Scroll down for updates…Democrat Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sibelius responds blandly to SOTU…McCain skips out, gives advice from Florida…Sen. Jim DeMint gives conservative response…Obama disses Bush…
Nancy Pelosi final blink count: 1,002.
Dick Cheney final blink count: 2.
I’ll be liveblogging the State of the Union Address at
89pm Eastern, if I can drag myself out of depression. Electile dysfunction. Whatever it’s called. These annual rituals have become dreary exercises in grand government grab-bag rhetoric. President Bush’s final SOTU address promises to be no different. The White House sends along this handy online guide to all the spending initiatives to be unveiled today. On top of stimulation-palooza, we’ll hear about:
“Reauthorizing No Child Left Behind And Expanding Education Options: President Bush will call on Congress to pass bipartisan legislation reauthorizing and strengthening No Child Left Behind. He will also ask Congress to support a new $300 million “Pell Grants for Kids” program to help poor children in underperforming schools afford the schools of their choice and announce a White House Summit on inner city children in faith-based and other non-public schools that will be held this spring.”
“Increasing Energy Security And Confronting Climate Change: President Bush will call on Congress to build on the success of the energy bill he signed in December and take the next steps to improve our energy security and confront the challenge of climate change without undermining economic growth. He will reaffirm the United States’ commitment to work with the other major economies and through the UN toward an international agreement on climate change that can slow, stop, and then reverse the growth of greenhouse gas emissions through actions by every major economy. He will also call for the creation of a new $2 billion international clean technology fund.”
“Empowering America’s Armies Of Compassion: President Bush will call on Congress to help ensure equal treatment for faith-based organizations seeking Federal funding by permanently extending Charitable Choice provisions guaranteeing their participation on equal footing in certain Federal programs. In addition, the President will honor the resilience of the people of the Gulf Coast, and the contributions volunteers have made to the region, by announcing that the United States will host the annual North American Leaders’ Summit in New Orleans this April.”
“Improving Border Security, Immigration Enforcement, And Assimilation: President Bush will review the steps his Administration is taking to improve our border security and address immigration challenges within the boundaries of existing law. Although Congress has not passed legislation to address the immigration challenges our Nation faces, the Administration continues to build upon progress we have already made in strengthening our borders, enforcing our worksite laws, prosecuting criminal aliens, keeping our economy well-supplied with vital workers, and helping new Americans successfully assimilate into our society. Without legislation that creates a lawful way for foreign workers to support our economy, however, we cannot fully relieve the pressure on the border.”
“Supporting A Compassionate Foreign Policy: President Bush believes freedom can only be advanced if the United States does its part to eliminate the hunger, disease, poverty, and illiteracy that creates despair and allows violent extremism to take root. The President will ask Congress to reauthorize the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, consistent with the program’s successful founding principles, and to double the Plan’s historic initial commitment with an additional $30 billion over five years. He continues to support the President’s Malaria Initiative to combat malaria in 15 African countries, and the President will also ask Congress to support an innovative proposal to provide food assistance by purchasing crops directly from farmers in the developing world.”
Meantime, a few tipsters sent the following photo of the media gallery seats. One correspondent e-mails: “If any of you want the terrorist reaction to tonight’s State of the Union Speech, you have to go no further than the U.S. Capitol. Democrat Leaders in Congress have arranged for the media voice representing all things terror to get front row seats in the press stake-out in the US Capitol tonight—where members of Congress will give their reactions to the President’s speech. Congressional leaders have conveniently placed Al Jazeera a mere 3 or 4 steps outside the House (Democrat) Majority Whip’s Office. I wonder how all the U.S. and Western media outlets that got pushed out to make room for Al Jazeera feel about this? I wonder how the U.S. Military—who lost countless brothers and numerous strategic edges in the War on Terror due to terrorist-TV—will feel about this? I wonder how mom and pop America will feel about this? PS—As a Texan, I am offended that they put Al Jazeera in front of the statue of my hero, Sam Houston. Why couldn’t they put them in front of the statue for Jeanette Rankin of Montana—the only member of Congress to vote against declaring war on Japan after the Pearl Harbor massacre?”
Update: 8:52pm Eastern. Lots of pre-speech schmoozing on the floor. Teddy Kennedy is now welded to Barack Obama’s hip. Hillary Clinton is making a beeline to every black House member. Dick Cheney looks bored.
Update: 9:01pm Eastern. The Cabinet has entered. Michael Chertoff is winking at someone. Gack. CNN’s reporting that Hillary went over to shake hands with Sen. Windbag. Obama, the network reports, avoided Hill. Meeooow.
Update 9:06pm Eastern. The president is introduced. A momentary break in the BDS clouds over Washington. Standing ovation. The president just rubbed someone’s bald head. There’s Sheila Jackson Lee, as usual, parked right up in Bush’s face. Another shot of Sen. Windbag and his new best friend. How many times will the cameras cut away to Obama and Kennedy?
The first ovation lasted 4 minutes. Pelosi formally introduces Bush. Another ovation.
Blink. Blink. Blink. Blink. I have to stop watching Nancy Pelosi’s eyes. She’s making me blink, blink, too. My contacts are going to slip out.
Update 9:13pm Eastern. President Bush opens with the economy. He talks about trusting people with their own money and empowering them to make their own decisions.
(Except, of course, when they make bad decisions in an election year. Then it’s Washington To The Rescue!)
The president cracks a joke about wealthy people offering to pay more in taxes. “I welcome their enthusiasm. The IRS accepts both checks and money orders.” Charlie Rangel smirks, Hillary Clinton rolls her eyes slightly, Nancy Pelosi blink-blinks.
Bush calls for making tax cuts permanents.
Cheers to that. Applause from Republicans.
Mentions earmark reform, spending reform. “Americans have to balance their budgets. So should their government.”
Loud cheers and applause. Vows to veto appropriations bill that don’t meet his earmark cuts. More cheers.
Moving on to health care: “Expand consumer choice, not government control.” Obama has his fingers on his mouth. Pelosi looks at her shoes. Blink, blink.
Update 9:22pm Eastern. Bush is hyping the No Child Left Behind Act. His good friend, Teddy Kennedy, with whom he partnered on NCLB, doesn’t even bother to look up. Bush talks about liberating poor children trapped in failing public schools. Applause. Well, Pelosi doesn’t applaud. Guess she’s for keeping poor children hostage in failing public schools.
Update 9:26pm Eastern. Bush talks free trade. He moves on to energy independence. Too funny: CNN focuses on a snoozing member of Congress. Not sure who it is. He’s in Deep Sleep Stage 4. At least.
Bush talks green talk: We must “confront global climate change.” Hillary claps perfunctorily.
Update 9:31pm Eastern. Bush speaks passionately in defense of ethical science, addresses embryonic stem cell research. “We must ensure that all life is treated with the dignity it deserves.” Applause, standing o. Moves to judges and calls for prompt up-or-down votes. Applause.
Update 9:33pm Eastern. Announces a summit in New Orleans. Standing ovation.
Moving to failures. “Entitlement spending and immigration.” “I’ve laid out my proposals. Now I ask for your proposals.”
Woo-hoo! Everybody claps! Yay! Let’s have entitlement reform! Clap for the cameras.
Then: Do nothing.
Bush reviews border enforcement. He calls for “a lawful way for foreign workers to come here and participate in the economy…We must find a humane way…that upholds both our laws and our highest ideals.” Applause
There is a lawful way. Through the front door. The most “humane” thing the feds can and should do is apply the law in a consistent, coherent manner. Enforce it. Stop perpetuating selective policies. Stop protecting law-breakers from the consequences of their actions. Put law-abiding Americans’ interests above those of Big Business and the “diversity” industry.
Update 9:38pm Eastern. Terrorism. We have taken the fight to terrorists and extremists. We will stay on the offense. We will keep up the pressure. We will deliver justice to our enemies. Standing ovation. Democrats get up…reluctantly.
Bush reviews the surge. “One year ago, our enemies were succeeding in their efforts to plunge Iraq into chaos…improvements in security followed by improvements in daily life…thanks the troops…” Everyone stands. Oh, how things have changed in a year. Bush touts improvements in Iraqi security forces. Standing ovation. “No doubt…al Qaeda is on the run in Iraq and this enemy will be defeated.”
9:46pm Eastern. Big applause. Oh, boy. What do you do if you’re a Dem? The surge is working? Stand? Sit? Bite one’s tongue?
I heard some strange yelling. Not sure if it’s someone trying to disrupt the speech.
Promises men and women in uniform: “You wil have all you need to protect our nation…I ask Congress to…fully fund our troops.”
“20,000 troops will be coming home.” Louder applause from Dems than when Bush declared that al Qaeda was on the run. Pelosi smiles broadly.
On political reconciliation: “We’re seeing some encouraging signs…de-Baathification reform…Iraqis still have a distance to travel, but after decades of pain and dictatorship, progress is being made…Iraqis taking control of their future…it is in the vital interest of the U.S. that we succeed…My fellow Americans: We will not rest until this enemy has been defeated.” Applause.
9:52pm Eastern. Moves to Israel-Palestine and security threat from Iran.
Nancy Pelosi is fidgety. Fiddle with program. Sniffles.
“We will defend our vital interests in the Persian Gulf.” Ovation. “We will take every lawful measure to protect our country.” Mentions no attacks on American soil since 9/11. “Not for lack of desire.” Bush calls for giving them tools to protect America.
That is: Permanent FISA reform.
Pelosi purses her lips. Or rather, tries to purse her lips.
Bush: “We’ve had ample time to debate. The time to act is now!” Standing ovation from Republicans. All Democrats seated.
Yes, as I said last week, there are still differences between the parties.
9:59pm Eastern. Bush wants $30 billion for AIDS, new spending to prevent global famine…VA reform, aid for wounded warriors…expanded child care for vets…
10:03pm Eastern. Riffs on “We, the people.” “So long as we trust the people…the state of our union will remain strong…with confidence in freedom’s power and trust in the people, let us set forth to do their business. God bless America.”
Nancy Pelosi blink count: 1,002.
Dick Cheney blink count: 2.
Update 10:18pm Eastern. Democrat Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius gives the Dem response to the SOTU. She has a lovely fire in the fireplace behind her. She says she’s going to give an “American response” instead of a “partisan response.” She’s talking about a “new American majority.” “Families can’t pay their bills, they’re losing their jobs, they’re threatened with losing their homes.” So spit it out. What do you want, governor? Ok, ok: Raise the minimum wage and reduce college loans. Of course! She wants S-CHIP expansion. What else? “Building Green.” “Going Green.” Translation: Thermostat control and light bulb nannyism. “Will you join us, Mr. President?” Uh, yeah. He’s already on board. Guess she was too busy preparing her speech to listen to his.
Boy, is she stiff. Her neck muscles are really, really tense. She should get closer to the fire. She needs to be warmed up. “On behalf of the new American majority…we ask you, Mr. President, to join us. We’re ready to work together.” He’s already ready to work with the Dems: On shamnesty, stimulation-palooza, NCLB. What else does she want?
She bids adieu and hopes President Bush “sleeps well” tonight.
Does she have some milk and cookies, too?
Update 10:30pm Eastern. John McCain’s on MSNBC telling Chris Matthews what he would have said. Criticizes Bush for not pushing hard enough on earmarks. “I would have been tougher on spending, would have talked more about serving something greater than your self-interest, more urgency to stimulus package passed…I appreciate the President.” Not enough to show up in Washington for the SOTU, though. Matthews and McCain cackle about Romney’s criticism of McCain’s liberal record. Cackle, cackle.
Update 10:34pm Eastern. Sen. Jim DeMint’s YouTube conservative response to the SOTU:
And the text:
Hello, I’m Senator Jim DeMint from South Carolina, the Chairman of the conservative Steering Committee here in the Senate.
It’s traditional for the opposing party to offer a response to the President’s State of the Union. My purpose tonight is not to oppose the president but to compliment what he said and to add some ideas from the conservative perspective that we want to focus on in the Senate this year.
Id like to present tonight 10 points that we will work on this year in the Senate, attempting to force votes, so that America can see where Republicans and Democrats stand and as a way to highlight the conservative agenda.
The first and the most important thing for our country is for us to assure the security of our nation. One of the problems we’ve had is the funding of our security systems and our military has fluctuated every year. Our proposal is that we spend 4% of our Gross Domestic Product every year, so the military can plan on the funding that they will get and to plan on the weapons systems and the armament and the number of troops that we need to secure our nation.
The other thing that we need to consider is our economy. The President addressed it tonight. There are concerns that we need to do more to stimulate our economy. While the President has some good ideas, it’s very important that we give some predictability to our businesses so that they can plan and grow. So we would force a vote this year on making the current tax rates permanent. The tax cuts that were passed several years ago have worked to stimulate our economy and we need to make sure that we have a permanent and predictable tax system.
We also need for our economy to control government spending. Unfortunately today, our government spends way too much money and takes way too much money out of our private economy. So, we’re proposing a balanced budget amendment. Every year states, if they add spending, they have to find ways to cut in order to balance their budget. We need to do that at the federal level in order to assure continued economic growth and to make sure we don’t take too many dollars out of the hands of Americans.
Another important issue that the President discussed that we need to continue to stress as conservatives is border security. The immigration problem is an issue we need to deal with as a nation. But we can’t deal with it in any rational way until we can control our borders. We will force votes this year on the funding of this fence to make sure it is completed. As well as a worker ID program that must be implemented.
Another problem that can be related to our economy, as well as the growth of our government, is wasteful Washington spending. And a big part of that are these earmarks that you keep hearing about, when congress designates money to their favorite local projects or special interests groups. This year there were over 10,000 earmarks in the bills that were passed, for local museums, bike paths and water and sewer plants. This is wasting our money and wasting our time as a Congress. When we should be dealing with the bigger issues that face our nation, we’re scrambling over who will get money for some local project. We need to reform the entire earmark system.
I’ve mentioned we need to make tax cuts permanent but we also need to reform our tax code. Every year we find our tax code is running jobs offshore as more and more other countries are more competitive than we are with our tax rates. We need to lower our corporate tax rates from where they are now at nearly 35 percent to 25 percent so that we’ll at least be competitive with Europe. We also need to offer some options: the flat tax, for people who would like to get away from the current tax code and to use a simpler, more understandable tax system. We’re going to do everything we can to make sure that the Senate this year votes on some tax reform proposals so that America can see who is serious about fixing our tax code.
We also, as conservatives, need to talk about Social Security. Social Security’s going to be running out of money over the next few years and one of the things that we need to do immediately is to stop spending Social Security on other things. People are astounded when they find out we’re really doing it but every year when people pay their Social Security taxes out of every paycheck, Congress spends some for today’s seniors and they spend the rest on other things. We have a bill that we call “Stop the Raid on Social Security” that we will force members of the Senate to vote on.
We also need to fix our health care system, and we’ll be proposing that we make it easier for individuals to buy health insurance. And one way to do that is to allow individuals to deduct the cost of their health insurance the same way employers do. Another thing we can do to dramatically lower the cost of health insurance is to allow individuals to buy health insurance from any state in the country. Today we’re limited to buying health insurance from the state we live in. This creates statewide monopolies and raises the cost of health insurance. We can fix that with some legislation that we will force a vote on this year in the Senate.
There are things we can do with education, such as the A-PLUS bill that we’ve talked about. This would allow states to have more flexibility in how they deal with the No Child Left Behind system. They can agree to certain standards, but do it their way – more creative ways, more flexible ways. So we can improve No Child Left Behind, which the president talked about tonight, by giving the states more flexibility.
We can also empower our businesses to be more competitive as we look at regulations like Sarbanes-Oxley that continue to chase capital away from America to other countries.
The last point I want to mention is the United Nations. We talk about it a lot – the United Nations is corrupt, and probably is a source of much anti-American sentiment around the world. We would propose that we withhold funding from the United Nations until they implement the reforms that have been discussed so many times here in Washington.
Those are just several of the things as conservatives that we’re going to push in the Senate this year. The state of the union is good, but the state of the future would be much better if conservatives come together and force the Senate to tackle these difficult issues that we’ve mentioned tonight.
Thank you, and God bless.
Update 10:36pm Eastern. Obama disses Bush SOTU for “warmed-over past State of the Union speeches.” And Obama would offer something different? He’s giving his laundry list right now of what he would have proposed. Same old, same old.
Update 10:42pm Eastern. Anderson Cooper tells Mitt Romney that calling McCain a “liberal Democrat” is a “personal attack.” Er, wouldn’t that be a compliment if you’re a CNN anchor?
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