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6:20 PM PT: Obama doesn't want this to be a doom and gloom speech—he's touting progress on economic issues, and trying to push a sense of optimism:
Tonight, this chamber speaks with one voice to the people we represent: it is you, our citizens, who make the state of our union strong.And from there he pivots to his critique of Congress:
Here are the results of your efforts: The lowest unemployment rate in over five years. A rebounding housing market. A manufacturing sector that’s adding jobs for the first time since the 1990s. More oil produced at home than we buy from the rest of the world – the first time that’s happened in nearly twenty years. Our deficits – cut by more than half. And for the first time in over a decade, business leaders around the world have declared that China is no longer the world’s number one place to invest; America is.
For several years now, this town has been consumed by a rancorous argument over the proper size of the federal government. It’s an important debate – one that dates back to our very founding. But when that debate prevents us from carrying out even the most basic functions of our democracy – when our differences shut down government or threaten the full faith and credit of the United States – then we are not doing right by the American people.I've only skimmed the speech, but at first glance, it surfaces some important themes for 2014.
6:25 PM PT: More on the "year of action" theme:
Some require Congressional action, and I’m eager to work with all of you. But America does not stand still – and neither will I. So wherever and whenever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families, that’s what I’m going to do.But despite all the buzz about how the president will be talking about how he's trying to take matters into his own hands, the speech in now way lets Congress or Republicans off the hook. Ultimately, for 2014, it's their obstruction that matters—Obama isn't on the ballot, but they are.
6:30 PM PT: Another example of the president holding Congress's feet to the fire:
We know that the nation that goes all-in on innovation today will own the global economy tomorrow. This is an edge America cannot surrender. Federally-funded research helped lead to the ideas and inventions behind Google and smartphones. That’s why Congress should undo the damage done by last year’s cuts to basic research so we can unleash the next great American discovery – whether it’s vaccines that stay ahead of drug-resistant bacteria, or paper-thin material that’s stronger than steel. And let’s pass a patent reform bill that allows our businesses to stay focused on innovation, not costly, needless litigation.
6:35 PM PT: Obama on climate change:
That’s why I directed my administration to work with states, utilities, and others to set new standards on the amount of carbon pollution our power plants are allowed to dump into the air. The shift to a cleaner energy economy won’t happen overnight, and it will require tough choices along the way. But the debate is settled. Climate change is a fact. And when our children’s children look us in the eye and ask if we did all we could to leave them a safer, more stable world, with new sources of energy, I want us to be able to say yes, we did.Three mentions of the word "climate" in the speech. And three mentioning "al Qaeda." Probably the first time there's ever been parity, though climate change is still obviously a much bigger threat.
6:37 PM PT: Another round of applause as Obama calls for Congress to enact immigration reform this year.