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Marco Rubio Speech: GOP Senator Responds To Obama's State Of The Union Address [FULL TEXT]

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(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File) | AP

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) gives the GOP rebuttal to President Barack Obama's 2013 State of the Union address Tuesday night.

Rubio's remarks come after Obama speaks in front of a joint session of Congress.

Read the full text of Rubio's remarks as prepared for delivery in English below:

Good evening. I’m Marco Rubio. I’m blessed to represent Florida in the United States Senate. Let me begin by congratulating President Obama on the start of his second term. Tonight, I have the honor of responding to his State of the Union address on behalf of my fellow Republicans. And I am especially honored to be addressing our brave men and women serving in the armed forces and in diplomatic posts around the world. You may be thousands of miles away, but you are always in our prayers.

The State of the Union address is always a reminder of how unique America is. For much of human history, most people were trapped in stagnant societies, where a tiny minority always stayed on top, and no one else even had a chance.

But America is exceptional because we believe that every life, at every stage, is precious, and that everyone everywhere has a God-given right to go as far as their talents and hard work will take them.

Like most Americans, for me this ideal is personal. My parents immigrated here in pursuit of the opportunity to improve their life and give their children the chance at an even better one. They made it to the middle class, my dad working as a bartender and my mother as a cashier and a maid. I didn’t inherit any money from them. But I inherited something far better – the real opportunity to accomplish my dreams.

This opportunity – to make it to the middle class or beyond no matter where you start out in life – it isn’t bestowed on us from Washington. It comes from a vibrant free economy where people can risk their own money to open a business. And when they succeed, they hire more people, who in turn invest or spend the money they make, helping others start a business and create jobs.

Presidents in both parties – from John F. Kennedy to Ronald Reagan – have known that our free enterprise economy is the source of our middle class prosperity.

But President Obama? He believes it’s the cause of our problems. That the economic downturn happened because our government didn’t tax enough, spend enough and control enough. And, therefore, as you heard tonight, his solution to virtually every problem we face is for Washington to tax more, borrow more and spend more.

This idea – that our problems were caused by a government that was too small – it’s just not true. In fact, a major cause of our recent downturn was a housing crisis created by reckless government policies.

And the idea that more taxes and more government spending is the best way to help hardworking middle class taxpayers – that’s an old idea that’s failed every time it’s been tried.

More government isn’t going to help you get ahead. It’s going to hold you back.

More government isn’t going to create more opportunities. It’s going to limit them.

And more government isn’t going to inspire new ideas, new businesses and new private sector jobs. It’s going to create uncertainty.

Because more government breeds complicated rules and laws that a small business can’t afford to follow.

Because more government raises taxes on employers who then pass the costs on to their employees through fewer hours, lower pay and even layoffs.

And because many government programs that claim to help the middle class, often end up hurting them instead.

For example, Obamacare was supposed to help middle class Americans afford health insurance. But now, some people are losing the health insurance they were happy with. And because Obamacare created expensive requirements for companies with more than 50 employees, now many of these businesses aren’t hiring. Not only that; they’re being forced to lay people off and switch from full-time employees to part-time workers.

Now does this mean there’s no role for government? Of course not. It plays a crucial part in keeping us safe, enforcing rules, and providing some security against the risks of modern life. But government’s role is wisely limited by the Constitution. And it can’t play its essential role when it ignores those limits.

There are valid reasons to be concerned about the President’s plan to grow our government. But any time anyone opposes the President’s agenda, he and his allies usually respond by falsely attacking their motives.

When we point out that no matter how many job-killing laws we pass, our government can’t control the weather – he accuses us of wanting dirty water and dirty air.

When we suggest we strengthen our safety net programs by giving states more flexibility to manage them – he accuses us of wanting to leave the elderly and disabled to fend for themselves.

And tonight, he even criticized us for refusing to raise taxes to delay military cuts – cuts that were his idea in the first place.

But his favorite attack of all is that those who don’t agree with him – they only care about rich people.

Mr. President, I still live in the same working class neighborhood I grew up in. My neighbors aren’t millionaires. They’re retirees who depend on Social Security and Medicare. They’re workers who have to get up early tomorrow morning and go to work to pay the bills. They’re immigrants, who came here because they were stuck in poverty in countries where the government dominated the economy.

The tax increases and the deficit spending you propose will hurt middle class families. It will cost them their raises. It will cost them their benefits. It may even cost some of them their jobs.

And it will hurt seniors because it does nothing to save Medicare and Social Security.

So Mr. President, I don’t oppose your plans because I want to protect the rich. I oppose your plans because I want to protect my neighbors.

Hard-working middle class Americans who don’t need us to come up with a plan to grow the government. They want a plan to grow the middle class.

Economic growth is the best way to help the middle class. Unfortunately, our economy actually shrank during the last three months of 2012.

But if we can get the economy to grow at just 4 percent a year, it would create millions of middle class jobs. And it could reduce our deficits by almost $4 trillion dollars over the next decade.

Tax increases can’t do this. Raising taxes won’t create private sector jobs. And there’s no realistic tax increase that could lower our deficits by almost $4 trillion. That’s why I hope the President will abandon his obsession with raising taxes and instead work with us to achieve real growth in our economy.

One of the best ways to encourage growth is through our energy industry. Of course solar and wind energy should be a part of our energy portfolio. But God also blessed America with abundant coal, oil and natural gas. Instead of wasting more taxpayer money on so-called “clean energy” companies like Solyndra, let’s open up more federal lands for safe and responsible exploration. And let’s reform our energy regulations so that they’re reasonable and based on common sense. If we can grow our energy industry, it will make us energy independent, it will create middle class jobs and it will help bring manufacturing back from places like China.

Simplifying our tax code will also help the middle class, because it will make it easier for small businesses to hire and grow.

And we agree with the President that we should lower our corporate tax rate, which is one of the highest in the world, so that companies will start bringing their money and their jobs back here from overseas.

We can also help our economy grow if we have a legal immigration system that allows us to attract and assimilate the world’s best and brightest. We need a responsible, permanent solution to the problem of those who are here illegally. But first, we must follow through on the broken promises of the past to secure our borders and enforce our laws.

Helping the middle class grow will also require an education system that gives people the skills today’s jobs entail and the knowledge that tomorrow’s world will require.

We need to incentivize local school districts to offer more advanced placement courses and more vocational and career training.

We need to give all parents, especially the parents of children with special needs, the opportunity to send their children to the school of their choice.

And because tuition costs have grown so fast, we need to change the way we pay for higher education.

I believe in federal financial aid. I couldn’t have gone to college without it. But it’s not just about spending more money on these programs; it’s also about strengthening and modernizing them.

A 21st century workforce should not be forced to accept 20th century education solutions. Today’s students aren’t only 18 year olds. They’re returning veterans. They’re single parents who decide to get the education they need to earn a decent wage. And they’re workers who have lost jobs that are never coming back and need to be retrained.

We need student aid that does not discriminate against programs that non-traditional students rely on – like online courses, or degree programs that give you credit for work experience.

When I finished school, I owed over 100,000 dollars in student loans, a debt I paid off just a few months ago. Today, many graduates face massive student debt. We must give students more information on the costs and benefits of the student loans they’re taking out.

All these measures are key to helping the economy grow. But we won’t be able to sustain a vibrant middle class unless we solve our debt problem.

Every dollar our government borrows is money that isn’t being invested to create jobs. And the uncertainty created by the debt is one reason why many businesses aren’t hiring.

The President loves to blame the debt on President Bush. But President Obama created more debt in four years than his predecessor did in eight.

The real cause of our debt is that our government has been spending 1 trillion dollars more than it takes in every year. That’s why we need a balanced budget amendment.

The biggest obstacles to balancing the budget are programs where spending is already locked in. One of these programs, Medicare, is especially important to me. It provided my father the care he needed to battle cancer and ultimately die with dignity. And it pays for the care my mother receives now.

I would never support any changes to Medicare that would hurt seniors like my mother. But anyone who is in favor of leaving Medicare exactly the way it is right now, is in favor of bankrupting it.

Republicans have offered a detailed and credible plan that helps save Medicare without hurting today’s retirees. Instead of playing politics with Medicare, when is the President going to offer his plan to save it? Tonight would have been a good time for him to do it.

Of course, we face other challenges as well. We were all heart broken by the recent tragedy in Connecticut. We must effectively deal with the rise of violence in our country. But unconstitutionally undermining the 2nd Amendment rights of law-abiding Americans is not the way to do it.

On foreign policy, America continues to be indispensable to the goal of global liberty, prosperity and safeguarding human rights. The world is a better place when America is the strongest nation on earth. But we can’t remain powerful if we don’t have an economy that can afford it.

In the short time I’ve been here in Washington, nothing has frustrated me more than false choices like the ones the President laid out tonight.

The choice isn’t just between big government or big business. What we need is an accountable, efficient and effective government that allows small and new businesses to create middle class jobs.

We don’t have to raise taxes to avoid the President’s devastating cuts to our military. Republicans have passed a plan that replaces these cuts with responsible spending reforms.

In order to balance our budget, the choice doesn’t have to be either higher taxes or dramatic benefit cuts for those in need. Instead we should grow our economy so that we create new taxpayers, not new taxes, and so our government can afford to help those who truly cannot help themselves.

And the truth is every problem can’t be solved by government. Many are caused by the moral breakdown in our society. And the answers to those challenges lie primarily in our families and our faiths, not our politicians.

Despite our differences, I know that both Republicans and Democrats love America. I pray we can come together to solve our problems, because the choices before us could not be more important.

If we can get our economy healthy again, our children will be the most prosperous Americans ever.

And if we do not, we will forever be known as the generation responsible for America’s decline.
At a time when one showdown after another ends in short-term deals that do little or nothing about our real problems, some are starting to believe that our government leaders just can’t or won’t make the right choices anymore.

But our strength has never come from the White House or the Capitol. It’s always come from our people. A people united by the American idea that, if you have a dream and you are willing to work hard, nothing should be impossible.

Americans have always celebrated and been inspired by those who succeed. But it’s the dreams of those who are still trying to make it that sets our nation apart.

Tonight, all across this land, parents will hold their newborn children in their arms for the first time. For many of these parents, life has not gone the way they had planned.

Maybe they were born into circumstances they’ve found difficult to escape. Maybe they’ve made some mistakes along the way. Maybe they’re young mothers, all alone, the father of their child long gone.

But tonight, when they look into the eyes of their child for the first time, their lives will change forever. Because in those eyes, they will see what my parents saw in me, and what your parents saw in you. They will see all the hopes and dreams they once had for themselves.

This dream – of a better life for their children – it’s the hope of parents everywhere. Politicians here and throughout the world have long promised that more government can make those dreams come true.

But we Americans have always known better. From our earliest days, we embraced economic liberty instead. And because we did, America remains one of the few places on earth where dreams like these even have a chance.

Each time our nation has faced great challenges, what has kept us together was our shared hope for a better life.

Now, let that hope bring us together again. To solve the challenges of our time and write the next chapter in the amazing story of the greatest nation man has ever known.

Thank you for listening. May God bless all of you. May God bless our President. And may God continue to bless the United States of America.

Below, live updates from State of the Union:

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Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) had rare words of praise on Tuesday for President Barack Obama's message on immigration.

"I thought on comprehensive immigration reform, I thought his words were measured," Ryan said in an interview with CNN after the State of the Union address. "I think the tone and the words he took were productive on that front."

Obama urged Congress to act quickly -- "in the next few months" -- and praised the work of bipartisan groups in the House and Senate. Ryan said he appreciated that nod to Congress, adding that he thinks immigration is "an area where we have a good chance of getting something done."

"I think, you know, when you have -- when you are in the legislative arena and we're trying to get a comprehensive bipartisan agreement here, the words he uses matters," Ryan told CNN. "And he used what I thought was a measured tone, which gives me a sense that he is trying to get something done."

-- Elise Foley

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WASHINGTON -- For many of the 300 immigrant day laborers, cooks and manual laborers watching the State of the Union address at a Hilton Hotel in Washington on Tuesday, President Barack Obama's remarks on immigration were underwhelming.

When Obama called for swift action on immigration reform, the crowd in the Hilton conference room roared with cheers. But as the president laid out his policy ideas, including enhanced border security, taxes and penalties, the immigrant workers quickly turned to boos, hisses and indignation.

"I was surprised that he dedicated so little time of his speech to immigration," said Guillermina Castellanos, 52, a community organizer from San Francisco. "We know it's our labor that makes this country function."

The group was gathered for grassroots organizing trainings hosted by the United Workers Congress and the National Guestworker Alliance, and later this week will attend a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing and a press conference with Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.).

The organizers and workers are staunch supporters of comprehensive immigration reform that includes a pathway to citizenship, and one of their top priorities is to urge Obama to halt deportations -- which currently stand at record levels -- until immigration reform discussions are complete. About one-fifth of the crowd was undocumented, National Day Laborer Organizing Network spokesman B. Loewe estimated.

For immigrants, Obama's statements were particularly important. Raul de la Torre, 46, is a worker from Mexico who along with 89 of his colleagues was fired by his employer for allegedly being undocumented after the group tried to organize to bargain for fair wages. He is involved with Voces de la Frontera, an immigrant rights group, and was with Jennifer Martinez, a 33-year-old U.S. citizen also involved with Voces. She has four small children she is raising alone after her undocumented husband was deported to Mexico last year.

With Martinez acting as a translator, de la Torre said he "hoped and prayed with all his heart that Obama has a conscience."

-- Preston Maddock

CORRECTION: This post has been corrected to clarify details of Raul de la Torre's case.

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President Barack Obama argued Tuesday night that a growing economy with more middle-class jobs "must be the North Star that guides our efforts."

But some outside observers and economists said the president's State of the Union address reflected a less ambitious approach to job creation than in the past -- one that acknowledged the realities of dealing with a Congress focused mostly on deficit-reduction.

"I'm sure there are a lot of good things in there, but it's just going to be nickel-and-dime stuff," said Dean Baker, an economist with the Center for Economic and Policy Research. "He's starting his term, in my view, by asking for very, very little."

Obama's new proposals included a "Fix It First" program that calls for billion to hire people to fix decaying infrastructure such as bridges, and new upgrades to roads and railroads financed by reduced war spending. He also proposed a program to put people to work revamping vacant homes in communities ravaged by foreclosures, estimated to cost billion.

The president made a passing reference to a 7 billion jobs bill he proposed in 2011, but he stressed that "nothing I’m proposing tonight should increase our deficit by a single dime."

The language was a marked contrast from last year's speech, where Obama referenced the Hoover Dam, the Golden Gate Bridge and the interstate highway system as examples of past administrations investing in "great projects that benefited everybody."

"You need to fund these projects," he said in the 2012 address. "Take the money we're no longer spending at war, use half of it to pay down our debt, and use the rest to do some nation-building right here at home."

"Rhetorically, there were some bold visions in this speech, but I didn't see the level of specificity about the new projects this time as I have in the past," said Scott Paul, president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing. "Part of that may be an aspect of realism, but I'm of the school that if you don't ask for it, you're not going to get it."

Jared Bernstein, a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, said some of the more modest initiatives on job creation in this speech reflect the country moving beyond the crisis mode of 2009 and 2010.

"As opposed to his agenda in his first years, where he was really putting out a huge fire, at this point he's talking about rebuilding the house," said Bernstein, a former Obama administration economist. "You're going to hear much less about large deficit spending on a big stimulus, and more about investments in kids, in infrastructure, in our manufacturing base."

-- Chris Kirkham

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I was playing the role of hard-boiled -- not to say cynical -- reporter on the Hill when I got into a conversation with Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz after the president's State of the Union address Tuesday night.

"So," I asked, "do YOU have your own personal victim of gun-violence with you tonight?"

The Florida Democrat, an important party leader, shot me a glance that was equal parts pity, surprise and annoyance. "Yes I do," she said, and turned to introduce me to 17-year-old from Miami named Megan Hobson. The young woman explained that she had been injured in a drive-by shooting last year.

"We needed to have people here such as Megan to underscore the point we want to make about gun violence," Wasserman Schultz said.

President Barack Obama laid out a detailed progressive agenda, a recitation that some pundits panned, but that early polls showed the public liked. Still, the emotional highlight -- and potentially most politically astute maneuver -- was when Obama and his fellow Democrats discussed the lives and losses of gun-violence victims.

In an effort organized by five Democrats from New York and New England -- the region of Newtown -- more than 30 members brought to the Capitol families that had experienced gun-related tragedies. It was powerful theater, especially when Obama himself paid homage to the parents of a victim from Chicago.

Using the call-and-response cadence of a church service, the president demanded that the Congress allow up-or-down votes on several gun measures. The idea was to put Republicans and wavering Democrats from Red States on the spot.

And it felt in the House Chamber Tuesday night that he had done so.

"The president backed them into a corner and they sat there like they were trying out for stone faces on Mount Rushmore," said Rep. Steve Cohen, a Democrat from Tennessee. "I loved that. And maybe we'll get those voters."

Maybe the Democrats and Obama will. Whether they will win them is another matter. If they do, the beginning of the story of that victory will be this night in the U.S. House -- and with people such as Megan Hobson.

-- Howard Fineman

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The Huffington Post's Ryan Grim reports:

President Barack Obama Tuesday night pledged that if Congress refuses to take action to stem climate change, his administration would act unilaterally.

"I urge this Congress to pursue a bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change, like the one John McCain and Joe Lieberman worked on together a few years ago," Obama said, as McCain offered a tight smile from a back row. "But if Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will. I will direct my cabinet to come up with executive actions we can take, now and in the future, to reduce pollution, prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change, and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy."

There's about zero chance that the GOP-led House will pass climate change legislation this session, given that many of its members do not acknowledge that human activity has anything to do with it, if it's happening at all.

Click here to read more.

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Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, said he liked President Barack Obama's speech, but was miffed the energy portion left out his state's key resource -- coal.

Obama and his administration have talked about coal in the past, but Manchin noticed the president didn't bring it up when he was addressing energy efficiency and climate change.

"I was disappointed on energy," Manchin told reporters. "Not to say a word about coal -- and coal produces about 35 percent of the the nation's energy. When you look at it, you've got to talk about climate, and if you're talking about climate, the United States of America consumes close to one-eighth of the the coal that's burned in the world -- you should be finding the technology that helps use it cleanly, and uses it much better and more efficiently. So that was disappointing."

Many analysts have said there is no such thing as clean coal, although Obama and Vice President Joe Biden have talked up the idea in the past.

-- Michael McAuliff

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HuffPost's Lynne Peeples reports:

President Barack Obama's State of the Union remarks fell in line with what many energy experts, industry representatives and environmental advocates predicted to me earlier today -- lots of rhetoric yet little detail on how to tackle climate change and propel green energy.

Read more here.

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The payroll tax increase that went into effect at the beginning of the year stands to offset significantly the president's proposal to raise the federal minimum wage to an hour.

In his State of the Union address, Barack Obama called on lawmakers to increase the federal minimum wage from .25. For an employee working a 40-hour work week, the bump would translate to a 24 percent raise to ,720 a year.

However, because of the payroll tax hike that went into effect on Jan. 1, 10 percent of that raise, or 4, would be lost, according to a calculator provided by the Wall Street Journal.

Read more here.

-- Caroline Fairchild

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HuffPost's Joy Resmovits reports:

During Tuesday night's State of the Union address, President Barack Obama proposed several major education initiatives, including a big push to expand pre-kindergarten and a potential revamp of the federal aid system for college students.

"Tonight, I propose working with states to make high-quality preschool available to every child in America," Obama said. "Every dollar we invest in high-quality early education can save more than seven dollars later on.”

Instead of focusing on the bulk of American public school students, the president's proposals zeroed in on the margins, targeting the oldest and youngest members of the country's education system.

Read more here.

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President Barack Obama during his State of the Union address called for reforms to the nation's immigration system that would help highly-skilled immigrants remain in the country.

"Real reform means fixing the legal immigration system to cut waiting periods, reduce bureaucracy and attract the highly-skilled entrepreneurs and engineers that will help create jobs and grow our economy," Obama said.

The president said bipartisan groups in both chambers of Congress were working to draft an immigration reform bill. "Send me a comprehensive immigration reform bill in the next few months, and I will sign it right away," he said.

Advocates said a massive backlog of visas is preventing immigrants with advanced degrees in engineering from securing visas to remain in the country.

Read the entire piece here.

-- Gerry Smith

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In the Republican party's State of the Union response, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) contradicted the 2012 GOP party platform on federal student loans.

"I believe in federal financial aid. I couldn't have gone to college without it," Rubio said Tuesday evening.

Rubio owed nearly 0,000 in student loan debt to lender Sallie Mae for his time in college in the 1990s at the University of Florida and University of Miami. According to Yahoo! News, Rubio finished paying off the debt last year with book sales.

Rubio's statement runs counter to the 2012 Republican party platform, which called for an end to federal student aid and a return to subsidized student loans through private banks.

"The federal government should not be in the business of originating student loans; however, it should serve as an insurance guarantor for the private sector as they offer loans to students," the GOP platform reads. "Private sector participation in student financing should be welcomed."

Rubio did call for changes in federal student loan rules.

"Today, many graduates face massive student debt," Rubio said. "We must give students more information on the costs and benefits of the student loans they're taking out."

There are two bills proposed by Senate Democrats to address this concern.

The Know Before You Owe Act, proposed by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), would require schools to counsel students before they take out a private loan and inform them if they have any untapped federal loan eligibility. Durbin's bill didn't attract any Republican support in the previous session of Congress. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) proposed the Understanding the True Cost of College Act, which would require greater disclosure by higher education institutions and lenders. Franken's bill got bipartisan support, but never made it to a vote.

-- Tyler Kingkade

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With dozens of victims of gun violence in attendance at his State of the Union address Tuesday night, President Obama invoked the horrors visited on Newtown and Aurora in what many are calling the most rousing part of his speech.

Obama insisted that the people who live in those communities each "deserve a vote" on a variety of gun-control proposals aimed at reducing gun violence, including improved background checks and bans on "massive ammunition magazines" and "weapons of war."

"Okay, I agree," said Richard Feldman, a prominent supporter of gun rights and the head of the Independent Firearm Owners Association. "Newtown deserves a vote. Columbine deserves a vote. The question is not whether they deserve a vote, the question is what they're voting on."

In the '90s, Feldman was the head of the American Shooting Sports Council, one of the major trade associations for the gun industry at the time. He is now hoping to regain his position as a leader in the debate over guns in his new capacity as the founder of the Independent Firearm Owners Association, a group that has staked its success on the idea that politicians on both sides of the aisle can find common-sense solutions to gun violence.

One of those solutions, Feldman says, would be to allocate more funding to programs for people with mental illnesses. "But are we willing to put our money where our mouth is?" he asked.

Many of the same politicians who oppose gun control also oppose greater government spending, but Feldman dismissed that apparent conflict as a generalization. "If they do, they're wrong. If they do, they have to stop."

-- Saki Knafo

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The president on Tuesday announced a "Partnership to Rebuild America" that would create jobs through private investment in infrastructure, "to make sure taxpayers don't shoulder the whole burden."

According to an administration document released before the speech, the plan would encourage "private sector investment that will create jobs upgrading critical business infrastructure" such as oil and gas pipelines, ports and the power grid.

Another job-creation proposal that won't involve Congress involves public-private research partnerships to encourage high-tech manufacturing.

Read more here.

-- Chris Kirkham

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President Obama used the State of the Union address to renew a call for Congress to pass legislation that would permit some "responsible" homeowners a chance to refinance at current low rates, savings that could add up to ,000 a year per family, he said.

"Right now, there’s a bill in this Congress that would give every responsible homeowner in America the chance to save ,000 a year by refinancing at today’s rates," Obama said. "Democrats and Republicans have supported it before. What are we waiting for? Take a vote, and send me that bill."

An additional 8 million borrowers would qualify for the federal government's Home Affordable Refinance Program, or HARP, under the proposed legislation. Most significantly, the bill would allow underwater homeowners, those who owe more than their home is worth, to participate.

Obama made a similar plea in August following a New York Times article critical of his handling of housing policy.

Obama also acknowledged the difficulty that many would-be borrowers face in shopping for a home loan. "Even with mortgage rates near a 50-year low, too many families with solid credit who want to buy a home are being rejected," he said.

In a policy paper released by the White House Tuesday night, Obama also proposed a billion program to help communities hardest hit by the foreclosure crisis rebuild, while creating new construction jobs. This "Project Rebuild" would rehabilitate or demolish more than 100,000 damaged or vacant properties, the administration said.

-- Ben Hallman

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Shortly after concluding his State of the Union address, President Obama dialed into a conference call with members of his new advocacy organization, Organizing for Action.

"Don't let the conversations you had tonight become empty words," he urged participants on the call.

The plea was part of a larger effort by Obama to follow up his legislative agenda with grassroots action. It's something that his administration admits it failed to do during his first term in office. And it's one of the few methods that the White House thinks it can use to overcome steadfast Republican opposition.

"Tweet your support of my plan to create jobs and strengthen the middle class," Obama said, offering up the hashtag #jobsnow.

"I hope what I said tonight resonated with you. But remember, me saying it doesn't mean anything. To get it passed, to get it signed, to get it implemented, to get it done, that is going to require a big push from you guys."

-- Sam Stein

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One of the more distracting dynamics tonight was the consistent refusal of House Speaker John Boehner to stand and applaud when Vice President Joe Biden rose next to him. Here Boehner is sitting, as Biden stands to applaud the eventual end of the Afghanistan war:

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@ howardfineman : Groans at tv monitors in statuary hall when rubio reached for the water. Of such small moments are epochs made?

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@ howardfineman : Gop also stone-faced on voting study O proposed. And equal pay for women

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Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) gave only a brief mention to immigration policy during his GOP rebuttal to the State of the Union, focusing more on the economy than the more contentious issue that has put him at odds with many of his Republican colleagues.

"We can also help our economy grow if we have a legal immigration system that allows us to attract and assimilate the world’s best and brightest," Rubio said. "We need a responsible, permanent solution to the problem of those who are here illegally. But first, we must follow through on the broken promises of the past to secure our borders and enforce our laws."

Rubio is a member of the "gang of eight," a bipartisan group of senators working on a comprehensive immigration bill. With the rest of the group, including GOP Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Rubio called for a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants along with stricter border and interior enforcement and a major overhaul of the legal immigration system.

A number of Republicans disagree with the "gang of eight" on the issue of citizenship for undocumented immigrants, and Rubio has attempted to walk the thin line between agreeing with them about the risks and trying to argue for the plan he put forward.

To do so, he has emphasized, as he did on Tuesday, the need to secure borders and enforce the laws "before" any other reform, which the "gang of eight" plan does, at least in a sense. The plan would allow undocumented immigrants who met certain requirements to gain provisional legal status right away, but then would require border provisions be met before any of them could be given green cards.

-- Elise Foley

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HuffPost's Ryan J. Reilly reports:

Desiline Victor, a 102-year-old Miami woman who waited for hours to vote in the last election, got a standing ovation from the nation's top leaders during President Barack Obama's State of the Union address Tuesday night. Victor attended the State of the Union as a guest of first lady Michelle Obama.

"When she arrived at her polling place, she was told the wait to vote might be six hours," the president said. "And as time ticked by, her concern was not with her tired body or aching feet, but whether folks like her would get to have their say. Hour after hour, a throng of people stayed in line in support of her. Because Desiline is 102 years old. And they erupted in cheers when she finally put on a sticker that read 'I Voted.'"

Click here to read more.

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@ SenJohnMcCain : Disappointed but not surprised by the President's failure to seriously address the issue of 60,000 dead in #Syria. #SOTU

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@ howardfineman : Call for increase in minimum wage probably got the coldest response from GOP -- a classic if not THE classic dem-repub dividing point. H

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President Barack Obama's State of the Union address Tuesday night drew immediate reactions from politicians from both parties, with some taking to Twitter during the speech to respond. Here's what some had to say during and immediately after the speech.

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@ gov : Most-tweeted #SOTU moment: Middle class opportunity and minimum wage at 9:52p ET = ~24,000 Tweets per minute.

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@ howardfineman : Might be able to get a bare majority for -- but most won't get enacted.

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@ howardfineman : That was a detailed, programmatic speech -- some of which he has and can do on his own; some things he mighj

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President Obama essentially plagiarized himself in last year's State of the Union, with remarks on immigration that were strikingly similar to those he made during his address in 2011. And both of those segments focused largely on Dreamers, the young undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children.

This year, though, he no longer had to make the case for why immigration reform is needed -- now the argument is over what such reforms should include. Where in previous speeches he implored Congress to take up even a single measure, this year he's calling for an entire package, and has the momentum to do so.

For comparison, here are Obama's remarks on immigration in the past three State of the Union speeches, with emphasis added for what the president seemed to indicate could get done.


Today, there are hundreds of thousands of students excelling in our schools who are not American citizens. Some are the children of undocumented workers, who had nothing to do with the actions of their parents. They grew up as Americans and pledge allegiance to our flag, and yet they live every day with the threat of deportation. Others come here from abroad to study in our colleges and universities. But as soon as they obtain advanced degrees, we send them back home to compete against us. It makes no sense.

Now, I strongly believe that we should take on, once and for all, the issue of illegal immigration. And I am prepared to work with Republicans and Democrats to protect our borders, enforce our laws and address the millions of undocumented workers who are now living in the shadows. I know that debate will be difficult. I know it will take time. But tonight, let's agree to make that effort. And let's stop expelling talented, responsible young people who could be staffing our research labs or starting a new business, who could be further enriching this nation.


Let’s also remember that hundreds of thousands of talented, hardworking students in this country face another challenge: the fact that they aren’t yet American citizens. Many were brought here as small children, are American through and through, yet they live every day with the threat of deportation. Others came more recently, to study business and science and engineering, but as soon as they get their degree, we send them home to invent new products and create new jobs somewhere else. That doesn't make sense.

I believe as strongly as ever that we should take on illegal immigration. That’s why my administration has put more boots on the border than ever before. That’s why there are fewer illegal crossings than when I took office. The opponents of action are out of excuses. We should be working on comprehensive immigration reform right now.

But if election-year politics keeps Congress from acting on a comprehensive plan, let’s at least agree to stop expelling responsible young people who want to staff our labs, start new businesses, defend this country. Send me a law that gives them the chance to earn their citizenship. I will sign it right away.

Our economy is stronger when we harness the talents and ingenuity of striving, hopeful immigrants. And right now, leaders from the business, labor, law enforcement, and faith communities all agree that the time has come to pass comprehensive immigration reform. Real reform means strong border security, and we can build on the progress my Administration has already made – putting more boots on the southern border than at any time in our history, and reducing illegal crossings to their lowest levels in 40 years. Real reform means establishing a responsible pathway to earned citizenship – a path that includes passing a background check, paying taxes and a meaningful penalty, learning English, and going to the back of the line behind the folks trying to come here legally. And real reform means fixing the legal immigration system to cut waiting periods, reduce bureaucracy, and attract the highly-skilled entrepreneurs and engineers that will help create jobs and grow our economy.

In other words, we know what needs to be done. As we speak, bipartisan groups in both chambers are working diligently to draft a bill, and I applaud their efforts. Now let’s get this done. Send me a comprehensive immigration reform bill in the next few months, and I will sign it right away.

-- Elise Foley

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@ JohnCelockHP : A lot of cabinet members getting hugs from #POTUS as he leaves House chamber after #SOTU.

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President Obama received one of his biggest standing ovations of the night as he saluted the parents of Hadiya Pendleton, a young woman killed by gun violence, and demanded that Congress vote on gun control measures.

"One of those we lost was a young girl named Hadiya Pendleton," he said. "She was 15 years old. She loved Fig Newtons and lip gloss. She was a majorette. She was so good to her friends, they all thought they were her best friend. Just three weeks ago, she was here, in Washington, with her classmates, performing for her country at my inauguration. And a week later, she was shot and killed in a Chicago park after school, just a mile away from my house."

"Hadiya’s parents, Nate and Cleo, are in this chamber tonight, along with more than two dozen Americans whose lives have been torn apart by gun violence. They deserve a vote."

-- Christina Wilkie

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@ howardfineman : We are citizens.

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@ howardfineman : Obama's detailed practical tone is probably the right one for the times, tho his emotional appeal on guns clearly infuriated Rs

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@ HuffPostHill : TONIGHT'S WINNER: Desiline, who is 102 and stayed awake. TONIGHT'S LOSER: John Boehner, who is 63 and didn't.

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@ jmartpolitico : Finally some real energy in chamber after O cites tragedy after tragedy.

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@ howardfineman : Silence and reverence for Hadiya them shouts of demands for votes on the tough meAsures

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@ howardfineman : Hushed silence in the hall as obama turns to guns

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@ JohannaBarr : Obama on gun violence victims: "They deserve a vote. Gabby Giffords deserves a vote. The families of Newtown deserve a vote." #SOTU

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@ HuffPostHill : Strongest section of the speech coming up...

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HuffPost's Christina Wilkie reports:

To drive home his point on the need for action on gun control, Obama invoked a string of mass shootings that have occurred during his administration. The State of the Union audience included dozens of people whose lives had been affected by gun violence, invited as guests of congressional Democrats and the White House.

"[Former Rep.] Gabby Giffords deserves a vote. The families of Newtown deserve a vote. The families of Aurora deserve a vote. The families of Oak Creek, and Tucson, and Blacksburg, and the countless other communities ripped open by gun violence -- they deserve a simple vote," Obama said.

As he prepared to finish the speech, the president acknowledged -- and some might say disarmed -- the argument favored by many who oppose gun control laws that no law can eliminate all gun violence.

"Our actions will not prevent every senseless act of violence in this country. Indeed, no laws, no initiatives, no administrative acts will perfectly solve all the challenges I’ve outlined tonight," Obama said. "But we were never sent here to be perfect. We were sent here to make what difference we can, to secure this nation, expand opportunity, and uphold our ideals through the hard, often frustrating, but absolutely necessary work of self-government."

Click here to read more.

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flotus sotu

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

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HuffPost Style reports:

Michelle Obama looked absolutely stunning during President Obama's State of the Union address on Tuesday. FLOTUS literally glowed in her two-toned sheath, complete with a glittering maroon skirt, black detailed neckline and a floral brooch. Did we say she looked stunning?

We're thinking the dress looks like a Jason Wu and the brooch is Alexis Bittar, but stay tuned for fashion credits.

Click here to read more.

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@ jonward11 : First half of speech the president seemed much more combative. Seems to have settled in and down a bit during second half

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@ HuffPostHill : Seriously, someone offer Boehner a cigarette so he stands up.

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paul ryan sotu

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

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Tuesday night's speech was never going to be about foreign policy, and President Obama certainly managed to wedge the international portions of his speech into a compressed space.

Aside from the previously leaked news of an accelerated drawdown of troops from Afghanistan, Obama touched on a small handful of foreign policy issues, including the nuclear threats posed by Iran and North Korea, which just today conducted yet another test, and the responsibilities America holds to its returning veterans.

One of the longer sections focused on the Arab Spring, which has posed a significant challenge to the Obama administration as it has found itself torn between a desire to help shape events positively and a reticence to directly interject in other nations' affairs. That dilemma, with little added by way of a reconciliation, is laid out in the address, when Obama said that the U.S. will "insist on respect for the fundamental rights of all people," but "cannot presume to dictate the course of change." He added, two years into the game, "The process will be messy."

The many advocates, pundits and (increasingly) former administration officials who believe Obama ought to do more to advance the cause of rebel fighters in Syria will find this balancing act deeply disappointing. On the two-year-old conflict there, Obama promised only to "keep the pressure on a Syrian regime that has murdered its own people," but otherwise offers no hints of a change in policy. He suggested that he may have more to say during a Middle East tour next month.

-- Joshua Hersh

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@ HuffPostHill : Lindsey Graham now keeled over, yanking his hair out and DEMANDING BENGHAZI ANSWERS

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A brief mention in tonight's State Of The Union address on the issue that roiled the media last week -- the Obama administration's approach to targeted, extra-judicial killings, and their relative constitutionality. In the speech, Obama seems to want to have it both ways:

Today, the organization that attacked us on 9/11 is a shadow of its former self. Different al Qaeda affiliates and extremist groups have emerged – from the Arabian Peninsula to Africa. The threat these groups pose is evolving. But to meet this threat, we don’t need to send tens of thousands of our sons and daughters abroad, or occupy other nations. Instead, we will need to help countries like Yemen, Libya, and Somalia provide for their own security, and help allies who take the fight to terrorists, as we have in Mali. And, where necessary, through a range of capabilities, we will continue to take direct action against those terrorists who pose the gravest threat to Americans.

As we do, we must enlist our values in the fight. That is why my Administration has worked tirelessly to forge a durable legal and policy framework to guide our counterterrorism operations. Throughout, we have kept Congress fully informed of our efforts. I recognize that in our democracy, no one should just take my word that we’re doing things the right way. So, in the months ahead, I will continue to engage with Congress to ensure not only that our targeting, detention, and prosecution of terrorists remains consistent with our laws and system of checks and balances, but that our efforts are even more transparent to the American people and to the world.

So, first we have the assertion that "throughout, we have kept Congress fully informed of our efforts." I'm not sure that Congress would agree! But, then, neither does Obama, apparently, hence the "in the months ahead, I will continue to engage with Congress to ensure not only that our targeting, detention, and prosecution of terrorists remains consistent with our laws and system of checks and balances, but that our efforts are even more transparent to the American people and to the world."

Clever bit of wordplay, but you're either making a full and transparent effort now, or you're not. Obama claims to be doing both.

-- Jason Linkins

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Obama made one direct and one indirect reference to gay and lesbian people in his State of the Union address.

"It is our unfinished task to restore the basic bargain that built this country – the idea that if you work hard and meet your responsibilities, you can get ahead, no matter where you come from, what you look like, or who you love," he said near the start of the speech.

Later on, while discussing his role as commander-in-chief, he said, "We will ensure equal

treatment for all service members, and equal benefits for their families – gay and straight."

Fred Sainz, a spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign, praised the president's words.

"These inclusions in the speech are meaningful," Sainz wrote in an email. "Both reaffirm his commitment to equality in ways that are substantively important. This President has done a lot for LGBT people but one of his greatest legacies will be the unapologetic way in which he has included LGBT people when speaking about our country and the way it should afford opportunity to all."

-- Lila Shapiro

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@ JohnCelockHP : Was that one party applause for #bipartisanship call for #cybersecurity? #SOTU

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(Photo by Charles Dharapak-Pool/Getty Images)

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