ThinkProgress Live-Blogs The State Of The Union

Welcome to ThinkProgress’ live-blog of President Obama’s fifth State of the Union address. We’ll be providing real-time commentary and analysis of Obama’s speech and the official responses from Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Rand Paul (R-KY).

08:45 PM: The context for Obama’s address

As we await President Obama’s fifth State of the Union address, here are 6 facts you must know before he speaks.

08:45 PM: Survivors will stand up for sensible gun laws

Twenty six victims of gun violence will attend the address tonight, each wearing a black and white ribbon to signify their commitment to sensible gun laws. They all plan to stand silently during the portion of the President’s speech about gun safety regulations. The number of attendees is a reminder of the 26 who died in the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary.

08:49 PM: The Energy Secretary will stay behind

Energy Secretary Stephen Chu will be the Cabinet member not in attendance tonight. As per tradition, he will be at an undisclosed location “so the country would have a leader in the event of a catastrophic disaster.”

09:19 PM: Corporate profits grow while corporate taxes plummet

Obama notes that “Corporate profits have rocketed to all-time highs — but for more than a decade, wages and incomes have barely budged.” Indeed, corporate profits have grown by 171 percent under Obama, the most in the post-war era. Meanwhile, corporate taxes — which used to track reasonably well with corporate profits — have plummeted:

09:21 PM: Obama touts deficit reduction

Obama notes that spending has decreased “more than $2.5 trillion” under his administration. Nearly three-quarters of that deficit reduction is in the form of spending cuts, while the remaining one-quarter comes from revenue increases:

09:22 PM: Why the sequester is so bad

The sequester will devastate food safety, education, law enforcement, and safety net programs — initiatives that are already suffering from decreases in funding. The CBO anticipates that economic growth will slow this year due to “fiscal tightening that has already begun or is scheduled to occur.” Additional cuts would hamper economic growth even more:

09:24 PM: Health care costs are the ‘biggest driver’ of debt

“[T]he biggest driver of our long-term debt is the rising cost of health care for an aging population,” Obama admits. Thankfully, the Affordable Care Act will slow the growth of Medicare over the next decade by, in part: eliminating overpayments to private insurers in Medicare Advantage, reforming provider payments to encourage greater efficiency, tying reimbursements to improvements in economic productivity, and reducing fraud and abuse:

09:25 PM: Slowed health care costs are shrinking the deficit

The health care cost slowdown, partly due to the Affordable Care Act, has contributed significantly to shrinking the deficit and is on track to increase economic growth by 2 percent in 2020.

09:25 PM: Obama’s Medicare reforms

Obama says that “those of us who care deeply about programs like Medicare must embrace the need for modest reforms.” The Affordable Care Act reduces the the growth of Medicare by $716 billion and the president’s latest budget would go even further to improve the program. Obama avoids Rep. Paul Ryan’s approach “to turn Medicare into a voucher or Medicaid into a block grant,” but would still produce approximately $360 billion in savings from Medicare, Medicaid, and other health care programs over 10 years. Here is a chart showing where all the savings come from in his latest budget:

09:26 PM: CHART: Spending under Obama is slower than it has been in half a century

The lack of spending growth under Obama is literally unprecedented in the last half-century, and government spending is at its slowest rate since Dwight Eisenhower was president:

09:30 PM: Republicans have blocked the American Jobs Act for over a year

It’s been about a year and five months since Obama put forth the American Jobs Act, but Republicans have continuously blocked the bill from moving forward.

09:33 PM: Uphold the full faith and credit of the US

During the 2011 debt ceiling fight that brought on the Budget Control Act and the so-called sequester deal, Republican intransigence on taxes led to the first downgrade of US credit in history.

09:33 PM: Notorious Apple manufacturer Foxconn is expanding to the US

Obama praises Apple for moving some manufacturing back to the US. But Foxconn, which is looking to open plants in cities like Detroit and Los Angeles, has an abysmal labor record in China. Apple has continued to look the other way as Foxconn forces workers to risk serious injury during 12-hour shifts for little pay.

09:34 PM: What tax reform can look like

Obama called for a bipartisan effort to reform our complicated tax code. A good place to sart on tax reform is by reducing the hidden spending delivered by tax breaks and tax loopholes that benefit the wealthy:

09:36 PM: ‘Act before it’s too late’ on climate

Following strong remarks on climate change at the inauguration, Obama calls to “act before it’s too late” on cutting carbon emissions, urging Congress to “pursue a bipartisan, market-based solution,” as well as a dig at climate deniers who reject overwhelming science.


There were 25 “billion-dollar damage weather events in the U.S. in 2011 and 2012. costing the U.S. a whopping $188 billion.

09:37 PM: Obama has created millions of green jobs

Obama’s dedication to pushing the effort forward isn’t just good for the climate, it’s good for the economy. He is on track to create 5 million clean energy jobs in the country, and his stimulus plan was packed with green job initiatives. Obama’s fuel efficiency standards alone will create 570,000 U.S. manufacturing jobs by 2030.

09:38 PM: Obama says he’ll issue executive orders on climate change

They’re likely to be expanding CO2 emissions regulations for old power plants and an energy efficiency building program. Here are the details.

09:39 PM: Deteriorating roads and bridges

Obama isn’t exaggerating; the average American bridge is now 43 years old — and a 2008 Department of Transportation survey determined that 72,868 are “structurally deficient,” while 89,024 are “functionally obsolete.” Obama’s plan calls for “$50 billion in frontloaded infrastructure investment includes $40 billion that would be targeted to the most urgent upgrades, like the 70,000 structurally deficient bridges across the country.”

09:42 PM: A plan for much-needed housing assistance

Homeowners have been left struggling as much of the economy recovers, but one of Obama’s proposals tonight would help people who need to refinance their homes. He is also calling for the investment $15 billion toward ‘Project Rebuild,’ an effort to fix up homes in disrepair due to foreclosure.

09:45 PM: Universal preschool is worth it

Studies show that preschool helps children learn social skills, keeps them out of prison, and helps them earn more. And a huge Republican stronghold, Oklahoma, has been the leader on early childhood education with their extremely successful universal preschool program.

09:45 PM: Republicans have publicly denounced stimulus funds while quietly requesting them

Obama’s “ribbon-cutting” comment may be in reference to Tea Party Rep. Frank Guinta (R-NH), who attended a ribbon cutting ceremony for a stimulus-funded airport access road before publicly denouncing stimulus funding. He’s hardly the only Republican to disavow stimulus funds while quietly asking for them.

09:46 PM: A renewed focus on college affordability

Obama tonight outlined a new plan to base some federal aid packages on a university’s affordability and overall value in an attempt to reign in the soaring costs of higher education.


“Tonight, I ask Congress to change the Higher Education Act, so that affordability and value are included in determining which colleges receive certain types of federal aid,” he said.

As part of his push, Obama announced a new “college scorecard,” to be released by the White House tomorrow, that will help families select colleges that are considered to be “best buy.”

09:50 PM: That bipartisan immigration reform proposal

Here’s a rundown of what’s in an immigration reform proposal supported by Senators on both sides of the aisle. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle applauded Obama’s call for a comprehensive restructuring of our broken immigration system but some conservatives, like Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), remained seated.

09:51 PM: 22 Republican Male Senators Voted Against VAWA

The Senate did pass the Violence Against Women Act today, by a vote of 78–22. But 22 Republican, male senators voted against it. Here they are:

09:53 PM: Obama calls for a living wage

Obama called for raising the minimum wage to $9 per hour, up from its current $7.25. He also called for raising the tipped minimum wage — made by tipped employees, such as waitresses — and for indexing the minimum wage to inflation so that it grows along with the economy.


Conservatives usually oppose minimum wage increases on the grounds that they will hurt small businesses and job growth. However, study after study has shown that raising the minimum wage does not have a negative effect on employment. In fact, an analysis of state minimum wage increases showed that those state boosting their wage “had job growth slightly above the national average.” This holds true even when the economy is weak. Read more here.

09:57 PM: How to improve oversight of the drone program

The President says he plans to “engage with Congress” to “to forge a durable legal and policy framework to guide our counterterrorism operations,” presumably including the use of drones in targeted killings. Here are five practical things they can do together.

09:59 PM: Afghanistan war will end in the Spring

Obama just announced an end to the war in Afghanistan, saying, “this spring, our forces will move into a support role, while Afghan security forces take the lead. Tonight, I can announce that over the next year, another 34,000 American troops will come home from Afghanistan.”

10:02 PM: Obama’s new standards on cybersecurity

The executive order the President mentioned will set up voluntary standards for cybersecurity that private companies can follow to help keep information and critical infrastructure safe.

10:05 PM: AIDS awareness on the national stage

Just five days after national black AIDS awareness day, Obama brought the often-ignored issue of HIV and AIDS to light during his speech just now, saying that an “AIDS-free generation” is within our reach.

10:07 PM: President Obama’s audience tonight

The average income of tonight’s audience varies quite a bit.

10:08 PM: A commission to improve voting rights

With 102-year-old Florida woman Desiline Victor, who stood in line six hours to cast her ballot, in the audience as a guest of the First Lady, Obama announced he will form a non-partisan commission to address the ongoing hurdles Americans face when trying to cast a ballot, such as long lines and new voter suppression laws.

Due to election laws enacted by Republican-controlled state legislatures, minority voters waited in line almost twice as long as white voters in the November election.

10:08 PM: More than 9 in 10 Americans support universal background checks

Obama noted that “overwhelming majorities of Americans — Americans who believe in the 2nd Amendment — have come together around commonsense reform — like background checks that will make it harder for criminals to get their hands on a gun.” Indeed, 92 percent of Americans support universal background checks, the same percentage who enjoy eating pie. Watch and listen to gun show attendees in Colorado explain five reasons why they want universal background checks.

10:09 PM: Victims of gun violence are all too common

The President’s examples of gun violence victims point to a depressingly large trend: 32,000 Americans are killed by guns every year, 11,000 of which are homicides.

10:10 PM: Obama’s gun proposals would save lives

From universal background checks to the assault weapons ban, here are the facts.

10:14 PM: Same-sex military families are still barred from almost 100 benefits

While Obama repealed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” to allow gay soldiers to openly serve, the Defense of Marriage Act has barred same sex military families from almost 100 benefits, including medical care, education benefits, and joint duty assignment privileges to keep couples together.

10:15 PM: Voting at any cost

Miami resident Desiline Victor, who is 102, made multiple trips to her polling place and waited in line for 3 hours in order to finally cast her vote. She is sitting next to Michelle Obama.

10:17 PM: Obama interrupted 80 times for applause

According to Fox News, Obama was interrupted 80 times tonight and received some 31 standing ovations.

10:34 PM: Rubio’s dead wrong: funding Obamacare is a significant investment in the economy

Rubio’s claim that tax dollars spent on Obamacare are dollars that will “not be spent elsewhere” in the economy is tautological at best and deliberately misleading at worst. Tax dollars that fund Obamacare’s subsidies and optional Medicaid expansion will help previously uninsured Americans afford health coverage, leading to less uncompensated care costs in the U.S. medical industry. Furthermore, with affordable coverage, Americans are less likely to go bankrupt as a consequence of a costly or catastrophic medical condition that they cannot afford, allowing them to continue contributing to the economy.

10:35 PM: No, government didn’t cause the Great Recession

Rubio repeats a long-debunked myth.

10:36 PM: Rubio did vote to undermine Medicare

Rubio claims that he never would have voted for a bill that undermined his mother’s Medicare coverage. But in supporting Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) budget, he did increase costs for current seniors in the program and significantly raised premiums for future retirees.

10:37 PM: Rubio’s definition of ‘responsible’ oil drilling

Rubio said “let’s open up more federal lands for safe and responsible exploration.” Just one year after the 2010 BP oil disaster, Rubio voted along with other Republicans to expand coastal oil and gas exploration and issue faster drilling permits.

10:37 PM: Rubio doesn’t even believe climate change is real

In his rebuttal, Rubio attacked Obama for his push for clean energy. Rubio is out of touch on this; despite the horrible effects of extreme weather in his home state of Florida, he claims there’s “reasonable debate” over whether climate change is real.

10:37 PM: Rubio doesn’t mention his ‘no’ vote on Violence Against Women Act today

Rubio was one of just 22 senators — all men and all Republicans — who voted against the Violence Against Women Act today.

10:38 PM: Most common words in Rubio’s speech?

Turns out the two most frequent words in Rubio’s rebuttal are “more” and “government.”

10:39 PM: Rubio omits path to citizenship

When Rubio addressed immigration reform, he called for a “ responsible, permanent solution to the problem of those who are here illegally.” Some conservatives’ answer to immigration reform omits citizenship, which would create “a permanent underclass of workers.” Citizinship is essential to the economy, and would raise the nation’s gross domestic product by $1.5 trillion in the next decade, raise wages for everyone, and lead to between $4.5 and $5.4 billion in increased tax revenue. Meanwhile, his calls for more border security fall flat, since illegal crossings are down.

10:40 PM: Note to Rubio: Democrats extended the life of Medicare

During the presidential election, Republicans accused Democrats of “raiding” Medicare to pay for Obamacare, now he’s claiming that Obama wants to leave the program “exactly the way it is right now.” In truth, the reforms included in the Affordable Care Act will extend the solvency of the Medicare Trust Fund by 8 years without undermining seniors’ basic benefits.

10:42 PM: Rubio argues stronger gun laws are ‘unconstitutional’

Rubio argued that although “we must effectively deal with the rise of violence in our country,” he dismissed possible new gun laws as “unconstitutionally undermining the 2nd Amendment.” Common-sense gun regulations are not unconstitutional and the 2nd Amendment does not give Americans the right to own any weapon they choose with no regulations at all. Indeed, as conservative Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in the 2008 D.C. v. Heller case, “the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited.”

10:44 PM: Rubio’s wrong on President Obama’s energy policy

Rubio hit Obama over his commitment to clean, renewable energy investments, arguing instead that Obama focus on expanding drilling and oil exploration on federal land. But Obama has actually overseen an increase in the number of barrels of oil produced on public land.

10:47 PM: Fox News compares Rubio to Bobby Jindal

Fox News’ Bret Baier reacts: “This response is always a tough spot, a tough job…definitely appeared that Sen. Rubio was a bit nervous at times. Getting dry mouth, finally taking a drink of water…Remember Gov. Bobby Jindal had a tough time delivering a response.”

10:52 PM: Cables skip Tea Party response

Fox and CNN are not carrying Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-KY) Tea Party response, but you can find it here.

10:53 PM: The national economy is not like a family budget

Paul says that “Washington acts in a way that your family never could.” That’s because the federal budget is fundamentally different from households and is in a slump as a result of a reduction in spending by households and businesses.

10:54 PM: Rand Paul says the sequester is not enough

Despite the horrible impact that the sequester would have on the economy, Rand Paul is trashing the measure as not nearly enough cost-cutting. He is also calling for a balanced budget amendment, a measure that would force the government to slash spending during an economic downturn, driving up unemployment and making the downturn worse, in a vicious cycle. If the amendment were in place during the last financial crisis, unemployment would have doubled.

10:55 PM: Oil industry think tank blasts Obama’s climate change remarks

Immediately after Obama’s address, an oil-funded group, Institute for Energy Research, attacked the president’s strong remarks on climate change.

“It is telling that President Obama seemed more concerned about climate change than job creation, clearly following a well-worn path for this administration where no crisis goes to waste in pursuit of the President’s progressive agenda,” IER President Thomas Pyle said. “For this administration, a deadly hurricane means a chance for carbon taxes. A crop-killing heat wave means another opportunity to attack the coal industry. Virtually any nightly weather report can be exploited to justify the empowerment of Washington regulators and more hurdles for affordable energy. In fact, the only jobs the president seems to be worried about are at the Environmental Protection Agency.”

Climate-change fueled extreme weather cost up to $188 billion since 2011, a deadly reminder that action is needed.

11:01 PM: Rand Paul perpetuates the ‘free Obama phone’ myth

Rand Paul says the Republican Party won’t “give you a free phone,” referring to a myth that Obama was giving out free cell phones to poor people as incentive to vote for him. In fact, former president and Republican icon Ronald Reagan was the first to propose the program, and former president George W. Bush (R) expanded the program to include cell phones.

11:03 PM: Rand Paul cites Adam Smith, a major proponent of banking regulations

Paul said that Obama should have learned from 18th century philosopher Adam Smith, author of The Wealth Of Nations. Though conservatives like Paul frequently cite Smith to justify their opposition to new regulations, Smith actually said that regulations on banks were as important as fire codes and other safety regulations. As Paul Krugman notes, he even supported banning high-risk, high-interest loans, similar to today’s subprime lending.

11:11 PM: Rubio tweets his water bottle

Heading off the nearly-immediate Twitter mockery over Rubio reaching for a bottle of water in the middle of his rebuttal, the Senator (or one of his staff) tweeted this just after his speech:

11:12 PM: That’s a wrap!

Surely pundits will have more to say on the speech — and the two rebuttals — tomorrow, but that wraps up the ThinkProgress live blog. Thanks for joining!