, Washington has sought to maintain a strong relationship with the Egyptian military, which appears to be steering the country back to its authoritarian past.

Obama made a fleeting mention of al-Qaeda-linked cells that have taken root in Iraq, but his remarks did not delve into how dramatically violence there has surged in the wake of the 2011 U.S. military withdrawal.

  • Aaron Blake
  • ·

Here are Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers’s (R-Wash.) prepared remarks:

What an honor it is for me to be with you after the President’s State of the Union.

Tonight we honor America – a nation that has witnessed the greatest rise of freedom and opportunity our world has ever seen. 

A nation where we are not defined by our limits, but by our potential.

And a nation where a girl who worked at the McDonald’s Drive-Thru to help pay for college can be with you from the United States Capitol.

But the most important moments right now aren’t happening here. 

They’re not in the Oval Office or in the House Chamber. 

They’re in your homes. 

Kissing your kids goodnight…

Figuring out how to pay the bills…

Getting ready for tomorrow’s doctor’s visit…

Waiting to hear from those you love serving in Afghanistan, or searching for that big job interview.

After all, ‘We the People’ have been the foundation of America since her earliest days – people from all walks of life, and from all corners of the world – people who come to America because here, no challenge is too great and no dream too big. 

That’s the genius of America.

Tonight the President made more promises that sound good, but won’t solve the problems actually facing Americans. 

We want you to have a better life.  The President wants that too. 

But we part ways when it comes to how to make that happen.  

So tonight I’d like to share a more hopeful, Republican vision…

One that empowers you, not the government… 

It’s one that champions free markets – and trusts people to make their own decisions, not a government that decides for you.

It helps working families rise above the limits of poverty and protects our most vulnerable. 

And it’s one where Washington plays by the same rules that you do.

It’s a vision that is fair and offers the promise of a better future for every American. 

If you had told me as a little girl that one-day I would put my hand on the Bible and be sworn in as the 200th woman to serve in the House of Representatives, I never would’ve thought it possible.

I grew up working at my family’s orchard and fruit stand in Kettle Falls, a small town in Eastern Washington – getting up before dawn with my brother to pick apples. 

My dad drove a school bus and my mom worked as a part-time bookkeeper. 

They taught me to work hard, help others, and always, always dream for more. 

So, when I showed my 4H animals at the county fair, my parents used to say to me, “Cathy, you need to save this money so you can go to college one day!” 

So I did – I saved, I worked hard, and I became the first in my family to graduate from college. 

The chance to go from my Washington to this one was unexpected.

I came to Congress to help empower people, not politicians;

To grow the working middle class, not the government;

And to ensure that everyone in this country can find a job. 

Because a job is so much more than just a paycheck –

It gives us purpose, dignity, and the foundation to build a future.

I was single when I was elected – but it wasn’t long before I met Brian, a retired Navy commander, and now we have three beautiful children, one who was born just eight weeks ago. 

Like all parents, we have high hopes and dreams for our children, but we also know what it’s like to face challenges.

Three days after we gave birth to our son, Cole, we got news no parent expects. 

Cole was diagnosed with Down syndrome. 

The doctors told us he could have endless complications, heart defects, even early Alzheimer’s. 

They told us all the problems.

But when we looked at our son, we saw only possibilities. 

We saw a gift from God. 

Today we see a 6-year old boy who dances to Bruce Springsteen; who reads above grade level; and who is the best big brother in the world.

We see all the things he can do, not those he can’t. 

Cole, and his sisters, Grace and Brynn, have only made me more determined to see the potential in every human life – that whether we are born with an extra twenty-first chromosome or without a dollar to our name – we are not defined by our limits, but by our potential.  

Because our mission – not only as Republicans, but as Americans, is to once again to ensure that we are not bound by where we come from, but empowered by what we can become.

That is the gap Republicans are working to close. 

It’s the gap we all face: between where you are and where you want to be. 

The President talks a lot about income inequality. 

But the real gap we face today is one of opportunity inequality…

And with this Administration’s policies, that gap has become far too wide.

We see this gap growing every single day. 

We see it in our neighbors who are struggling to find jobs…

A husband who’s now working just part-time… 

A child who drops out of college because she can’t afford tuition…

Or parents who are outliving their life’s savings.

Last month, more Americans stopped looking for a job than found one.  Too many people are falling further and further behind because, right now, the President’s policies are making people’s lives harder.

Republicans have plans to close the gap…

Plans that focus on jobs first without more spending, government bailouts, and red tape…

Every day, we’re working to expand our economy, one manufacturing job, nursing degree and small business at a time.  

We have plans to improve our education and training systems so you have the choice to determine where your kids go to school…so college is affordable…and skills training is modernized. 

And yes, it’s time to honor our history of legal immigration.  We’re working on a step-by-step solution to immigration reform by first securing our borders and making sure America will always attract the best, brightest, and hardest working from around the world. 

And with too many Americans living paycheck to paycheck, we have solutions to help you take home more of your pay – through lower taxes, cheaper energy costs, and affordable health care.

Not long ago I got a letter from Bette in Spokane, who hoped the President’s health care law would save her money – but found out instead that her premiums were going up nearly $700 a month. 

No, we shouldn’t go back to the way things were, but this law is not working.  Republicans believe health care choices should be yours, not the government’s.

And that whether you’re a boy with Down syndrome or a woman with breast cancer … you can find coverage and a doctor who will treat you. 

So we hope the President will join us in a year of real action – by empowering people – not making their lives harder with unprecedented spending, higher taxes, and fewer jobs.  

As Republicans, we advance these plans every day because we believe in a government that trusts people and doesn’t limit where you finish because of where you started. 

That is what we stand for – for an America that is every bit as compassionate as it is exceptional. 

If we’re successful…

Years from now our children will say that we rebuilt the American Dream.

We built a working middle class that could take in anyone, and a workforce that could take on the world.

Whether you’re a girl in Kettle Falls or a boy from Brooklyn, our children should be able to say that we closed the gap. 

Our plan is one that dreams big for everyone and turns its back on no one.

The President said many things tonight. 

But now, we ask him to listen – to you – for the true state of the union lies in your heart and in your home.

Tomorrow, I’ll watch my son Cole get on the school bus; others will wait in the doctor’s office or interview for that first job. 

Some of us will celebrate new beginnings…

Others will face great challenges…

But all of us will wake up and do what is uniquely American… 

We will look forward to the boundless potential that lies ahead.

We will give thanks to the brave men and women who have answered America’s call to freedom, like Sgt. Jacob Hess from Spokane, who recently gave his life to protect all of ours.

So, tonight, I simply offer a prayer…

A prayer for Sgt. Hess’s family, your family, and for our larger American family.

That, with the guidance of God, we may prove worthy of His blessings of life … liberty … and the pursuit of happiness.

For when we embrace these gifts, we are each doing our part to form a more perfect union.

May God guide you and our President, and may God continue to bless the United States of America.

  • Ed O'Keefe
  • ·

As President Obama shook hands on his way out of the House Chamber, Rep. Vance McAllister (R-La.) leaned in and motioned up to the balcony, urging the president to give a wave to Willie Robertson.

Obama quickly obliged, waving in the direction of the “Duck Dynasty” star.

Robertson was the invited guest of McAllister.

  • Aaron Blake
  • ·

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius:

Obamacare in a GIF #stateoftheunion #SOTU on Twitpic

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