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White House

Live-Blogging the State of the Union

President Obama delivered his 2011 State of the Union to a mixed-seating crowd of Democrats and Republicans.(Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images)

photo of Rebecca Kaplan
January 25, 2011

11:10 p.m.-- We're getting to the hour of receiving responses to responses. Here's what Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman Steve Israel, D-N.Y., had to say after Ryan's response speech:

"Tonight made clear that President Obama, Republicans and Democrats share a common goal of reducing debt. Unfortunately, House Republicans - led by Chairman Ryan - are choosing controversial budget cuts that would privatize Social Security and dismantle Medicare.

"House Republican's [sic] answer to our nation's fiscal challenges is draconian budget cuts on the backs of middle class families. It is increasingly clear that the Republican way to reduce spending is to eliminate support for middle class families and seniors while protecting spending on special interests."

 

10:49 p.m.-- Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., is delivering the Tea Party response. She has charts. Read her remarks here.

10:43 p.m.-- More analysis from an NJ reporter. On transportation, Fawn Johnson says that Obama’s push for 80 percent of Americans to have access to high-speed rail within 25 years is visionary, but it’s also in Republicans’ sites as one of the top-down government programs to cut. And on education, she says that the president wants education policy to be a central component of his domestic policy agenda, but she wonders if the administration can back away from its national goal to elevate student achievement and still accommodate Republicans who want the federal government to back off of schools.

10:41 p.m.-- Marc Ambinder sends over some early polling from CBS:

"A CBS News Poll of speech watchers, conducted online by Knowledge Networks immediately after the President’s address, finds viewers generally positive about the economic proposals he laid out in the speech, and the prospects for bipartisanship.

"Overall, 92% of speech watchers approve of the proposals the President made in his speech.  Just 8% disapproves – typical of the high support a president generally receives among those who choose to watch the State of the Union.

"Americans who watched the speech are more Democratic than the nation as a whole.  That is not surprising; historically, a President’s supporters are more likely than his opponents to watch State of the Union addresses.  44% of speech viewers in this poll are Democrats and 26% are Republican.  In the most recent CBS News poll of all Americans, the breakdown is more even between the parties: 34% Democrat and 27% Republican.

"81%  of speech watchers approve of the President’s plans for the economy, up from 54% who approved before the speech.

"The sight of Democrats and Republicans sitting side by side gave speech watchers more confidence about cooperation: six in 10 say they expect more bipartisanship now than in years past."

10:37 p.m.-- Ryan done. Bachmann coming soon.

10:26 p.m.-- Rep. Paul Ryan is delivering the Republican response. As a reminder, you can find the text of his remarks here.

10:25 p.m.-- Obama (unsurprisingly) has support from Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee chairwoman:

"Two years ago our economy was on the brink of disaster and Democrats joined the President in making sure we didn't fall off a cliff. Tonight, the President laid out his vision to keep this economy growing. With the 2010 elections, Republicans earned the responsibility of governing and voters will be looking to see if they prefer political theater over solving problems. We hope that the successes from the lame duck session - where Republicans and Democrats worked together to solve problems - is a model for the next two years. Our country faces enormous challenges and Republicans who choose obstruction for the sake of political gamesmanship will be held accountable. Voters are not interested in grandstanding - they want solutions like the ones we heard from the President tonight."

10:23 p.m.--From Yochi J. Dreazen: Obama’s scant references to Afghanistan and Iraq are a clear sign of his shift from an early term focus on foreign policy to a renewed focus on domestic concerns.

10:22 p.m.-- Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., was unimpressed with Obama's proposals. He says:

"After presiding over a staggering 21 percent spending increase during his first two years in office, the President's proposal to simply keep spending at its current level for the next five years is too little, too late. In just two years, the government has grown at 10 times the rate of inflation.

"The president called for new spending, although he repeatedly called it 'investment,' but this is nothing more than increased Washington spending in the style of the failed stimulus. With a $14 trillion national debt that is growing at a trillion dollars every year, we should reverse the out of control spending we've witnessed the past two years and begin to save taxpayer dollars."

10:21 p.m.-- Aamer Madhani says that Obama's speech is his opening argument for re-election.

10:20 p.m.-- The pack of Congressional pages in the corner look thrilled as Obama comes over to shake their hands.

10:15 p.m.-- As he heads out, Obama signs programs for lawmakers. "Awesome job, Mr. President!" says Commerce Secretary Locke (h/t Abby Phillip).

10:13 p.m.-- And at 10:13 p.m., one hour and two minutes later, we have a lid on the president's speech.

10:12 p.m.-- Tim Fernholz writes about Obama rebuffing GOP calls for immediate, deep spending cuts.

10:11 p.m.-- Nearly one year after he signed into law sweeping changes to the U.S. health care system, Obama signals he’s open to change, Matt DoBias says.

10:09 p.m.-- With Obama's acknowledgment of Boehner's part in the American dream, he looked a bit emotional. And Biden gave a rousing fist pump to the president's line about a kid from Scranton.

10:08 p.m.-- Here's Coral Davenport, who says Obama put clean energy development at the center of his vision for a more competitive, centrist, and business-friendly administration going into the 2012 elections.

10:07 p.m.-- NJ's correspondents are already churning out great analysis. For starters, here's Jim Tankersley, who says that in a jobs-themed speech, Obama sang a decidedly corporate tune to soothe anxious American workers.

10:06 p.m.-- This line drew, by my impression, the longest round of applause so far: "We must never forget that the things we’ve struggled for, and fought for, live in the hearts of people everywhere. And we must always remember that the Americans who have borne the greatest burden in this struggle are the men and women who serve our country."

9:59 p.m.-- Another response, this one from the Business Roundtable.

"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. For example, we must promptly ratify and pursue more trade agreements, enact comprehensive tax reform and reevaluate excessive and expensive regulations.

"At the same time, we also urge a careful review of all new spending proposals mentioned tonight. As Chairman Paul Ryan made clear in his response, American prosperity depends on our ability to simultaneously manage down the debt and deficit as we work to boost competitiveness. This work must build on the outline suggested by the President's own National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform.

"'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."

9:57 p.m.-- A response to Obama's speech from American Association for Justice President Gibson Vance :

“As many as 98,000 people die every year from preventable medical errors, with countless more injured.  President Obama should direct his focus towards tackling this startling figure, not promoting efforts that could eliminate the legal rights of patients.”

9:56 p.m.-- Obama's pledge to veto any bill with earmarks in it draws a big smile and a standing ovation from McCain.

9:54 p.m.-- NJ's Marc Ambinder tells me Chief of Staff Bill Daley's contribution to the speech was the joke about salmon regulation getting even more complicated once it's smoked. The line drew a laugh - the first one - from the chamber.

9:51 p.m.-- Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., among those who gave a standing ovation to medical malpractice reform proposal.

9:48 p.m.-- Obama did draw bipartisan applause for his line proposing a fix in the small business provision of the law.

9:46 p.m.-- A trick: if you want to know where the Democrats are sitting, look at footage from the health care portion of the speech, where they stand while Republicans sit. But as he said, "Now, I’ve heard rumors that a few of you have some concerns about the new health care law," Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., actually smiled!

9:42 p.m.-- A quick Transportation Security Administration joke from Obama: "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."

9:39 p.m.-- An early exit for Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, NJ's Dan Friedman tells me:

Murkowski left the chamber abruptly due to a family emergency, her office confirmed.  “She was in the House chamber just prior to the speech when she got word that her youngest son was scheduled for an appendectomy tonight, so she headed straight for GWU hospital,” Murkowski spokesman Michael Brumas said via email.

9:37 p.m.-- This line drew applause from Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who is sitting next to Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., by the way: "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."

9:34 p.m.-- NJ's Ron Fournier is out with some early analysis of the president's speech.

9:33 p.m.-- This gets a lot of applause: "In South Korea, teachers are known as 'nation builders.' Here in America, it’s time we treated the people who educate our children with the same level of respect." A lot of his talk about teachers, including encouraging young people to become teachers, is drawing a lot of applause.

9:31 p.m.-- Obama is well into the section about how to do what is best for our kids - turning off the T.V., telling them the winner of the science fair deserves to be celebrated as much as the winner of the Super Bowl - but Boehner is still dry-eyed. How long will it last?

9:27 p.m.-- People seem to like "1 million electric vehicles on the road by 2015," and "I’m asking Congress to eliminate the billions in taxpayer dollars we currently give to oil companies."

9:24 p.m.-- "This is our generation's Sputnik moment" gets no applause, nor does "I will be sending a budget to Congress that helps us meet that goal." But investment in biomedical research, information technology, and especially clean energy technology gets some clappers.

9:23 p.m.-- "We need to out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world," gets applause and a few people who stand in response. The America rocks portion of the speech gets a few claps.

9:19 p.m.-- Some early reactions coming in. The New York Times has this 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."

9:14 p.m.-- As Obama opens the speech with a reference to Christina Taylor Green, who was killed during the Tucson shooting, the camera pans to her parents in the gallery. They looked solemn.

9:12 p.m.-- Referencing the buildup to the speech, Obama told Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as he approached the podium, "I don't need to deliver it now, everyone saw it."

9:11 p.m.-- Michelle Obama sporting a long-sleeved gray dress.

9:09 p.m.-- To add to the awkward middle school prom nature of the State of the Union, Obama seemed unsure of whether he should kiss the female justices. After a brief internal struggle, he went with cheek kisses for his female appointees, Sotomayor and Kagan.

9:08 p.m.-- Obama to Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla.: "You shaved your beard? You were looking a little scruffy." The two worked together in the Senate.

9:00 p.m.-- The Supreme Court justices have made their way to the floor. As we predicted earlier, Chief Justice John Roberts is there along with Justices Stephen Breyer, Anthony Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.

8:58 p.m.-- The Republicans have put out the full text of Rep. Ryan's response. You can read it here.

8:43 p.m.-- A report from the House from NJ's Dan Friedman: 

Senators were all paired up as they started their ceremonial walk to the House for the speech. Many walked with their state's other senator, if that person represented the opposite party. Sens. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., and Marco Rubio, R-Fla., for example, headed over together. Others were in random bipartisan pairings or with a fellow committee chief, such as Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., and incoming ranking member Orrin Hatch, R-Utah.

8:37 p.m.-- The president is getting ready to depart the White House and the House chamber is beginning to fill up. If you're not at a television, you will be able to watch a live stream of President Obama's speech and the rebuttal speeches by Reps. Ryan and Bachmann on our homepage.

8:23 p.m.-- Here's a photo of the ribbons that members of Congress will be wearing to honor the victims of the Tucson shooting:

8:08 p.m.-- ABC's Jake Tapper reports that Interior Secretary Ken Salazar will be the designated cabinet member who doesn't attend the State of the Union.

7:20 p.m.-- NJ was the first to obtain the full text of a draft of the State of the Union from a Democratic insider. Read it here.

6:58 p.m.-- Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., has me beat. I've been blogging about the speech since about 1 p.m., but he's been saving his seat since 8 o'clock this morning.

Why so early? Engel has a tradition that dates back to George H.W. Bush's first address before Congress: he sits in a center aisle seat so that when the president comes in, Engel will be right in the line of hand-shaking as he makes his way to the podium. He says his constituents love seeing him on national television.

He was able to take bathroom breaks with the help of Rep. Jean Schmidt, R-Ohio, his bipartisan seatmate and fellow State of the Union early bird (staffers are not allowed to save seats).

Also spotted staking out a spot: Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, and a handful of other lawmakers.

6:54 p.m.-- NJ's Kathy Kiely ran into former House Speaker Dennis Hastert at our reception for new members of Congress at the Library of Congress tonight. She asked Hastert - who has lost 100 pounds since leaving office, he told her - what he thought about the kumbaya seating efforts at the State of the Union. "We’ll see what they’re singing afterward,” he joked.

6:44 p.m.-- Update: we have more details on what Rep. Ryan will say in his response speech (paragraphs are sorted by topic by his office):

REP. GABRIELLE GIFFORDS: “President Obama just addressed a Congressional chamber filled with many new faces.  One face we did not see tonight was that of our friend and colleague, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona.  We all miss Gabby and her cheerful spirit; and we are praying for her return to the House Chamber.” 

 SPENDING: “In one of our first acts in the new majority, House Republicans voted to cut Congress’s own budget.  And just today, the House voted to restore the spending discipline that Washington sorely needs.  The reason is simple.  A few years ago, reducing spending was important.  Today, it’s imperative.  Here’s why.  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.  Frankly, it’s one of my greatest concerns as a parent – and I know many of you feel the same way.”

 BUDGET: “Americans are skeptical of both political parties, and that skepticism is justified – especially when it comes to spending.  So hold all of us accountable.  In this very room, the House will produce, debate, and advance a budget.  Last year – in an unprecedented failure– Congress chose not to pass, or even propose a budget.  The spending spree continued unchecked.  We owe you a better choice and a different vision.  Our forthcoming budget is our obligation to you – to show you how we intend to do things differently, how we will cut spending to get the debt down, help create jobs and prosperity, and reform government programs.”

 FISCAL CHALLENGE AHEAD: “Our nation is approaching a tipping point.  We are at a moment, where if government’s growth is left unchecked and unchallenged, America’s best century will be considered our past century. This is a future in which we will transform our social safety net into a hammock, which lulls able-bodied people into lives of complacency and dependency.  Depending on bureaucracy to foster innovation, competitiveness, and wise consumer choices has never worked – and it won’t work now.  We need to chart a new course.”

 STIMULUS: “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.”

 HEALTH CARE: “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.  Businesses and unions from around the country are asking the Obama Administration for waivers from the mandates.  Washington should not be in the business of picking winners and losers.  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. Last week, House Republicans voted for a full repeal of this law, as we pledged to do, and we will work to replace it with fiscally responsible, patient-centered reforms that actually reduce costs and expand coverage.”

 DEBT LIMIT: “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.  And during the last two years, that is exactly what we have gotten – along with record deficits and debt – to the point where the President is now urging Congress to increase the debt limit.  We believe the days of business as usual must come to an end.  We hold to a couple of simple convictions: Endless borrowing is not a strategy; spending cuts have to come first.”

 ROLE OF GOVERNMENT: “We believe government’s role is both vital and limited – to defend the nation from attack and provide for the common defense …  to secure our borders… to protect innocent life… to uphold our laws and Constitutional rights … to ensure domestic tranquility and equal opportunity … and to help provide a safety net for those who cannot provide for themselves.  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.  Limited government also means effective government.  When government takes on too many tasks, it usually doesn’t do any of them very well.  It’s no coincidence that trust in government is at an all-time low now that the size of government is at an all-time high.”

LIMITED GOVERNMENT: “We need to reclaim our American system of limited government, low taxes, reasonable regulations, and sound money, which has blessed us with unprecedented prosperity.  And it has done more to help the poor than any other economic system ever designed.  That’s the real secret to job creation – not borrowing and spending more money in Washington.  Limited government and free enterprise have helped make America the greatest nation on earth.”

6:40 p.m.-- This isn't the first time Obama has called for a new "Sputnik moment." Here's what he said in a December speech at Forsyth Technical Community College in Winston-Salem, N.C., the first time he used the reference.

"In 1957, just before this college opened, the Soviet Union beat us into space by launching a satellite known as Sputnik.  And that was a wake-up call that caused the United States to boost our investment in innovation and education -– particularly in math and science.  And as a result, once we put our minds to it, once we got focused, once we got unified, not only did we surpass the Soviets, we developed new American technologies, industries, and jobs. 

"So 50 years later, our generation’s Sputnik moment is back. This is our moment.  If the recession has taught us anything, it’s that we cannot go back to an economy that's driven by too much spending, too much borrowing, running up credit cards, taking out a lot of home equity loans, paper profits that are built on financial speculation.  We’ve got to rebuild on a new and stronger foundation for economic growth."

Read more about that speech here.

6:28 p.m.-- Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., is sitting pretty as he prepares to deliver the Republican response to the State of the Union:

His office also released this excerpt from the speech:

"Americans are skeptical of both political parties, and that skepticism is justified - especially when it comes to spending. So hold all of us accountable. In this very room, the House will produce, debate, and advance a budget. Last year - in an unprecedented failure- Congress chose not to pass, or even propose a budget. The spending spree continued unchecked. We owe you a better choice and a different vision. Our forthcoming budget is our obligation to you - to show you how we intend to do things differently ... how we will cut spending to get the debt down... help create jobs and prosperity ... and reform government programs."

6:14 p.m.-- We have some early excerpts of Obama's speech from the White House:

"With their votes, the American people determined that governing will now be a shared responsibility between parties. New laws will only pass with support from Democrats and Republicans. We will move forward together, or not at all – for the challenges we face are bigger than party, and bigger than politics.

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. 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.

But we have never measured progress by these yardsticks alone. We measure progress by the success of our people. By the jobs they can find and the quality of life those jobs offer. By the prospects of a small business owner who dreams of turning a good idea into a thriving enterprise. By the opportunities for a better life that we pass on to our children.  That’s the project the American people want us to work on. Together.

Half a century ago, when the Soviets beat us into space with the launch of a satellite called Sputnik¸ we had no idea how we’d beat them to the moon. The science wasn’t there yet. NASA didn’t even exist.

But after investing in better research and education, we didn’t just surpass the Soviets; we unleashed a wave of innovation that created new industries and millions of new jobs.

This is our generation’s Sputnik moment."

6:00 p.m.-- The Capitol is officially shutting down to everyone except credentialed media and authorized persons. Surrounding streets will close at 7 p.m. For the next few hours, nothing moves unless the Secret Service or U.S. Capitol Police says so.

5:46 p.m.-- Daniel Hernandez, the intern who is credited with saving Rep. Giffords' life for providing medical aid on the scene, tells CNN's Wolf Blitzer that members of Congress will be wearing white ribbons to show their support for those who lost their lives in Tucson. He also mentions that he still hasn't seen the congresswoman since the shooting because wants to respect the privacy of her family.

By the way, he turns 21 today.

5:44 p.m.-- While you're counting down the minutes until 9 p.m., take a look at this awesome graphic put together by NJ's Brian McGill that details the history of the speech. Click the graphic to open it in a new window.

 

 

5:40 p.m.-- Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, thinks the plan for legislators to sit together during the State of the Union is a load of...fluff.

"I don't think it has a lot of meaning," he told CNN's Wolf Blitzer. "I sit with Dennis Kucinich and other progressive Democrats when we want to talk about civil liberties and we do it in the middle of the auditorium, of the House, so I think that's the only thing that counts...I'm not against it. I hope it does a lot of good, but I -- I still think it's a lot of fluff."

He's got a point, but does sound a little bit like the guy who calls prom silly because he couldn't get a date.

5:02 p.m.-- Hotline's Reid Wilson has some advance excerpts of the alternative Republican/Tea Party response to the State of the Union. Here they are:

“After the $700 billion bailout, the trillion-dollar stimulus, and the massive budget bill with over 9,000 earmarks that the President signed, many of you implored Washington to please stop spending money we don’t have.

“But, instead of cutting, we saw an unprecedented explosion of government spending and debt at President Obama’s direction; unlike anything we have seen in the history of our country.”

“For two years President Obama made promises… He claimed that he would find solutions to fix our economy and help create jobs.

“Well, here are a few suggestions:

“The President could stop the EPA from imposing a job-destroying cap-and-trade system.

“The President could agree with House Republicans and commit himself to signing a Balanced Budget Amendment.

“The President could also agree to an all-of-the-above energy policy whereby we increase American energy production, reduce our dependence on foreign oil, reduce the price of gas at the pump, and create good-paying jobs in the U.S.

“The President could turn back some of the 132 regulations put in place in the last two years that each have an impact of $100-million or more on our economy.”

“Thanks to all of you, there’s reason to hope that real spending cuts are coming. Last November many of you went to the polls and voted out big-spending politicians and you put in their place men and women who have come to Washington with a commitment to follow the Constitution and cut the size of government. And I believe that we are in the early days of a history-making turn here in the House of Representatives.

“Last week we voted to repeal ObamaCare, and each day going forward, we must work hard to dismantle the massive government expansion that has happened over the past two years.”

4:45 p.m.-- A spokesman from Rep. Raul Grijalva's office confirms that some members of the Arizona delegation will be sitting together at the State of the Union tonight and that they will leave an empty seat in their midst to represent Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who is recovering in Texas from the Tucson shooting.

4:44 p.m.-- Another couple is announced - and they more or less agree on immigration! Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., and Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., will sit together.

4:30 p.m.-- Trying to plan your evening? NJ's Marc Ambinder says, "CBS News reports that Obama’s speech has roughly the same word count as it did last year. So expect it to run around one hour and 10 minutes."

4:12 p.m.-- Thanks to NJ's Tim Fernholz for this gem about Sens. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa:

"Yesterday, I asked Wyden if he and Chuck were going to Olive Garden or Chilis before the SOTU. His answer?

'Dairy Queen! As it happens, Chuck Grassley is a great fan of Dairy Queen, as am I. People think it’s because we’re both frugal – [or] pro-Blizzard!'

As it happens, there aren't any Dairy Queens in D.C., but it's the thought that counts. Fernholz will have a longer - and more serious - Q&A with Wyden in the magazine that comes out Friday.

4:01 p.m.-- We're getting more couple announcements by the minute. Some updates:

  • House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica, R-Fla., and Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.
  • Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan.
  • Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., and incoming ranking member Orrin Hatch, R-Utah.
  • Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., and Rep. David Dreier, R-Calif.

But this is really too much: The Hill reports that Waters and Dreier will coordinate outfits.This really is becoming a glorified middle school dance.

3:48 p.m-- It's State of the Union date night in Washington, and there's even talk of a threesome. Hotline's Jessica Taylor tells me that Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, will be sitting with Sens. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., and Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va. And they're not the only ménage a trois: Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and Mark Pryor, D-Ark., plan to sit as a trio. Four members of the Congressional Women's Softball Team—no joke--will sit together. You can see the full list of State of the Union dates here (scroll to the bottom), along with the sad story of how House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., waited too long to find a date.

3:25 p.m.-- Another preemptive move from the House GOP. NJ's Fawn Johnson reports that House Majority Leader John Boehner will meet with advocates of school choice tonight and introduce legislation tomorrow to reinstate the D.C. scholarship program. More for subscribers here.

3:18 p.m.-- The House is also looking to one-up Obama's proposed spending cuts with a propsed cut of their own. They passed a symbolic, nonbinding resolution by a vote of 256-165 that calls for cutting non-security discretionary spending down to the levels of fiscal 2008, NJ's Humberto Sanchez reports. Subscribers can read more here.

3:10 p.m.-- Republicans won't be waiting until after the State of the Union speech tonight to criticize some of the proposals Obama will put forth. Here's a reaction from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., courtesy of NJ's Dan Friedman:

“I would remind that in the speech last year there was a recommendation for a three-year freeze,” McConnell said. “And the problem with that is it freezes the spending- the extraordinary increase in spending that has occurred over the last two years. So it strikes most of that the effort to get us back to 2008 spending levels would be [preferable] if we really wanted to have an impact on our deficit problems. “

3:05 p.m.-- One subject of debate leading up to tonight's speech is whether the Supreme Court justices will be attending, given their debate over whether it was appropriate to attend such a partisan event. And last year, they received a stern talking-to from the podium when Obama criticzed their decision in the Citizens United case that opened up elections to a flood of previously restricted corporate money. Justice Samuel Alito was caught on camera mouthing the words "not true" during the president's critique.

But this year, Alito will be far, far away - in Obama's birthplace, in fact, where he will be delivering a speech Wednesday to the Hawaii State Bar Association. The Supreme Court confirmed today that six justices will attend, so the likely suspects are Chief Justice John Roberts - despite his objections to the speech's atmosphere - and Justices Anthony Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan. As he has done for the past 10 years, Justice Antonin Scalia won't attend. Justice Clarence Thomas didn't attend last year, and it's unlikely he will this year, either - especially since he is in the middle of a controversy over whether he intentionally omitted his wife's income from federal forms he is required to fill out.


1:35 p.m.-- Aamer Madhani has details on the five-year freeze in non-security, non-discretionary spending Obama will propose tonight. You can read more here.

1:30 p.m.-- Every year the White House invites a number of people the president has met during his travels from the previous year to the State of the Union. The tradition began with President Ronald Reagan in 1982, when he invited Lenny Skutnik, the man who risked his own life to save a passenger from a plane that crashed in the Potomac River. This year's invitees will join first lady Michelle Obama in her box. They reflect some of the themes we'll hear from President Obama tonight. There are people who benefitted from the Recovery Act and the Affordable Care Act, there are young students who have excelled in the fields of science, technology, math, and engineering, and there people who were affected by the Tucson shootings, including Daniel Hernandez, the intern who is credited with helping save Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' life, and the parents of nine-year-old Christina Tayor Green, who was killed.  The full list is below, with bios provided by the White House:

Dr. Jill Biden

 

Phil Schiliro, Assistant to the President and Director, Office of Legislative Affairs

 

Gary and Robert Allen (Rochester Hills, MI)

Gary and his brother Robert have been partners in the family business, Allen Brothers Inc., a roofing products manufacturing company, for 25 years.  With the help of $500,000 from the Recovery Act, the Allen brothers were able to retool half of their manufacturing facility in order to manufacture solar shingles and launch a whole new business, Luma Resources.  A graduate of Saginaw Valley State University, Gary, his wife Diane, and their six children are residents of Rochester Hills, Michigan.  Robert lives in Oakland Township, Michigan with his wife Nicole, and their three children.

 

Ursula M. Burns (Norwalk, CT)

Ursula M. Burns is the chief executive officer of Xerox Corporation. She joined Xerox in 1980 as a mechanical engineer summer intern and later assumed roles in product development and planning. From 1992 through 2000, Ms. Burns led several business teams including the office color and fax business and office network printing business. In 2000, she was named senior vice president, Corporate Strategic Services, heading up manufacturing and supply chain operations. She then took on the broader role of leading Xerox's global research as well as product development, marketing and delivery. In April 2007, Ms. Burns was named president of Xerox, expanding her leadership to also include the company's IT organization, corporate strategy, human resources, corporate marketing and global accounts. At that time, she was also elected a member of the company's Board of Directors. Ms. Burns was named chief executive officer in July 2009. Ms. Burns earned a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering from Polytechnic Institute of NYU and a Master of Science degree in mechanical engineering from Columbia University.  Ms. Burns was named by the President to help lead the White House national campaign on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education in November 2009, and is on the board of Change the Equation, a coalition of over 100 CEOs focused on STEM education that the President announced in September 2010. She was appointed vice chair of the President’s Export Council in March 2010.

 

Amy Chyao (Richardson, TX)

Amy, a sixteen-year-old high school junior from Richardson, Texas, has developed a photosensitizer for photodynamic therapy (PDT), an emerging cancer treatment which uses light energy to activate a drug that kills cancer cells. After her freshman year biology class, Amy became interested in cancer research and came up with an idea for improving the way medicine is designed.  So over her summer vacation she taught herself some basic chemistry and began her research.  With her work, Amy won the first place Gordon E. Moore Award at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, a program of Society for Science & the Public, in May 2010. Since taking home the top prize at the Intel science fair, she and her teacher have received inquiries from researchers who are actually implementing the therapy and are interested in her work. Amy, whose parents came here from China, is also a cellist and tutors younger children in her spare time. Amy met the President at the October 2010 White House Science Fair.

 

Kendra Baker and Zachary Davis (Santa Cruz, CA)

Business partners Kendra Baker and Zachary Davis had a dream of opening an organic, homemade ice cream shop in Santa Cruz, California, but had trouble finding a lender that would help finance their dream. With the help of a Recovery Act SBA loan of $250,000, Kendra and Zack were able open the doors to The Penny Ice Creamery in August 2010.  The SBA Recovery Act funding allowed them to not only open the shop, but also to employ eleven people, purchase American-made equipment, and to hire nearly twenty local businesses to design and renovate the space.  Kendra and Zack were so thankful for the financing help, that they posted a video on YouTube thanking the Administration and Members of Congress for their Recovery Act SBA loan.  As a result of the video, the Vice President called them in November 2010 to thank them for the video and wish them good luck.

 

Brandon and Julie Fisher (Berlin, PA)

Brandon Fisher is the owner of a small business, Center Rock, in Berlin, Pennsylvania that specializes in a new kind of drilling technology.  Last summer, Center Rock manufactured the drill bits and other equipment used to find and rescue the 33 trapped Chilean miners.  The technology enabled a considerable shortening of the rescue timeline.  Brandon and his wife, sales director Julie, spent 37 days in Chile working to drill the rescue shaft. Brandon, along with some of the Americans involved in the Chilean mine rescue efforts, met the President in October 2010.

 

Brandon Ford (Philadelphia, PA)

Brandon, a junior at West Philadelphia High School, is a leader of the West Philly Hybrid X Team which includes students from an after school program at the West Philadelphia High School Academy of Automotive and Mechanical Engineering. West Philadelphia is a public high school serving one of the most disadvantaged neighborhoods in Philadelphia. Brandon and the Hybrid X team recently entered two cars in the Progressive Automotive X PRIZE competition, a global challenge that sought to deliver production-ready highly fuel efficient vehicles. As high school students, they successfully went head to head with corporations, universities and other well-funded organizations from around the world, even advancing to an elimination round with their Ford Focus that got an official 65.1 MPGe.  Brandon is also one of a group of students who entered the Conrad Foundation’s Spirit of Innovation Awards with their proposal for an Electric Very Light Car. He and 4 other students spent many hours writing the proposal and graphic for the contest.  Brandon is a dedicated and hard working team member; for example, last week he worked with the team Tuesday, Thursday, all day Saturday, and then on Sunday participated with the team in a MLK Day of Service activity. He also plays varsity football for West Philadelphia High School. Brandon and the West Philly Hybrid X team attended the President’s September 2010 “Change the Equation” event.

 

The Green Family (Tucson, AZ)

John and Roxanna are the parents of eleven-year-old Dallas and the late Christina Taylor, the nine-year-old girl killed when a gunman opened fire on Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson earlier this month.  At just nine-years-old, Christina Taylor already had big plans to one day serve her country.  Christina Taylor was born on 9/11 and had used her birthdate as a source of inspiration during her short life.  Christina Taylor attended Mesa Verde Elementary, where she was a member of the student council.

 

Staff Sergeant Salvatore Giunta (Hiawatha, IA)

Staff Sergeant Salvatore Giunta, a native of Hiawatha, Iowa, enlisted in the United States Army in November 2003.  He attended Basic Training and Advanced Individual Training at Fort Benning, Georgia.  Staff Sergeant Giunta is currently assigned to 2-503rd Infantry Battalion, Rear Detachment, Camp Ederle, Italy.  Staff Sergeant Giunta has completed two combat tours to Afghanistan totaling 27 months of deployment.  His military decorations include: the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Army Commendation Medal w/oak leaf cluster, Army Achievement Medal, National Defense Service Medal, two Army Good Conduct Medals,  Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, to name a few.  He is married to Jennifer Lynn Mueller. In November 2010, the President awarded Staff Sergeant Salvatore Giunta, U.S. Army, the Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry.  He received the Medal of Honor for his courageous actions during combat operations against an armed enemy in the Korengal Valley, Afghanistan in October 2007. 

 

Daniel Hernandez (Tucson, AZ)

Daniel Hernandez is a student advocate and political activist from Tucson, Arizona. He currently serves as a Congressional Intern for Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and a Director with the Arizona Students’ Association.  Born in 1990, Daniel attended public schools in the Sunnyside Unified School District and is earning a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science as a junior at the University of Arizona.

 

Jim Houser (Portland, OR)

Jim Houser and his wife have owned an auto repair shop in Portland, Oregon for over 25 years, and it’s important to them to retain their employees and keep them healthy. They invest time, energy and money to train their workers and they don’t want to lose valuable employees. That’s why Jim has always provided health insurance to his employees. But in the last ten years, Jim has been forced to contend with skyrocketing premium increases, with premiums making up over 20 percent of his payroll.  Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, Jim and small business owners like him are getting immediate relief. The health reform law provides tax credits for small businesses that offer employees health insurance. And small business owners like Jim are benefiting from the tax credit today. Jim estimates that the tax credits will save him over $10,000.

 

James Howard (Katy, TX)

James Howard was diagnosed with brain cancer in March and later thought his lack of health insurance was a death sentence. Fortunately, he was able to join the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan and is now getting the treatment he needs.

 

Staff Sergeant Brian Mast and Brianna Mast (Washington, DC)

Staff Sergeant Brian Mast is a native of Grand Rapids, Michigan, and joined the United States Army Reserves after graduating from high school in 1999.  Four years ago he joined the Special Forces and was trained in bomb disposal.  Staff Sergeant Mast deployed to Afghanistan in July 2010.  He was seriously injured by a roadside bomb on September 19, 2010.  He lost both legs just below the knee and an index finger.  Staff Sergeant Mast suffered a broken arm, shrapnel wounds, and a damaged ear drum in the blast and is currently recovering at Walter Reed.  Staff Sergeant Mast, his wife, Brianna, and their son, Magnum, met the Vice President and Dr. Biden at a Thanksgiving dinner for military families that the Bidens hosted at the Vice President’s Residence in November 2010.

 

Gunnery Sergeant Nicole Mohabir (Fort Lee, VA)

Gunnery Sergeant Mohabir enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in December 1991.  After completing recruit training at Parris Island, South Carolina, she attended the Marine Corps Basic Food Service School at Camp Johnson, North Carolina, and was assigned as a Food Service Specialist.  Gunnery Sergeant Mohabir made her first deployment to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) from December 2002 to June 2003 with Combat Service Support Group-12.  In 2004, she made her second deployment in support of OIF and was assigned to Headquarters and Service Battalion, 1st Force Service Support Group at Camp Taqaddum, Iraq.  Gunnery Sergeant Mohabir deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in March 2010 and is currently back at her duty station in Fort Lee, Virginia.

 

Mikayla Nelson (Billings, MT)

Mikayla Nelson is currently a freshman at Central Catholic High School in Billings, Montana. As a middle schooler at Will James Middle School, she led her Science Bowl team to a 1st place finish at the National Science Bowl for the design document of their solar car. They also won 5th place in the U.S. Dept of Energy’s Junior Solar Sprint. In addition to excelling academically, Mikayla is taking flying lessons in hopes of attaining her pilot’s license, is building a 1932 Pietenpol Sky Scout airplane, runs her own birdhouse business, and is restoring a 1967 VW Beetle . She also works at a local hobby store to help cover the cost of her school tuition. Mikayla is working towards acceptance at the United State Air Force Academy where she hopes to major in mechanical engineering.  Mikayla met the President at the October 2010 White House Science Fair where she represented her Science Bowl team and exhibited their solar car. 

 

Kathy Proctor (Winston-Salem, NC)

Kathy Proctor grew up in Trinity, North Carolina where, after graduating, she went to work in the furniture industry like many others in the area. About six years ago, Kathy realized that furniture jobs were dwindling and started taking Math and English classes at night and on weekends to brush up on her skills after being out of school for so long. When she was laid off in 2009, Kathy began taking classes in biotechnology at Forsyth Technical Community College.  Kathy will graduate in July 2011, with an Associate Degree in Science, and hopes to attain a job working as a bio-fuels analyst. Kathy met the President when he visited Forsyth Tech in early December 2010.

 

Dr. Peter Rhee (Tucson, AZ)

Dr. Peter Rhee is an United States Navy veteran and military surgeon, currently serving as the Chief of Trauma at the University Medical Center in Tucson, Arizona. Dr. Rhee oversaw the medical care associated with Arizona's recent shooting tragedy, including the care of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.  Rhee has handled hundreds of battlefield injuries in two war deployments beginning in 2001. He was one of the first battlefield surgeons to be deployed to Camp Rhino, the first U.S. land base in Afghanistan, located in the remote desert about 100 miles southwest of Kandahar. In 2005, he served in Iraq.  Rhee earned his medical degree at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences F. Edward Hebert School of Medicine in 1987. He has a master's degree in public health from the University of Washington in Seattle and a diploma in the medical care of catastrophes.

 

Diego Vasquez (Phoenix, AZ)

Diego Vasquez, currently a freshman at South Mountain Community College in Phoenix, Arizona, was a member of the 12 person team from Cesar Chavez High School in Laveen, Arizona that won a grant through the Lemelson-MIT Program’s InvenTeams initiative for their design of a fully adjustable motorized chair for medically fragile individuals. The team decided to design the chair, which is to be used primarily for physical therapy, after seeing a disabled friend and fellow student struggle at school. The students and their families held a tamale “bake sale” so that the entire team could travel to MIT to attend EurekaFest, the Lemelson-MIT Program’s annual celebration of invention. For many members of the team, flying to Eurekafest was their first time on a plane. Diego hopes to become an aerospace engineer. Diego met the President at the October 2010 White House Science Fair where he represented his team and demonstrated their chair.

 

Wendell P. Weeks (Corning, NY)

Wendell P. Weeks is chairman and chief executive officer of Corning Incorporated. He was named chief executive officer in April 2005 and chairman of the board in April 2007. He has been a member of the company’s board of directors since December 2000.  Mr. Weeks began his career with Corning in 1983 in the corporate control group and moved through a variety of financial and business development roles. He then progressed through commercial and general management leadership positions in the company’s television and specialty glass businesses.  In 1993, Mr. Weeks was named general manager of external development in Corning’s telecommunications business. He was named vice president and general manager of the company’s optical fiber business in 1996. In early 2001, Mr. Weeks was named president of Corning’s optical communications businesses, leading them through both dynamic market growth and the subsequent challenges of market declines. Mr. Weeks was named president and chief operating officer of Corning in April 2002. Mr. Weeks is a graduate of Lehigh University and earned a Master of Business Administration from Harvard University as a Baker Scholar.

 

1:20 p.m.-- Good Tuesday afternoon from National Journal's White House team. We'll be bringing you minute-by-minute coverage all afternoon leading up to President Obama's 2011 State of the Union speech, as well as updates during the speech itself and links to our instant analysis when it's over.

Our reporters will also be bringing you updates on Twitter throughout the day. Follow @nationaljournal for the best of the NJ tweets. Our White House team, @NJAamer, @marcambinder, @beccakaplan and our fearless leader, @mattizcoop will also be bringing you information as it happens.

Have a tip for us, or a question you would like to see answered on the blog? Shoot me an email at kaplanr@nationaljournal.com.

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