11:27 p.m. – Actually, one more. No, two. First, this is interesting. Conservative Richard Viguerie criticizes both Obama and congressional Republicans.
“It’s no surprise President Obama wants more federal spending. On top of the trillions he’s already spent and the trillions he’s added to the national debt, he wants even more. As highly dangerous as that is, it’s just Obama being Obama.
“But it’s disappointing that Republicans have so far not come up with a serious plan to rescind the enormous spending of the Democratic and Republican Administrations going back to Bill Clinton.
“What the Republicans have put forth is way too timid. Once again, the GOP is being big government lite.”
And the Economic Policy Institute is the latest in a long line today to target Paul Ryan’s “Road Map.” Here is an EPI release:
“Chairman Ryan has articulated a plan to drastically reduce federal spending, but the Roadmap would nonetheless lead to an accumulation of debt for decades to come because proposed tax giveaways to wealthy individuals and corporations undermine the ability to address national problems and fund priorities. Indeed Ryan’s speech flatly denied the efficacy of government economic stabilization policies and fully ignored the crises at hand of stagnantly high unemployment, depressed economic output, and anemic economic recovery. A nation with nearly fifteen million Americans looking for dignified work, a sweeping foreclosure crisis, and rising poverty cannot be described as a having a hammock of a social safety net, as Ryan insultingly asserted.”
You can read Ryan’s “Road Map,” which so far is the only plan anyone has proposed to deal with entitlement spending, here.
11:26 p.m. – That’s it for the live blog tonight. Thanks for reading. The action really just begins now. It’s going to be an interesting year.
“Mr. President, you don’t believe in the Constitution. You believe in socialism,” Broun tweeted, right around the time Obama was finishing his speech.
It turns out, Broun watched the speech from his office a block from the House chamber, and tweeted from his PC computer. And he does this every year. That’s odd. Roll Call’s Christina Bellantoni reports.
11:09 p.m. – House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Republican, is being interviewed on Fox News by Greta Van Susteren. Pelosi was asked about her sitting with Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, Maryland Republican.
Van Susteren did not ask Pelosi about her rejection of an invitation from House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Virginia Republican, to sit with him.
Earlier today, Cantor spokesman Brad Dayspring sent the following by e-mail: “Minority Leader Pelosi declined Eric’s offer, which would have resulted in the two party leaders sitting together. Eric will be sitting at the traditional spot on the House floor reserved for the Majority Leader and will be joined by Rep. Bobby Scott, his friend and colleague from Richmond.”
11:08 p.m. – Probably the toughest Republican response to Obama’s speech tonight is from Sen. Jeff Sessions, Alabama Republican, who I interviewed Monday. Here is Sessions’ statement:
“Massive federal spending has placed our nation on an unsustainable path. And yet tonight the President pledged to continue down this perilous road for at least five more years.
“Instead of deficit reduction, President Obama has put a forward a plan for deficit preservation. Last year, he offered the same ‘freeze’ that would maintain increased spending levels and produce an estimated $10 trillion in deficits by the end of the decade.
“We need leadership and vision from the President. But tonight we saw timidity and denial. He did not rise to the moment, or to the challenges we face. It was far short of what the situation demands.
“Meaningfully reducing the size of our government and our deficit may not be easy, but it is the only responsible course – and the only one that leads to lasting prosperity and opportunity.”
11:03 p.m. – Environmental groups are not happy with Obama’s energy portion of the speech:
Here is a statement from Friends of the Earth President Erich Pica:
“President Obama says he wants to lead the country in clean energy innovation. Unfortunately, requiring more coal, nuclear power, and natural gas production is not leadership and is not innovation. Coal, nuclear power, biofuels, and natural gas are inherently dirty. Telling Americans anything else is just misleading.
11 p.m. – Reaction to Obama’s speech is still rolling in. The Republican chairman of a subcommittee on Social Security said he will convene hearings on the matter soon.
“We must secure Social Security’s future for its own sake, on a bipartisan basis with the full support of the President. I am committed to protecting benefits for today’s seniors, those nearing retirement, and those who count on Social Security the most, without raising taxes. It’s time to move past talk to action. The Subcommittee on Social Security will soon begin hearings to find lasting solutions to strengthen the program,” said Ways and Means Social Security Subcommittee Chairman Sam Johnson, Texas Republican.
10:54 p.m. – Bachmann’s speech is very long on specifics when it comes to what she thinks Obama has done wrong. But she has few specifics on what Republicans will do to cut spending.
What Obama has done wrong:
“Deficits were unacceptably high under President Bush, but they exploded under President Obama’s direction, growing the national debt by an astounding $3.1 trillion-dollars. What did we buy? Instead of a leaner, smarter government, we bought a bureaucracy that tells us which light bulbs to buy, and which may put 16,500 IRS agents in charge of policing President Obama’s healthcare bill. ObamaCare mandates and penalties will force many job creators to stop offering health insurance altogether, unless yours is one of the more-than-222 privileged companies or unions that has received a government waiver. In the end, unless we fully repeal ObamaCare, a nation that currently enjoys the world’s best healthcare may be forced to rely on government-run coverage that could have a devastating impact on our national debt for generations to come.”
What Obama should do:
“The President could stop the EPA from imposing a job-destroying cap-and-trade system. The President could support a Balanced Budget Amendment. The President could agree to an energy policy that increases American energy production and reduces our dependence on foreign oil. The President could also turn back some of the 132 regulations put in place in the last two years, many of which will cost our economy $100 million or more. ”
What Republicans will do:
“We believe in lower taxes, a limited view of government and the exceptionalism of America.”
Bachmann also called on Obama to do two things that the president already talked about in his speech tonight: medical malpractice reform and lowering of the corporate tax rate.
And her comparison of Iwo Jima at the end, showing a picture of the famous picture of U.S. GI’s raising the flag, to the national debt, was an odd juxtaposition.
10:50 p.m. – Bachmann focusing on unemployment rate:
“The White House promised us that all the spending would keep unemployment under 8 percent. Not only did that plan fail to deliver, but within three months the national jobless rate spiked to 9.4 percent. And sadly, it hasn’t been lower for 20 straight months.”
She shows a chart of unemployment, with big blue bars for the rate under Obama, compared to red bars for the rate under Bush. The blue bars are higher.
Not bad delivery, but pretty obvious she’s looking into prompter.
10:49 p.m. – Bachmann begins her speech.
She immediately says she is not there “to compete with the official Republican response.”
10:46 p.m. – We’re waiting for Michele Bachmann’s response. Supposedly it’s being carried on CNN. Here is the full text of the speech.
10:44 p.m. – Here is Speaker John Boehner’s response to Obama’s speech:
“We were honored to receive President Obama in the people’s House tonight for his State of the Union address. I appreciate the fact that the president recognizes the need to reach out and work together whenever possible.
“As I’ve stated in the past, when the president is willing to work with us on the people’s priorities, we’ll be ready to work with him. Unfortunately, even as he talked about the need for fiscal discipline, President Obama called for more ‘stimulus’ spending without making a commitment to the cuts and reforms the American people are demanding. Adding to our debt and pushing us closer to bankruptcy for the sake of more ‘stimulus’ spending will not make our nation more competitive. A partial freeze is inadequate at a time when we’re borrowing 41 cents of every dollar we spend, and the Administration is begging for another increase in the debt limit. Rather than lock in the job-crushing spending binge of the last two years, we are working to carry out our pledge to cut spending to pre-‘stimulus,’ pre-bailout levels and impose real spending caps. The people sent us here to focus on creating jobs and cutting spending, and that’s exactly what we intend to do.
“In the Republican Address, Paul Ryan did an excellent job of defining the size and scope of our fiscal challenges. It was exactly the kind of straightforwardness the people are expecting from us right now. He offered the American people a positive vision of how a smaller, less costly, and more accountable government can promote private sector job creation and lasting prosperity.”
10:42 p.m. – Again, notable that there was no mention whatsoever in Obama’s speech of the coming crisis this year at the state and local budget level. Click here for more on that.
10:41 p.m. – Maya MacGuineas of the centrist Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget is mixed about Obama’s speech:
“The speech was encouraging in that the President sounded like someone ready to get serious about fixing the deficit. But if he is going to get serious, he is going to need to get specific, and if not now, when?” said MacGuineas. “The longer we wait, the greater the risk we don’t get it done in time.”
“We see this speech as a helpful opening, and we’re hopeful President Obama will spend the next year negotiating and ultimately enacting a comprehensive plan to bring revenues and spending more closely in line. But the challenges we face are serious, and we need the President to fight strongly to address these challenges if we are going to avoid catastrophe,” said MacGuineas. “The time for leadership is now.”
10:36 p.m. – That was quick. Ryan’s speech was here and gone in a blink of an eye.
While we wait for Michele Bachmann’s “Tea Party response,” here is a response to Obama’s speech from Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, the chairman of the Republican Study Committee:
“The President’s call to freeze spending at unsustainable levels is devastating, and would only result in fewer jobs, higher taxes, more borrowing, and more debt piled on the backs of our children and grandchildren. That is nothing less than recklessly driving toward a brick wall at 80 miles per hour, then putting on the cruise control and calling it ‘responsibility.’”
10:33 p.m. – Ryan “We hold to a couple of simple convictions: Endless borrowing is not a strategy; spending cuts have to come first.”
He says government dependence will create a culture of “complacency and dependency,” and raises the specter of a credit crisis.
“Speaking candidly, as one citizen to another: We still have time… but not much time. If we continue down our current path, we know what our future will be. Just take a look at what’s happening to Greece, Ireland, the United Kingdom and other nations in Europe. They didn’t act soon enough; and now their governments have been forced to impose painful austerity measures: large benefit cuts to seniors and huge tax increases on everybody. Their day of reckoning has arrived. Ours is around the corner. That is why we must act now.”
10:31 p.m. – Ryan refers to his “Road Map,” but only for a moment as he defends it from charges of slashing benefits for seniors.
“If we act soon, and if we act responsibly, people in and near retirement will be protected,” he says.
He moves then to the differing visions of government between conservatives and liberals.
“We believe that the government has an important role to create the conditions that promote entrepreneurship, upward mobility, and individual responsibility. We believe, as our founders did, that ‘the pursuit of happiness’ depends upon individual liberty; and individual liberty requires limited government … The President and the Democratic Leadership have shown, by their actions, that they believe government needs to increase its size and its reach, its price tag and its power. Whether sold as “stimulus” or repackaged as ‘investment,’ their actions show they want a federal government that controls too much; taxes too much; and spends too much in order to do too much.”
10:29 p.m. – Ryan puts Obama’s health care law in the category of regulation: “The President mentioned the need for regulatory reform to ease the burden on American businesses. We agree – and we think his health care law would be a great place to start.”
The toughest line of the night: “Health care spending is driving the explosive growth of our debt. And the President’s law is accelerating our country toward bankruptcy.”
“Our debt is out of control. What was a fiscal challenge is now a fiscal crisis,” Ryan says. “We cannot deny it; instead we must, as Americans, confront it responsibly.”
10:25 p.m. – Paul Ryan begins his response:
“Some of [Obama’s] words were reassuring. As Chairman of the House Budget Committee, I assure you that we want to work with the President to restrain federal spending,” he says.
It doesn’t take long for Ryan to get to a grim outline of the fiscal situation facing the country:
“We face a crushing burden of debt. The debt will soon eclipse our entire economy, and grow to catastrophic levels in the years ahead. On this current path, when my three children – who are now 6, 7, and 8 years old – are raising their own children, the Federal government will double in size, and so will the taxes they pay. No economy can sustain such high levels of debt and taxation. The next generation will inherit a stagnant economy and a diminished country.”
He says “no one person or party is responsible” for the fiscal hole, but moves quickly to condemn Obama’s policies.
“The facts are clear: Since taking office, President Obama has signed into law spending increases of nearly 25% for domestic government agencies – an 84% increase when you include the failed stimulus. All of this new government spending was sold as ‘investment.’ Yet after two years, the unemployment rate remains above 9% and government has added over $3 trillion to our debt. Then the President and his party made matters even worse, by creating a new open-ended health care entitlement. What we already know about the President’s health care law is this: Costs are going up, premiums are rising, and millions of people will lose the coverage they currently have. Job creation is being stifled by all of its taxes, penalties, mandates and fees.”
10:22 p.m. – American Action Network President Rob Collins has this statement in response:
“This Administration needs to refocus on job creation through reduced regulation and real tax cuts. We believe small businesses will be a key driver to get this economy going and to do that Congress must repeal, replace, or at least delay some of the worst job-killing policies enacted the past two years,” said Collins. “We hope to see bipartisan legislation voted on and enacted, that reduces the burdens and the regulations on our best economic stimulators—America’s small businessmen and women.”
10:20 p.m. – Pretty tough response to Obama’s speech out from freshman Sen. Marco Rubio, Florida Republican.
“Tonight, I had hoped to hear the President outline real solutions to fundamentally tackle our national debt crisis and help clear the way for urgently needed job creation. Instead, we heard him talk about more ‘investment,’ which is what most Floridians I know would simply call more government spending. Instead of fruitlessly turning to government to create jobs, we should be working to cut spending, promote free enterprise initiatives and give job creators the certainty they need to hire more workers.
“While I was encouraged by the President’s support for an earmark ban and will work with him towards that goal, his call for a mere budget freeze does not go far enough in tackling our record debt. At the very least, we should freeze non-defense and non-veterans discretionary spending to what it was before Washington began its unprecedented, record-setting spending binge two years ago. But most importantly, we need to finally begin fundamentally reforming the way our government spends the American people’s money.
“In 2011, both parties have a golden opportunity for true cooperation on complex issues of great consequence. If we take care of business, our children and grandchildren will one day thank us for giving them the chance to inherit the greatest society in human history. For President Obama and Congressional Democrats, it’s a chance to prove they heard the American people’s call for fiscal discipline in November. For Republicans, it’s a chance to practice what we’ve preached by being responsible stewards of the American people’s tax dollars. As Florida’s senator, I will work with anyone else who believes 2011 has to be the year when we stop postponing the tough decisions.”
10:17 p.m. – Republican Paul Ryan, a congressman from Wisconsin and the chairman of the House Budget Committee, will have the GOP response. Read along to his speech by clicking here.
If you missed Obama’s speech, a transcript of his prepared remarks is here.
If you have response to the speech, send it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
10:16 p.m. – Here is a statement from AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka on the spending portion of Obama’s speech:
We firmly believe that we should not be cutting government spending when the economy is so weak. This economy is failing to create jobs at an adequate pace to dig us out of the hole we’re in, and a spending freeze at this time will slow down job creation and growth – further worsening the deficit. This is simply the wrong medicine at the wrong time.
10:14 p.m. – If you want more details on the spending cut section of Obama’s section, check out my story on that spin versus the facts there by clicking here. Here’s a preview:
Spin: Obama is announcing a five-year freeze on a portion of government spending.
Fact: In fact it’s only partially new. He proposed a three-year freeze during last year’s State of the Union, and put it into place. So this extends last year’s proposal by two years.
“It is true that we already had a three-year freeze, so there were already significant savings in the budget. But we’ve extended that by two years,” Gene Sperling, a top economic adviser to Obama, said Tuesday afternoon.
Spin: The White House is selling the freeze, as Sperling put it, as “one of the deepest and toughest spending restraint budgets that has been seen by a president.”
10:13 p.m. – Obama closes his speech with this:
“We do big things.”
“From the earliest days of our founding, America has been the story of ordinary people who dare to dream. That’s how we win the future.”
“We are a nation that says, ‘I might not have a lot of money, but I have this great idea for a new company. I might not come from a family of college graduates, but I will be the first to get my degree. I might not know those people in trouble, but I think I can help them, and I need to try. I’m not sure how we’ll reach that better place beyond the horizon, but I know we’ll get there. I know we will.'”
“We do big things.”
“The idea of America endures. Our destiny remains our choice. And tonight, more than two centuries later, it is because of our people that our future is hopeful, our journey goes forward, and the state of our union is strong.
Thank you, God Bless You, and may God Bless the United States of America.”
10:11 p.m. – As Obama is ending with a kumbaya moment, Speaker Boehner’s comms office is sending out the eighth of its “SOTU Fact” e-mails, many of them slamming Obama policies.
“‘Stimulus’ Spending Binge Has Led to More Debt, Fewer Jobs,” one says.
“President Obama Has Accelerated the Job-Destroying Spending Spree in Washington,” another one says.
10:08 p.m. Obama talks about the American dream and Biden and Boehner behind him.
“That dream is why a working class kid from Scranton can stand behind me. That dream is why someone who began by sweeping the floors of his father’s Cincinnati bar can preside as Speaker of the House in the greatest nation on Earth.”
Biden and Boehner shake hands after the Scranton reference, then do it again after the mention of Boehner’s roots. Boehner flashes a thumbs up.
I got word that the Joint Chief may not have clapped for Obama’s mention of the repeal of Don’t Ask, Dont Tell.
10:04 p.m. – Obama’s begins closing section. Gets big applause here:
“We should have no illusions about the work ahead of us. Reforming our schools; changing the way we use energy; reducing our deficit – none of this is easy. All of it will take time. And it will be harder because we will argue about everything. The cost. The details. The letter of every law.”
“Of course, some countries don’t have this problem. If the central government wants a railroad, they get a railroad – no matter how many homes are bulldozed. If they don’t want a bad story in the newspaper, it doesn’t get written.
“And yet, as contentious and frustrating and messy as our democracy can sometimes be, I know there isn’t a person here who would trade places with any other nation on Earth.”
10:02 p.m. – Speaker Boehner has tweeted a criticism of the stimulus.
“SOTU FACT: “Stimulus” Spending Binge Has Led to More Debt, Fewer Jobs http://bit.ly/fbPCP5”
9:59 p.m. – Obama turns to foreign policy, ever so briefly. Really amazing how little of a focus it is in this speech.
He credits his presidency with this: “American leadership has been renewed and America’s standing has been restored.”
This is all Obama said about withdrawal from Afghanistan: “This year, we will work with nearly 50 countries to begin a transition to an Afghan lead. And this July, we will begin to bring our troops home.”
We’ll be there for a while.
9:58 p.m. – The Business Roundtable is out with response:
“Business Roundtable is heartened by President Obama’s focus on American competitiveness. U.S. job creation and long-term growth depend on a robust economic climate. The priorities laid out tonight by the President must now be analyzed closely to ensure they will promote, rather than stifle, an environment where the private sector can create jobs and expand the economy.
“In our comprehensive economic plan released in December, the Roadmap for Growth, our member CEOs outlined several priority areas where immediate action is needed. The Roadmap can help advance the President’s goal of increasing U.S. competitiveness.
“We were pleased that the President was squarely focused on the need for comprehensive tax reform. Today, the U.S. has a non-competitive international tax system, and our companies will soon pay the highest rate among all developed countries. We need to redesign the system so it addresses the hyper-competitive global marketplace. A stable, reliable, equitable and non-discriminatory tax system that provides a level playing field is essential for long-term economic growth and job creation.
“Since November, President Obama has taken important steps – including his recent order for a comprehensive regulatory review – signaling that he is ready to change direction and focus on what is necessary to drive a vigorous recovery with job opportunities for American workers. We look forward to continuing our work with the Administration and Congress on policies that will make our nation more competitive, more innovative and more prosperous,” said Business Roundtable President John Engler.
9:56 p.m. – Obama issues veto threat over earmarks: “If a bill comes to my desk with earmarks inside, I will veto it.”
For more on this, read this piece from TheDC’s Jonathan Strong.
Rep. Keith Ellison, Minnesota Democrat, is one of many lawmakers from both parties not excited about the earmark ban.
“Sorry President wants to veto all earmarks. Most congressionally directed spending helps local communities. Selfish, pointless ones bad,” Ellison wrote on Twitter.
Nice piece of color from Chris Moody inside the chamber: “Dennis Kucinich dropped his pen into middle of the aisle. Louie Gohmert knelt down, reached across the aisle, and picked it up for him.”
9:54 p.m. – Obama gets a good laugh introducing his section on reorganizing government with this line:
“We live and do business in the information age, but the last major reorganization of the government happened in the age of black and white TV. There are twelve different agencies that deal with exports. There are at least five different entities that deal with housing policy. Then there’s my favorite example: the Interior Department is in charge of salmon while they’re in fresh water, but the Commerce Department handles them in when they’re in saltwater. And I hear it gets even more complicated once they’re smoked.”
He promises “to develop a proposal to merge, consolidate, and reorganize the federal government in a way that best serves the goal of a more competitive America.”
“I will submit that proposal to Congress for a vote – and we will push to get it passed,” he said.
9:53 p.m. – GOP firebrand Sen. Jim DeMint is out with a statement in response. He didn’t wait for the speech to end.
“Tonight’s speech should have been called a State of the Stimulus, and the President should have admitted that it failed,” said Senator DeMint. “Two years after the President’s nearly trillion dollar government stimulus, unemployment has increased and remains high, families and businesses are still struggling, and our national debt continues to skyrocket.”
“When the President says ‘investment’ he means bigger federal government and higher taxes. Americans sent a clear message in the 2010 elections. They no longer wish to ‘invest’ in President Obama’s big-spending plans.”
“Instead of growing the federal government, Washington should reduce its control and devolve education and transportation programs to the states that are better handled at the local level.”
“The President spoke of a spending freeze, but we need spending cuts. Not a freeze at record high spending levels. When you’re in a car recklessly speeding toward a cliff, you don’t hit cruise control. You slam on the brakes and reverse course.”
9:51 p.m. – Obama again gives lip service to medical malpractice reform. He has talked about this in the past.
He moves on to Social Security. This is where he must speak in code, because of all the interest groups involved. See the response from AARP below in this liveblog.
Obama also links ending the Bush tax cuts in 2014 to the deficit, saying they are adding to the deficit. This of course is a subject of intense debate between the left and right.
9:49 p.m. – Probably a bit revealing that Obama said this of government spending: “Cutting the deficit by gutting our investments in innovation and education is like lightening an overloaded airplane by removing its engine.”
That’s the difference between Obama and conservatives, who do think excessive spending is weighing down economic growth.
9:47 p.m. – Debt.
“Now, the final step – a critical step – in winning the future is to make sure we aren’t buried under a mountain of debt. We are living with a legacy of deficit-spending that began almost a decade ago. And in the wake of the financial crisis, some of that was necessary to keep credit flowing, save jobs, and put money in people’s pockets.
But now that the worst of the recession is over, we have to confront the fact that our government spends more than it takes in. That is not sustainable. Every day, families sacrifice to live within their means. They deserve a government that does the same.”
Obama moves on to his spending freeze. Here is a breakdown of the spin and facts on this freeze.
Spin: The White House is selling the freeze, as Obama economic adviser Gene Sperling put it, as “one of the deepest and toughest spending restraint budgets that has been seen by a president.”
Fact: They are freezing less than one half of one fourth of the budget. The current budget is $3.8 trillion, but for general purposes, consider the budget to be roughly $3.5 trillion each year over the last few years. Of that amount, about $2.5 trillion is mandatory spending, much of that being entitlement programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. Of the $1 trillion that is left over in discretionary spending, only about $400 billion in annual spending fits into the category that Obama is freezing.
Another way to look at this is that the total budget is just under 24 percent of the economy, or gross domestic product, which is roughly $15 trillion. Obama is freezing a portion of the budget that is only two percent of GDP.
Obama does admit in his speech that he is freezing “a little more than 12% of our budget.”
“To make further progress, we have to stop pretending that cutting this kind of spending alone will be enough. It won’t,” he says, according to his prepared remarks.
Click here for more spin and facts.
9:45 p.m. – Health care.
“Now, I’ve heard rumors that a few of you have some concerns about the new health care law.”
Laughter. But no loud outbursts.
Obama cites support for repealing the 1099 provision. But then, as on regulation, launches into defense of what he’s done.
“What I’m not willing to do is go back to the days when insurance companies could deny someone coverage because of a pre-existing condition.”
“Let’s fix what needs fixing and let’s move forward.”
9:44 p.m. – Obama now on his regulatory regime. He cites his EO on the job impact on regs, but also defends the need for regulation. Telling that he spends more time defending regulation than talking about avoiding negative impact on business.
“When we find rules that put an unnecessary burden on businesses, we will fix them. But I will not hesitate to create or enforce commonsense safeguards to protect the American people. That’s what we’ve done in this country for more than a century. It’s why our food is safe to eat, our water is safe to drink, and our air is safe to breathe. It’s why we have speed limits and child labor laws. It’s why last year, we put in place consumer protections against hidden fees and penalties by credit card companies, and new rules to prevent another financial crisis. And it’s why we passed reform that finally prevents the health insurance industry from exploiting patients.”
9:43 p.m. – Obama asks Congress to approve the free trade agreement with South Korea, says he will keep working on FTA’s with Colombia and Panama as long as they “keep faith with American workers, and promote American jobs.”
9:39 p.m. – The pat down line got a good response in the chamber. Told ya. Not a lot of specifics on how Obama plans to fund infrastructure.
But moving on to tax reform. This is one of the more significant portions of the speech, which will be chewed over for days and weeks, in think tanks and in Congress. Maybe there will be some legislation. lt also marks at least second use of the term: “It makes no sense.”
All these investments – in innovation, education, and infrastructure – will make America a better place to do business and create jobs. But to help our companies compete, we also have to knock down barriers that stand in the way of their success. Over the years, a parade of lobbyists has rigged the tax code to benefit particular companies and industries. Those with accountants or lawyers to work the system can end up paying no taxes at all. But all the rest are hit with one of the highest corporate tax rates in the world. It makes no sense, and it has to change. So tonight, I’m asking Democrats and Republicans to simplify the system. Get rid of the loopholes. Level the playing field. And use the savings to lower the corporate tax rate for the first time in 25 years – without adding to our deficit. It can be done.
9:38 p.m. – Probably the most effective line of the speech, or certainly one of them, is Obama’s sale of money for high speed rail: “Within 25 years, our goal is to give 80% of Americans access to high-speed rail, which could allow you go places in half the time it takes to travel by car. For some trips, it will be faster than flying – without the pat-down.”
Anything to avoid the TSA Mr. President.
9:37 p.m. – Half-hearted applause for the immigration section of Obama’s speech, at least from what I can tell.
Randy Neugebauer, Texas Republican, tweeted: “Increasing border security and encouraging immigrants to come here legally should be our plan to address illegal immigration. #SOTU”
9:30 p.m. – Obama pivots from energy to education. There is familiar and universally appealing rhetoric about science fair winners needing to be “celebrated” as much as Super Bowl winners. He moves on to talking about his Race to the Top program. Here’s what’s new from the education section of the speech: a national goal of “100,000 new teachers in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math” over the next 10 years.
“We want to reward good teachers and stop making excuses for bad ones.” That’s his only reference to the issue of the showdown between state governments and teach unions, like the one in New Jersey. In fact, there’s nothing I’ve seen in the entire speech about the looming state budget crises.
As for college tuition, Obama wants this: “Make permanent our tuition tax credit – worth $10,000 for four years of college.”
And he also uses the education portion of his speech to address immigration and to advocate for legislation like the DREAM Act, which makes it easier for children of illegal immigrants to become citizens. This idea has some support from conservatives.
“Today, there are hundreds of thousands of students excelling in our schools who are not American citizens. Some are the children of undocumented workers, who had nothing to do with the actions of their parents. They grew up as Americans and pledge allegiance to our flag, and yet live every day with the threat of deportation. Others come here from abroad to study in our colleges and universities. But as soon as they obtain advanced degrees, we send them back home to compete against us. It makes no sense.”
“Now, I strongly believe that we should take on, once and for all, the issue of illegal immigration. I am prepared to work with Republicans and Democrats to protect our borders, enforce our laws and address the millions of undocumented workers who are now living in the shadows. I know that debate will be difficult and take time. But tonight, let’s agree to make that effort. And let’s stop expelling talented, responsible young people who can staff our research labs, start new businesses, and further enrich this nation.”
9:28 p.m. – Moody says that someone in the chamber, when Obama mentioned the oil companies, “They’re all international.” Not sure who said it yet.
9:27 p.m. – Here is the key section on energy proposals. Pretty remarkable that Obama makes no distinction between wind and solar and the less favored approaches by the environmental movement: nuclear and clean coal.
With more research and incentives, we can break our dependence on oil with biofuels, and become the first country to have 1 million electric vehicles on the road by 2015.
We need to get behind this innovation. And to help pay for it, I’m asking Congress to eliminate the billions in taxpayer dollars we currently give to oil companies. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but they’re doing just fine on their own. So instead of subsidizing yesterday’s energy, let’s invest in tomorrow’s.
Now, clean energy breakthroughs will only translate into clean energy jobs if businesses know there will be a market for what they’re selling. So tonight, I challenge you to join me in setting a new goal: by 2035, 80% of America’s electricity will come from clean energy sources. Some folks want wind and solar. Others want nuclear, clean coal, and natural gas. To meet this goal, we will need them all – and I urge Democrats and Republicans to work together to make it happen.
9:24 p.m. – TheDC’s Chris Moody in the chamber says the bipartisan seating arrangement is cutting down on extraneous applause and interruptions:
“The clapping does not appear automatic or for the sake of showing off to the other side this year. It’s as if members have a choice what they want to cheer for and what they don’t,” Moody writes. “Obama’s mention of clean energy technology first time there was a clear divide in who clapped and who didn’t. But it was brief.”
“The seating arrangement is obviously making it very difficult for anyone in either party to grandstand with cheers. Members who want to stand sometimes have to do it alone, so they are being far more discerning,” Moody says.
9:23 p.m. – Obama now talking about the need for economic innovation and his commitment to continuing federal funding of research and development, calling it America’s “Sputnik moment.”
Two years ago, I said that we needed to reach a level of research and development we haven’t seen since the height of the Space Race. In a few weeks, I will be sending a budget to Congress that helps us meet that goal. We’ll invest in biomedical research, information technology, and especially clean energy technology – an investment that will strengthen our security, protect our planet, and create countless new jobs for our people.
9:20 p.m. – The AARP is already criticizing the president’s language on Social Security. Per Adam Green of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, here is comment from A. Barry Rand, the C.E.O. of AARP:
“We’re pleased to hear the president acknowledge the vital importance of Social Security and the need to protect this lifeline for future generations, but we are disappointed that he, like his fiscal commission did last late last year, seeks to address this bedrock of financial security in the context of reducing a deficit it didn’t cause.
“Moreover, any attempt to control spending in Medicare and Medicaid without addressing the causes of skyrocketing costs throughout the health care system will not reduce these costs, but rather shift them on to the backs of people of all ages and generations.
“While efforts to reduce the deficit are important, we will continue to speak out against any plan offered by the administration or Congress that would target these critical safety nets for changes based on budgetary targets instead of their impact on the lives of everyday Americans.”
If this is how they react when there’s a mention of Social Security, imagine if a president actually suggested changes to the system! Here is the entirety of Obama’s language on Social Security from his prepared text.
To put us on solid ground, we should also find a bipartisan solution to strengthen Social Security for future generations. And we must do it without putting at risk current retirees, the most vulnerable, or people with disabilities; without slashing benefits for future generations; and without subjecting Americans’ guaranteed retirement income to the whims of the stock market.
9:18 p.m. – Obama credits the tax deal in December with helping American paychecks.
“Americans’ paychecks are a little bigger today.”
Moody says most members are paying attention, not on their Blackberrys.
Obama moves on to the shift in the economy and the impact on industrial sections of the country, as well as the rise of China and India.
“The rules have changed. In a single generation, revolutions in technology have transformed the way we live, work and do business. Steel mills that once needed 1,000 workers can now do the same work with 100. Today, just about any company can set up shop, hire workers, and sell their products wherever there’s an internet connection. Meanwhile, nations like China and India realized that with some changes of their own, they could compete in this new world. And so they started educating their children earlier and longer, with greater emphasis on math and science. They’re investing in research and new technologies. Just recently, China became home to the world’s largest private solar research facility, and the world’s fastest computer. So yes, the world has changed. The competition for jobs is real. But this shouldn’t discourage us. It should challenge us. Remember – for all the hits we’ve taken these last few years, for all the naysayers predicting our decline, America still has the largest, most prosperous economy in the world.”
9:16 p.m. – Noteworthy that Obama cites this as progress, since he has not been so enthusiastic about Wall Street profits in the past: “We are poised for progress. Two years after the worst recession most of us have ever known, the stock market has come roaring back. Corporate profits are up. The economy is growing again.”
9:13 p.m. – Obama first notes the absence of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who is recovering from her near fatal shooting. And then Obama turns to the theme of his speech in Tucson earlier this month, the tone of political discourse. But Obama has taken it forward a bit, shifting the emphasis to the need for “shared responsibility” in governing, which is really his way of trying to put pressure on the GOP to work with him. Here’s a few key portions of this section:
“It’s no secret that those of us here tonight have had our differences over the last two years. The debates have been contentious; we have fought fiercely for our beliefs. And that’s a good thing. That’s what a robust democracy demands. That’s what helps set us apart as a nation. But there’s a reason the tragedy in Tucson gave us pause. Amid all the noise and passions and rancor of our public debate, Tucson reminded us that no matter who we are or where we come from, each of us is a part of something greater – something more consequential than party or political preference.”
“By itself, this simple recognition won’t usher in a new era of cooperation. What comes of this moment is up to us. What comes of this moment will be determined not by whether we can sit together tonight, but whether we can work together tomorrow … At stake right now is not who wins the next election – after all, we just had an election. At stake is whether new jobs and industries take root in this country, or somewhere else. It’s whether the hard work and industry of our people is rewarded. It’s whether we sustain the leadership that has made America not just a place on a map, but a light to the world.”
9:11 p.m. – First applause line is Obama’s congratulation to Boehner on becoming speaker. He turns and shakes Boehner’s hand.
9:08 p.m. – The theme of Obama’s speech is “Winning the Future.” There have been plenty of jokes about how this title was cribbed from Newt Gingrich’s book by the same name.
At the end, Obama delivers his most noteworthy phrase, saying of Americans: “We do big things.”
The context of the speech is how America overcomes its fiscal hole and the competitiveness challenge from rising industrial powers China and India.
He hands a large yellow manila folder containing the text of the speech to House Speaker John Boehner, Ohio Republican, and then to Vice President Joe Biden. Those are the two men you’ll see sitting behind Obama for the entirety of the speech.
Boehner: “I have the high privilege and distinct honor of presenting the president of the United States.”
9:06 p.m. – President Obama enters the House chamber. Our Chris Moody is in the chamber. He sees that in the First Lady’s Gallery, Michelle Obama sitting next to family of little girl who was killed in Tucson. Three rows up, Giffords intern Daniel Hernandez standing silently
As Obama enters from the back of the chamber, Moody says, a hoard of teenage House pages nearly fall over grabbing Obama’s hand when he enters back door.
9:05 p.m. – Here is the full text of the Republican response, to be delivered by Paul Ryan, the Wisconsin Republican who is chairman of the House Budget Committee.
8:33 p.m. – In 2010, President Obama’s prepared remarks for his State of the Union address hit my in box at 8:54 p.m., just a few minutes before the president entered the House chamber to speak to a joint session of Congress.
Tonight, the full speech text came an hour earlier. Thanks for that to National Journal, which somehow obtained a copy independently and leaked it. You can read the full text here.