BUSINESS
02/12/2013 10:58 pm ET

Rand Paul Speech Responds To Obama's State Of The Union Address [FULL TEXT]

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) gave the Tea Party response to President Barack Obama's State of the Union address Tuesday night.

In his remarks, Paul encouraged the GOP to embrace immigration, a subject Obama touched on in his own speech.

Below, the full text of Paul's remarks as prepared for delivery:

I speak to you tonight from Washington, D.C. The state of our economy is tenuous but our people remain the greatest example of freedom and prosperity the world has ever known.

People say America is exceptional. I agree, but it’s not the complexion of our skin or the twists in our DNA that make us unique. America is exceptional because we were founded upon the notion that everyone should be free to pursue life, liberty, and happiness.

For the first time in history, men and women were guaranteed a chance to succeed based NOT on who your parents were but on your own initiative and desire to work.

We are in danger, though, of forgetting what made us great. The President seems to think the country can continue to borrow $50,000 per second. The President believes that we should just squeeze more money out of those who are working.

The path we are on is not sustainable, but few in Congress or in this Administration seem to recognize that their actions are endangering the prosperity of this great nation.

Ronald Reagan said, government is not the answer to the problem, government is the problem.

Tonight, the President told the nation he disagrees. President Obama believes government is the solution: More government, more taxes, more debt.

What the President fails to grasp is that the American system that rewards hard work is what made America so prosperous.

What America needs is not Robin Hood but Adam Smith. In the year we won our independence, Adam Smith described what creates the Wealth of Nations.

He described a limited government that largely did not interfere with individuals and their pursuit of happiness.

All that we are, all that we wish to be is now threatened by the notion that you can have something for nothing, that you can have your cake and eat it too, that you can spend a trillion dollars every year that you don’t have.

I was elected to the Senate in 2010 by people worried about our country, worried about our kids and their future. I thought I knew how bad it was in Washington. But it is worse than I ever imagined.

Congress is debating the wrong things.

Every debate in Washington is about how much to increase spending – a little or a lot.

About how much to increase taxes – a little or a lot.

The President does a big “woe is me” over the $1.2 trillion sequester that he endorsed and signed into law. Some Republicans are joining him. Few people understand that the sequester doesn’t even cut any spending. It just slows the rate of growth. Even with the sequester, government will grow over $7 trillion over the next decade.

Only in Washington could an increase of $7 trillion in spending over a decade be called a cut.

So, what is the President’s answer? Over the past four years he has added over $6 trillion in new debt and may well do the same in a second term. What solutions does he offer? He takes entitlement reform off the table and seeks to squeeze more money out of the private sector.

He says he wants a balanced approach.

What the country really needs is a balanced budget.

Washington acts in a way that your family never could – they spend money they do not have, they borrow from future generations, and then they blame each other for never fixing the problem.

Tonight I urge you to demand a new course.

Demand Washington change their ways, or be sent home.

To begin with, we absolutely must pass a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution!

The amendment must include strict tax and spending limitations.

Liberals complain that the budget can’t be balanced but if you cut just one penny from each dollar we currently spend, the budget would balance within six or seven years.

The Penny Plan has been crafted into a bill that millions of conservatives across the country support.

It is often said that there is not enough bipartisanship up here.

That is not true.

In fact, there is plenty.

Both parties have been guilty of spending too much, of protecting their sacred cows, of backroom deals in which everyone up here wins, but every taxpayer loses.

It is time for a new bipartisan consensus.

It is time Democrats admit that not every dollar spent on domestic programs is sacred. And it is time Republicans realize that military spending is not immune to waste and fraud.

Where would we cut spending; well, we could start with ending all foreign aid to countries that are burning our flag and chanting death to America.

The President could begin by stopping the F-16s and Abrams tanks being given to the radical Islamic government of Egypt.

Not only should the sequester stand, many pundits say the sequester really needs to be at least $4 trillion to avoid another downgrade of America’s credit rating.

Both parties will have to agree to cut, or we will never fix our fiscal mess.

Bipartisanship is not what is missing in Washington. Common sense is.

Trillion-dollar deficits hurt us all.

Printing more money to feed the never-ending appetite for spending hurts us all.

We pay higher prices every time we go to the supermarket or the gas pump. The value of the dollar shrinks with each new day.

Contrary to what the President claims, big government and debt are not a friend to the poor and the elderly. Big-government debt keeps the poor poor and saps the savings of the elderly.

This massive expansion of the debt destroys savings and steals the value of your wages.

Big government makes it more expensive to put food on the table. Big government is not your friend. The President offers you free stuff but his policies keep you poor.

Under President Obama, the ranks of America’s poor swelled to almost 1 in 6 people last year, reaching a new high as long-term unemployment left millions of Americans struggling and out of work.

The cycle must be broken.

The willpower to do this will not come from Congress. It must come from the American people.

Next month, I will propose a five-year balanced budget, a budget that last year was endorsed by taxpayer groups across the country for its boldness, and for actually solving the problem.

I will work with anyone on either side of the aisle who wants to cut spending.

But in recent years, there has been no one to work with.

The President’s massive tax hikes and spending increases have caused his budgets to get ZERO votes in both houses of Congress. Not a single Democrat voted for the President’s budget!

But at least he tried.

Senate Democrats have not even produced a budget in the time I have been in office, a shameful display of incompetence that illustrates their lack of seriousness.

This year, they say they will have a budget, but after just recently imposing hundreds of billions in new taxes, they now say they will include more tax hikes in their budget.

We must stand firm. We must say NO to any MORE tax hikes!

Only through lower taxes, less regulation and more freedom will the economy begin to grow again.

Our party is the party of growth, jobs and prosperity, and we will boldly lead on these issues.

Under the Obama economy, 12 million people are out of work. During the President’s first term 800,000 construction workers lost their jobs and another 800,000 simply gave up on looking for work.

With my five-year budget, millions of jobs would be created by cutting the corporate income tax in half, by creating a flat personal income tax of 17%, and by cutting the regulations that are strangling American businesses.

The only stimulus ever proven to work is leaving more money in the hands of those who earned it!

For those who are struggling we want to you to have something infinitely more valuable than a free phone, we want you to have a job and pathway to success.

We are the party that embraces hard work and ingenuity, therefore we must be the party that embraces the immigrant who wants to come to America for a better future.

We must be the party who sees immigrants as assets, not liabilities.

We must be the party that says, “If you want to work, if you want to become an American, we welcome you.”

For those striving to climb the ladder of success we must fix our schools.

America’s educational system is leaving behind anyone who starts with disadvantages.

We have cut classroom size in half and tripled spending on education and still we lag behind much of the world.

A great education needs to be available for everyone, whether you live on country club lane or in government housing.

This will only happen when we allow school choice for everyone, rich or poor, white, brown, or black.

Let the taxes you pay for education follow each and every student to the school of your choice.

Competition has made America the richest nation in history. Competition can make our educational system the envy of the world.

The status quo traps poor children in a crumbling system of hopelessness.

When every child can, like the President’s kids, go to the school of their choice, then will the dreams of our children come true!

Washington could also use a good dose of transparency, which is why we should fight back against middle of the night deals that end with massive bills no one has read.

We must continue to fight for legislation that forces Congress to read the bills!

We must continue to object when Congress sticks special interest riders on bills in the dead of night!

And if Congress refuses to obey its own rules, if Congress refuses to pass a budget, if Congress refuses to read the bills, then I say:

Sweep the place clean. Limit their terms and send them home!

I have seen the inner sanctum of Congress and believe me there is no monopoly on knowledge there.

If they will not listen, if they will not balance the budget, then we should limit their terms.

We are the party that adheres to the Constitution. We will not let the liberals tread on the Second Amendment!

We will fight to defend the entire Bill of Rights from the right to trial by jury to the right to be free from unlawful searches.

We will stand up against excessive government power wherever we see it.

We cannot and will not allow any President to act as if he were a king.

We will not let any President use executive orders to impinge on the Second Amendment.

We will not tolerate secret lists of American citizens who can be killed without trial.

Montesquieu wrote that there can be no liberty when the executive branch and the legislative branch are combined. Separation of powers is a bedrock principle of our Constitution.

We took the President to court over his unconstitutional recess appointments and won.

If necessary, we will take him to court again if he attempts to legislate by executive order.

Congress must reassert its authority as the protector of these rights, and stand up for them, no matter which party is in power.

Congress must stand as a check to the power of the executive, and it must stand as it was intended, as the voice of the people.

The people are crying out for change. They are asking for us to hear their voices, to fix our broken system, to right our economy and to restore their liberty.

Let us tonight let them know that we hear their voices. That we can and must work together, that we can and must re-chart our course toward a better future.

America has much greatness left in her. We will begin to thrive again when we begin to believe in ourselves again, when we regain our respect for our founding documents, when we balance our budget, when we understand that capitalism and free markets and free individuals are what creates our nation’s prosperity.

Thank you and God Bless America.

Below, live updates from the State of the Union:

02/13/2013 1:22 AM EST

Paul Ryan: Obama Immigration Remarks 'Productive'

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

02/13/2013 1:20 AM EST

Immigrant Workers Surprised, Disappointed By Obama Immigration Remarks

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.

02/13/2013 1:14 AM EST

Jobs Proposals Don't Go Far Enough, Economists Say

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 $50 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 $15 billion.

The president made a passing reference to a $447 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

02/13/2013 12:46 AM EST

Howard Fineman: The Emotion Of The Night

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

02/13/2013 12:35 AM EST

Obama Promises Climate Change Action

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.

02/13/2013 12:34 AM EST

Sen. Joe Manchin, West Virginia Democrat, Miffed Obama Didn't Mention Coal

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

02/13/2013 12:18 AM EST

Obama Short On Details For Climate Change And Green Energy

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.

02/13/2013 12:10 AM EST

What Stands In The Way Of A Minimum Wage Increase

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 $9 an hour.

In his State of the Union address, Barack Obama called on lawmakers to increase the federal minimum wage from $7.25. For an employee working a 40-hour work week, the bump would translate to a 24 percent raise to $18,720 a year.

However, because of the payroll tax hike that went into effect on Jan. 1, 10 percent of that raise, or $374, would be lost, according to a calculator provided by the Wall Street Journal.

Read more here.

-- Caroline Fairchild

02/12/2013 11:50 PM EST

Obama Calls For Pre-K Expansion

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.

02/12/2013 11:49 PM EST

Obama Calls For Immigration Reform To Attract Skilled Entrepreneurs, Engineers

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

RELATED ON HUFFPOST:

State Of The Union 2013

02/13/2013 1:22 AM EST

Paul Ryan: Obama Immigration Remarks 'Productive'

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

02/13/2013 1:20 AM EST

Immigrant Workers Surprised, Disappointed By Obama Immigration Remarks

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.

02/13/2013 1:14 AM EST

Jobs Proposals Don't Go Far Enough, Economists Say

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 $50 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 $15 billion.

The president made a passing reference to a $447 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

02/13/2013 12:46 AM EST

Howard Fineman: The Emotion Of The Night

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

02/13/2013 12:35 AM EST

Obama Promises Climate Change Action

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.

02/13/2013 12:34 AM EST

Sen. Joe Manchin, West Virginia Democrat, Miffed Obama Didn't Mention Coal

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

02/13/2013 12:18 AM EST

Obama Short On Details For Climate Change And Green Energy

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.

02/13/2013 12:10 AM EST

What Stands In The Way Of A Minimum Wage Increase

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 $9 an hour.

In his State of the Union address, Barack Obama called on lawmakers to increase the federal minimum wage from $7.25. For an employee working a 40-hour work week, the bump would translate to a 24 percent raise to $18,720 a year.

However, because of the payroll tax hike that went into effect on Jan. 1, 10 percent of that raise, or $374, would be lost, according to a calculator provided by the Wall Street Journal.

Read more here.

-- Caroline Fairchild

02/12/2013 11:50 PM EST

Obama Calls For Pre-K Expansion

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.

02/12/2013 11:49 PM EST

Obama Calls For Immigration Reform To Attract Skilled Entrepreneurs, Engineers

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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