Politics

You Shouldn't Miss These Takeaways from the State of the Union

January 21st 2015

By:
Mike Vainisi

President Obama delivered his seventh (and second-to-last) State of The Union address to Congress on Tuesday, covering a wide range of issues including the cost of college, raising the minimum wage, our relationship with Cuba, climate change, and immigration, to name a few.

Read on for all the most important moments, which we broke down in real-time. 

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10:09pm ET: The president just closed his speech on the spirit of of bipartisanship. He had a moving section where he said he refused to give up on the dream he articulated in Boston in 2004 -- that there is no red America or blue America. Considering the Republicans control Congress, he'll need as much bipartisan agreement as he can get:

So the question for those of us here tonight is how we, all of us, can better reflect America’s hopes. I’ve served in Congress with many of you. I know many of you well. There are a lot of good people here, on both sides of the aisle. And many of you have told me that this isn’t what you signed up for — arguing past each other on cable shows, the constant fundraising, always looking over your shoulder at how the base will react to every decision.

9:55pm ET: A great shot at a silly answer being used by climate change deniers, who have said they can't really comment on climate chance because they are not scientists:

I’ve heard some folks try to dodge the evidence by saying they’re not scientists; that we don’t have enough information to act. Well, I’m not a scientist, either. But you know what — I know a lot of really good scientists at NASA, and NOAA, and at our major universities. The best scientists in the world are all telling us that our activities are changing the climate, and if we do not act forcefully, we’ll continue to see rising oceans, longer, hotter heat waves, dangerous droughts and floods, and massive disruptions that can trigger greater migration, conflict, and hunger around the globe.

9:48pm ET: The president is doing some touchdown dancing on foreign policy, specifically regarding Russia.

9:44pm ET: The president just talked about corporate tax reform and making the tax code simpler. Corporate tax reform is a classic issue that sounds great in theory, but it gets complicated in practice.

Sure, everyone, including the Republican Party, would like to see a simpler tax code. But a simpler tax code would mean eliminating loopholes that, if removed, would raise the taxes on the companies that benefit from those loopholes. And you can imagine those companies have lobbyists in Washington working to protect loopholes that impact them.

So, sure, nice idea, but the details make it difficult.

9:39pm ET: This is really a high-energy speech from the president. You know, it's fair to complain about the State of the Union as a boring laundry list of programs (as I sort of did below), but I think the president and his team put together a compelling narrative around the middle class American family. It's hard to make these speeches interesting while also getting out all this information. But this is as good of an attempt as any.

By the way, Scott Kelly, the astronaut just mentioned by the president, is the brother-in-law of former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords.

9:37pm ET: The president just took a shot at the Keystone Pipeline:

So let’s set our sights higher than a single oil pipeline. Let’s pass a bipartisan infrastructure plan that could create more than thirty times as many jobs per year, and make this country stronger for decades to come.

9:33pm ET: The president just got to his free community college pitch.

You can read more about it here or watch our video about it here:

 

9:30pm ET: The president just challenged members of Congress who are against the minimum wage:

And to everyone in this Congress who still refuses to raise the minimum wage, I say this: If you truly believe you could work full-time and support a family on less than $15,000 a year, go try it. If not, vote to give millions of the hardest-working people in America a raise.

(Editor's note: We did a follow-up story on this quote here.) 

9:28pm ET: 43 million workers in America have no paid sick or family leave, the president says. He's also emphasized the importance of paid maternity leave: "It’s time we stop treating childcare as a side issue, or a women’s issue, and treat it like the national economic priority that it is for all of us."

9:26pm ET: #Middleclasseconomics should be the hashtag coming out of tonight.

The president is emphasizing that he wants to lower taxes on the middle class (and raising taxes on the wealthy to pay for it).

9:24pm ET: The president just threatened to veto anything passed by the Republican Congress that would roll back Obamacare or regulations on Wall Street.

It'll be an interesting two years.

9:22pm ET: President Obama just talked about a Minnesota couple who had bad times during the recession. With the help of community college and student loans, they are back on their feet.

"They represent the millions who have worked hard, and scrimped, and sacrificed, and retooled. You are the reason I ran for this office. You’re the people I was thinking of six years ago today, in the darkest months of the crisis, when I stood on the steps of this Capitol and promised we would rebuild our economy on a new foundation. And it’s been your effort and resilience that has made it possible for our country to emerge stronger."

As we have covered here, making community college free is a big priority for the president. The president -- as well as many other education experts -- believe that community colleges will play a vital role in preparing the American workforce for increasingly complex jobs. According to the White House, 30 percent of jobs in 2020 will require at least some college classes or an associate's degree. You can get that at a community college.

You can read more here on the president's proposal.

8:59pm ET: President Obama is about to start speaking. We're looking forward to hearing him talk about his proposals on various issues, specifically cyber security, tax cuts for the middle class, faster internet, free community college, maternity leave, immigration reform, and the Keystone pipeline.

(If you want to skip ahead and read the speech ahead of time, we've got the full transcript for your right here.) 

The State of the Union is the president's annual, constitutionally required message to Congress. In modern times, presidents have used it to set their agenda for the upcoming year. The speech usually includes a laundry list of items that the president wants Congress to pass for the president to sign into law. President Obama's speech will be no different.

It's the first time he's addressed a Congress that's fully controlled by the Republican Party, which won control of the Senate in November. (They've been in control of the House of Representatives for four years.) Remember that almost everything the president proposes tonight will first have to be passed by Congress. That's a difficult proposition when the opposite party controls Congress.