Here's your complete Cliff Notes for President Obama's fifth State of the Union: what you need to know on the most important topics, the biggest lines from the speech, and what issues the president will now push on his own.
The Biggest Moments
ON HEALTH CARE
"Now, I don't expect to convince my Republican friends on the merits of this law. But I know that the American people aren't interested in refighting old battles. So again, if you have specific plans to cut costs, cover more people, and increase choice—tell America what you'd do differently. Let's see if the numbers add up. But let's not have another forty-something votes to repeal a law that's already helping millions of Americans like Amanda."
"Finally, if we are serious about economic growth, it is time to heed the call of business leaders, labor leaders, faith leaders, and law enforcement—and fix our broken immigration system. Republicans and Democrats in the Senate have acted. I know that members of both parties in the House want to do the same. Independent economists say immigration reform will grow our economy and shrink our deficits by almost $1 trillion in the next two decades. And for good reason: when people come here to fulfill their dreams—to study, invent, and contribute to our culture—they make our country a more attractive place for businesses to locate and create jobs for everyone. So let's get immigration reform done this year."
ON MINIMUM WAGE
"In the coming weeks, I will issue an Executive Order requiring federal contractors to pay their federally-funded employees a fair wage of at least $10.10 an hour—because if you cook our troops' meals or wash their dishes, you shouldn't have to live in poverty."
ON JOB TRAINING
"Tonight, I've asked Vice President Biden to lead an across-the-board reform of America's training programs to make sure they have one mission: train Americans with the skills employers need, and match them to good jobs that need to be filled right now. That means more on-the-job training, and more apprenticeships that set a young worker on an upward trajectory for life."
ON SCIENCE RESEARCH FUNDING
"That's why Congress should undo the damage done by last year's cuts to basic research so we can unleash the next great American discovery—whether it's vaccines that stay ahead of drug-resistant bacteria, or paper-thin material that's stronger than steel."
ON STUDENT LOANS
"We're offering millions the opportunity to cap their monthly student loan payments to ten percent of their income, and I want to work with Congress to see how we can help even more Americans who feel trapped by student loan debt."
ON MOVING PAST BUDGET TALKS
"Last month, thanks to the work of Democrats and Republicans, this Congress finally produced a budget that undoes some of last year's severe cuts to priorities like education. Nobody got everything they wanted, and we can still do more to invest in this country's future while bringing down our deficit in a balanced way. But the budget compromise should leave us freer to focus on creating new jobs, not creating new crises."
ON THE TAX CODE
"Both Democrats and Republicans have argued that our tax code is riddled with wasteful, complicated loopholes that punish businesses investing here, and reward companies that keep profits abroad. Let's flip that equation. Let's work together to close those loopholes, end those incentives to ship jobs overseas, and lower tax rates for businesses that create jobs here at home."
ON TAX BREAKS FOR OIL
"Let's continue that progress with a smarter tax policy that stops giving $4 billion a year to fossil fuel industries that don't need it, so that we can invest more in fuels of the future that do."
ON UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE
"This Congress needs to restore the unemployment insurance you just let expire for 1.6 million people."
ON REPEATING REQUESTS
"Last year, I asked this Congress to help states make high-quality pre-K available to every four year-old. As a parent as well as a President, I repeat that request tonight."
"Last year, I also pledged to connect 99 percent of our students to high-speed broadband over the next four years. Tonight, I can announce that with the support of the FCC and companies like Apple, Microsoft, Sprint, and Verizon, we've got a down payment to start connecting more than 15,000 schools."
ON THE NSA
"That's why, working with this Congress, I will reform our surveillance programs – because the vital work of our intelligence community depends on public confidence, here and abroad, that the privacy of ordinary people is not being violated."
"And it is American diplomacy, backed by pressure, that has halted the progress of Iran's nuclear program—and rolled parts of that program back—for the very first time in a decade."
"ANy long-term deal we agree to must be based on verifiable action that convinces us and the international community that Iran is not building a nuclear bomb. If John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan could negotiate with the Soviet Union, then surely a strong and confident America can negotiate with less powerful adversaries today."
"In Syria, we'll support the opposition that rejects the agenda of terrorist networks."
"American diplomacy, backed by the threat of force, is why Syria's chemical weapons are being eliminated, and we will continue to work with the international community to usher in the future the Syrian people deserve—a future free of dictatorship, terror and fear."
"Last year, I also pledged to connect 99 percent of our students to high-speed broadband over the next four years. Tonight, I can announce that with the support of the FCC and companies like Apple, Microsoft, Sprint, and Verizon, we've got a down payment to start connecting more than 15,000 schools and twenty million students over the next two years, without adding a dime to the deficit."
"Let's pass a patent reform bill that allows our businesses to stay focused on innovation, not costly, needless litigation."
"Now, one of the biggest factors in bringing more jobs back is our commitment to American energy. The all-of-the-above energy strategy I announced a few years ago is working, and today, America is closer to energy independence than we've been in decades.
"One of the reasons why is natural gas—if extracted safely, it's the bridge fuel that can power our economy with less of the carbon pollution that causes climate change."
What Happened On the Hill
10:29 p.m.: How the GOP Took the Speech
Senate Republicans showed their disapproval of the president's agenda by largely withholding their applause. When Obama said, "Let's get immigration reform done this year," House Republican leaders clapped. Minority Whip John Cornyn? Stone faced.
When Obama called for equal pay for equal work, Cornyn and Minority Leader kept their seats, while House and Senate Republicans and Democrats stood to applaud.
How about the section on minimum wage? Nope. Senate Republican leaders were stoics.
Of course, none of this is surprising. But viewed through a political lens, the scene demonstrates just how much is at stake for McConnell and Cornyn, who both face primaries in Kentucky and Texas. Their reaction also shows the rift that's only deepened between Senate Democrats and Republicans as Majority Leader Harry Reid has recently increased his strong-arm tactics to push Obama's appointees through the confirmation process without a Republican blessing.
Perhaps the Senate race has as great a chance as any of tipping the chamber into Republican hands is that between Pryor and Rep Tom Cotton, both of Arkansas. Pryor sat on the GOP side while fellow red-state Democrats Mark Begich, Kay Hagan and Mary Landrieu say with Democrats. While they applauded, Pryor frequently did not. But, notably, with Republicans eager to focus on the rocky rollout of the Affordable Care Act in the hopes it could cost Democrats in red states, Pryor did not sit on his hands when the president defended the law.
"Let's not have another forty-something votes to repeal (the) law," Obama said.
Pryor clapped. He did not stand.
10:28 p.m.: When the President Is a Celebrity
As Obama exited the chamber, a gaggle of House Democrats held out copies of the speech he just delivered and asked for him to sign. He indulged them in several instances.
It's not Oscars or Grammys but it's about as close as it comes to it in #thistown.
10:26 p.m.: Who Are You?
After the speech, Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga., was mistaken for a member of the press and asked to stand behind a red rope with rest of the media. It's a sign of just how many additional Capitol Police officers, unused to working inside the House, were called in to help with security. Kingston, a southerner, was of course very polite about it.
10:21 p.m.: And It's Over
There were a total of 90 interruptions for applause, including 44 standing ovations.
10:20 p.m.: Early Exits
Several minutes before the president finished his speech, a handful of members snuck out early to catch a little TV time. Republican Sen. David Vitter and a half dozen House members beat their colleagues to the cameras to talk about their reactions to the speech they didn't finish watching.
10:14 p.m.: Everyone Loves the Olympics
Obama turned the House chamber into a rally for the American Olympic team. Some began chanting "USA! USA!" after the president declared the Americans will bring "home the gold."
10:02 p.m.: Back to Guns
The president also touched on an issue that has been all but forgotten in Congress in recent months: gun control. Though the line only received one paragraph in Obama's 12-page speech, the president said that he plans to fight gun violence.
"I intend to keep trying, with or without Congress, to help stop more tragedies from visiting innocent Americans in our movie theaters, shopping malls, or schools like Sandy Hook," Obama said.
9:59 p.m.: The Biggest Applause Line
The most raucous applause thus far came as Obama told Congress not to hold "40-something votes" to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Democrats erupted into gleeful applause, almost a release of the frustration they've felt in the House as bill after bill has been put on the floor to repeal the president's signature law.
But when Obama said, "I don't expect to convince my Republican friends on the merits of the law," a number of such Republicans chuckled, smiled and even clapped.
9:55 p.m.: What a Federal Minimum Wage Increase Would Mean For Women
Per the Economic Policy Institute, working women would be more affected by a raise to $10.10 than men. See the wage increase impact by gender here.
9:52 p.m.: Republicans on Fair Pay
"It's time to do away with workplace policies that belong in a 'Mad Men' episode," the president said.
Though the majority of members stood up for fair pay, not many Republicans stood up for Obama's call to do away with the workplace policies of "Mad Men" and for Congress and Wall Street to "give every woman the opportunity she deserves." One notable exception: Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-La., who is challenging Landrieu for her Senate seat this year.
9:47 p.m.: Obligatory Boehner Thumbs Up GIF
9:41: Thumbs Up for Energy
Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer turned around and gave a thumbs up to an applauding Sen. Mary Landrieu as Obama talked about the country's commitment to American energy. Landrieu, a Louisiana Democrat, is one of Congress's top recipients of campaign funds from oil and gas interests and is poised to take over the powerful Energy Committee next year.
Landrieu did not, however, join her colleagues in applauding one of Obama's later lines: "Let's continue that progress with a smarter tax policy that stops giving $4 billion a year to fossil fuel industries that don't need it, so that we can invest more in fuels of the future that do."
9:40 p.m.: Hope for Immigration?
House Republicans are headed to a retreat this week where they will discuss a series of principles they can agree on regarding immigration reform. When Obama called for immigration reform, a handful of House Republicans did stand and applaud, including Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida and Sean Duffy of Wisconsin.
Ryan has long engaged in private conversations with Republican lawmakers on the need for comprehensive reform. Diaz-Balart has also been working the issue, and decided just a few hours before the address to sit next to Illinois Democrat—and the leader on immigration reform in the House—Luis Gutierrez.
9:33 p.m.: Obama Says Natural Gas Can "Power Our Economy." Here's Why.
Natural gas production in recent years has soared.
9:28 p.m.: Mitch McConnell Cracks a Smile
The first enthusiastic applause from Mitch McConnell tonight, for Speaker John Boehner. McConnell has spent the majority of the speech with his arms folded, but at mention of his House counterpart, McConnell cracked a wry smile and joined his colleagues in a standing ovation for the speaker.
9:26 p.m.: Why Obama Is Pushing on Minimum Wage, In Charts
Here, from The Atlantic's Jordan Weissmann, is what the real value of minimum wage has looked like from 1938 to 2012.
9:18 p.m.: The View From the Senate
In what's become a rite of winter in Washington, with perhaps more symbolic significance than legislative reverberation, lawmakers crossed the political aisle and the House chamber's actual central aisle at tonight's State of the Union.
Sen. Mark Pryor, one of the most vulnerable Democrats facing reelection this year, sat with Republicans, to the right of Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, one of the most moderate members of the GOP. Mark Kirk and Joe Manchin, who describe themselves as best friends, sat side-by-side.
Sen. Dean Heller, a Nevada Republican, sat with Sen. Brian Schatz, a Democrat from Hawaii. Political polar opposites, progressive Bernie Sanders and conservative Jeff Sessions stood shoulder-to-shoulder.
The good will wasn't universal. When first lady Michelle Obama entered, lawmakers turned toward her in the gallery and applauded, while Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa stood with his hands folded behind his back.
Five Supreme Court justices are in attendance: Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justices Anthony Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan.
9:13 p.m.: Waiting on the President
Some lawmakers wait all day for the chance for some face time with the president and top-ranking officials.
Rep. Al Green, for example, sat all day long to get a coveted aisle seat. But as the president walked by, the Texas Democrat only received quick handshake. Obama pivoted with the flow of foot traffic, turned around, and exchanged a couple words with another lawmaker just behind him. Better luck next year, Mr. Green.
8:45 p.m.: Let the House Selfies Begin
For all of the noise made in recent years about highlighting bipartisanship through State of the Union seating charts, this year's address features a mostly divided chamber.
Along with some "bipartisan couples," like Republican Sen. Jeff Flake and Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin, there will be opposing camps: many House Democrats are seated to the right of where President Obama will be speaking, and House Republicans to the left.
As lawmakers walked into the House chamber, they chatted and took pictures, some even snapping selfies—we're looking at you, Rep. Peter Welch of Vermont.
The Biggest Lines From the Speech
- "Tonight, this chamber speaks with one voice to the people we represent: it is you, our citizens, who make the state of our union strong."
- "After five years of grit and determined effort, the United States is better-positioned for the 21st century than any other nation on Earth."
- "Let's make this a year of action."
- "I believe what unites the people of this nation, regardless of race or region or party, young or old, rich or poor, is the simple, profound belief in opportunity for all – the notion that if you work hard and take responsibility, you can get ahead."
- "The cold, hard fact is that even in the midst of recovery, too many Americans are working more than ever just to get by – let alone get ahead."
- "America does not stand still – and neither will I."
- "Opportunity is who we are."
- "This needs to be the year Congress lifts the remaining restrictions on detainee transfers and we close the prison at Guantanamo Bay"
- "So wherever and whenever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families, that's what I'm going to do."
- "The problem is we're still not reaching enough kids, and we're not reaching them in time. That has to change."
- "The bottom line is, Michelle and I want every child to have the same chance this country gave us."
- "Because I firmly believe when women succeed, America succeeds."
- "We all owe it to the American people to say what we're for, not just what we're against."
- "Citizenship means standing up for everyone's right to vote… Citizenship means standing up for the lives that gun violence steals from us each day… Citizenship demands a sense of common cause; participation in the hard work of self-government; an obligation to serve to our communities."
- If John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan could negotiate with the Soviet Union, then surely a strong and confident America can negotiate with less powerful adversaries today.
- The America we want for our kids – a rising America where honest work is plentiful and communities are strong; where prosperity is widely shared and opportunity for all lets us go as far as our dreams and toil will take us – none of it is easy. But if we work together; if we summon what is best in us, with our feet planted firmly in today but our eyes cast towards tomorrow – I know it's within our reach.
This Is What Obama Is Proposing to Do Without Congress
- He's raising the minimum wage—for federal contract workers. It isn't the nationwide raise the president will also call on Congress to pass.
- The president will implement a retirement savings account program, which people can get through their employers. Such programs are already available from private sector providers.
- In partnership with private sector and federal agencies, his administration will launch six new innovation institutes this year aimed at developing new manufacturing technologies. The new hubs join four others, announced last year, in Obama's plan to establish 15 institutes by the end of 2014 without Congress' help.
- The administration will set new fuel efficiency standards for heavy-duty vehicles like trucks. Obama set such guidelines in 2011, and it looks like he hopes to tighten them up again.
- He will overhaul and expand SelectUSA, a federal investment promotion agency whose goal is to bring overseas jobs and production to American soil.
- He vowed to exercise executive authority to protect and conserve more federal land.
Matt Berman, Michael Catalini, Lucia Graves, Elahe Izadi, Marina Koren, Sarah Mimms, Brian Resnick, Matt Vasilogambros contributed to this article.