Starting at 6pm tonight, The National Memo will be liveblogging President Barack Obama’s 2014 State of the Union Address. Be sure to check below as we break down the top moments, share the best commentary, and analyze the president’s big speech. And please share your thoughts on the speech in the comments section!
President Obama will announce that he is issuing an executive order that will make the minimum wage for federal contractors $10.10 for all new contracts. Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) — a member of the progressive caucus that pushed the president for this order — anticipates this could benefit as many as 200,000 workers.
– Jason Sattler, 6:01 EST
The state of the Republican Party is disjointed.
The president’s State of the Union address was traditionally followed by one response until the GOP become a real life internet comments section.
There will be four responses from separate Republicans tonight. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) will deliver the official response, which will be translated into Spanish by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL). Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) will offer a prerecorded response followed by Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) speaking on behalf of the Tea Party Express.
You could do a drinking game and sip every time they say “Bengahzi,” “job-killing” and “If you like your plan, you can keep your plan.” But this is 2014! If you’re Colorado, you owe it to America to make it a pot-smoking game.
– @LOLGOP, 6:03 PM EST
Liberals seem pleased with much of what the president plans to say Tuesday night. But if there’s one area of controversy in the Democratic Party, it’s over the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, which progressives oppose largely on the basis of leaked documents.
Ahead of SOTU, Reps Grijalva & Ellison to Obama: "We will stop the Trans-Pacific Partnership…before it ships more American jobs overseas."
— jennifer bendery (@jbendery) January 28, 2014
– Jason Sattler, 6:07 PM EST
President Obama will give this year’s State of the Union facing some some of the worst approval ratings of his presidency. But it’s important to remind ourselves how Republicans would judge him if he were one of their own.
If a Republican had gotten Osama bin Laden then presided over a doubling of the stock market and a halving of the deficit, the GOP would insist he give the State of the Union at Mount Rushmore.
But since Obama is a Democrat who raised taxes on the rich back to pre-Reagan levels and passed health reforms that are already reducing the percentage of the uninsured, he’s despised by the right — even though he helped prevent a depression and saved the auto industry. This president has also done more for LGBT rights than all other presidents combined. And he’s managed to reform Wall Street, at least a bit.
So while his conservative accomplishments make the right’s antipathy ridiculous, President Obama — through his progressive achievements — has, as Franklin Roosevelt said, welcomed their hatred.
– @LOLGOP, 7: 16 PM EST
The White House has released excerpts of the president’s speech. “Opportunity” is the key word:
“In the coming months, let’s see where else we can make progress together. Let’s make this a year of action. That’s what most Americans want – for all of us in this chamber to focus on their lives, their hopes, their aspirations. And what I believe 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.
Let’s face it: that belief has suffered some serious blows. Over more than three decades, even before the Great Recession hit, massive shifts in technology and global competition had eliminated a lot of good, middle-class jobs, and weakened the economic foundations that families depend on.
Today, after four years of economic growth, corporate profits and stock prices have rarely been higher, and those at the top have never done better. But average wages have barely budged. Inequality has deepened. Upward mobility has stalled. 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. And too many still aren’t working at all.
Our job is to reverse these tides. It won’t happen right away, and we won’t agree on everything. But what I offer tonight is a set of concrete, practical proposals to speed up growth, strengthen the middle class, and build new ladders of opportunity into the middle class. Some require Congressional action, and I’m eager to work with all of you. But America does not stand still – and neither will I. 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.”
“Opportunity is who we are. And the defining project of our generation is to restore that promise.”
It seems the president has taken pollster Stan Greenberg’s advice to focus on the economy without trumpeting the recovery, which has largely not been felt by the middle class.
– Jason Sattler, 7:25 PM EST
The great David Dayen tweeted a couple of reactions to excerpts from Senator Mike Lee’s response.
One is mocking:
And one gives the first-term Tea Partier a little respect:
OTOH, Mike Lee's SOTU response contains a section on prison reform. Take a non-sarcastic bow.
— David Dayen (@ddayen) January 29, 2014
Prison reform seems like an issue where genuine compromise can happen if Tea Partiers can get their leadership to focus on it.
– @LOLGOP, 7:56 PM EST
Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) will deliver the Tea Party Express response tonight after the President’s State of the Union. Just like the president, Lee is expected to focus on the economy and the struggle on behalf of the middle class.
The senator posted excerpts of his remarks on his website where his response can later be viewed.
“Throughout the last five years, President Obama has promised an economy for the middle class; but all he’s delivered is an economy for the middle-men.
We have a new generation of leaders in Washington with positive, innovative ideas – thoughtful policy reforms to, as my friend Senator Ted Cruz says –“Make D.C. listen.” Reforms to help poor families work their way into the middle class, to help middle-class families start to get ahead, and to level the playing field and put corporate and political insiders back to work for the rest of us.”
Unfortunately Senator Lee’s statements are just rhetoric. The economic growth plan that he spoke of earlier this year would do much less for the middle class – like implementing a flat tax which only benefit the wealthy and leave the middle class paying more. Like many of his Republican colleagues earlier this month, he voted against extending unemployment benefits to millions of Americans. And of course he stands firmly against raising the federal minimum wage.
Allison Brito, 8:46 PM EST
Randy Weber seems nice.
As we wait for the president to arrive, Representative Randy Weber (R-TX) provides a perfect reminder of why the president has seemingly given up hope of working with Congress to implement his agenda:
On floor of house waitin on "Kommandant-In-Chef"… the Socialistic dictator who's been feeding US a line or is it "A-Lying?"
— Randy Weber (@TXRandy14) January 29, 2014
– Henry Decker, 8:52 PM EST
“America does not stand still – and neither will I,” President Obama says. “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.”
Polls suggest that the public is on board with that plan — 52 percent support presidents using executive actions to bypass Congress, while 46 percent are opposed, according to the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll.
– Henry Decker, 9:25 PM EST
Don’t be fooled by the bipartisan applause for immigration reform — as long as House Republicans are calling for ever-tougher border security benchmarks, you can bet that they aren’t serious about taking a vote (see more here.)
– Henry Decker, 9:36 PM EST
The public is also squarely behind the president’s plan for universal pre-K — 63 percent labeled it a priority in the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.
– Henry Decker, 9:44 PM EST
President makes a great joke – -It’s time to do away with workplace policies that belong in a Mad Men epsiode – to make the point that when women succeed, America succeeds.
Boehner remains seated during wild applause. Another moment in the long, slow death of Republican outreach.
– Joe Conason, 9:52 PM EST
The president just lauded marriage and referenced Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) who recently gave a speech on how matrimony fights poverty. That’s the last thing the former-Tea Party darling needed.
– @LOLGOP, 9:54 PM EST
– Henry Decker, 9:55 PM EST
Republicans stay seated when President Obama said he would sign an executive order to raise minimum wage for federal contractors. Unfortunately for the GOP, a majority of Americans–upward of 70 percent according to a Gallup poll stand with the president on this issue.
– Allison Brito, 9:55 PM EST
For some reason, Republicans won’t applaud ACA’s abolition of insurance discrimination based on pre existing conditions – or gender.
GOP outreach continues its slow death…
– Joe Conason, 9:59 PM EST
President clearly explains his sensible Iran policy; “American diplomacy, backed by pressure” has halted advancement of Iranian nuclear program. And wisely promises to veto additional sanctions now – which would derail negotiations, “for the sake of our national security.”
– Joe Conason, 10:12 PM EST
“We do these things because they help promote our long-term security. And we do them because we believe in the inherent dignity and equality of every human being, regardless of race or religion, creed or sexual orientation,” the president says. “And next week, the world will see one expression of that commitment – when Team USA marches the red, white, and blue into the Olympic Stadium – and brings home the gold.”
Nothing gets the crowd on its feet quite like a shot at Vladimir Putin.
– Henry Decker, 10:16 PM EST
An important promise – to provide the “mental health care” that veterans need. We haven’t done that, one of the reasons for horrific and scandalous rates of homelessness, addiction, and suicide among those who have served.
– Joe Conason, 10:17 PM EST
A bravely positive and beautifully composed speech – that nevertheless conveyed a sense of determination.
– Joe Conason, 10:27 PM EST
At The Atlantic‘s dinner, David Koch says he wishes Obama had “announced his approval of the Keystone pipeline” – always money first. Koch also “joked” that Obama should have promised to “repeal” the ACA.
These remarks earned Koch some (very light) applause from the 100 or so “influentials” watching SOTU at Manhattan’s Monkey Bar.
– Joe Conason, 10:36 PM EST