State Of The Union Liveblog (UPDATED CONTINUOUSLY)

Let’s get it started–the President has entered the chamber.

UPDATE: The speech begins:

President Obama starts off talking about America’s trials and tribulations–Bull Run, the Great Depression, Bloody Sunday, etc. But, despite our hesitations and fears, America prevailed because we moved forward as one nation, one people.

One year ago, I took office amid two wars, an economic collapse and a country in severe debt. Experts warned that, without action, we faced a second Great Depression. We acted–one year later, the worst has passed.

But the devastation remains–many Americans can’t find work, houses are shuttered, and life has become that much harder. The recession has compounded the burdens America’s families have dealt with for decades–savings, retirements, college, etc.

UPDATE II: These struggles aren’t new–they are the reason I ran for President. For suffering Americans, change can’t come fast enough. And people can’t understand why bad behavior on Wall St. is rewarded while good behavior on Main St. warrants nothing.

People are tired of the partisanship and of the shouting and division–what the American people deserve is for all of us, Democrats and Republicans, to work through our differences and overcome the weight of our politics. The anxieties we all face are the same, our aspirations are shared.

The American people share a resilience in the face of adversity. In one of the most difficult years in our history, the American people remain busy.  One woman wrote to me ‘we are strained but hopeful, struggling but encouraged.’ It is because of this spirit that I have never been more hopeful about America’s future than I am tonight.

[Applause]

UPDATE III: We do not give up. We do not quit. In this decade, the American people should get a government that embodies their decency and strength.

Our most urgent task upon taking office was shoring up the same banks who caused the crisis. And one thing that unites us all is that we all hated the bank bailout–I hated it, you hated it, it was about as popular as a root canal. But as I ran for President I promised to do what was necessary, not what was popular. If we had allowed the financial system to melt down, unemployment would have been higher, more businesses would have been closed, more homes would have been lost.

As a result, the markets have been stabilized and we recovered most of the money we spent on the banks.

[Applause]

Most, but not all. To recover the rest I’ve proposed a fee on the biggest banks.

Wall St. may not be keen on this idea, but if they can afford to hand out big bonuses they can afford to pay back the taxpayers who rescued them.

We also took steps to grow the economy, save as many jobs as possible and help the unemployed. That’s why we extended/increased unemployment benefits for 18 million Americans, passed 25 tax cuts and lowered health care costs for those on COBRA.

We cut taxes for 95% of families, small businesses, first-time homebuyers, parents, Americans paying for college.

[Applause throughout that last portion on taxes]

As a result, millions of Americans have more to spend, all of which help businesses to keep more workers. And we haven’t raised income taxes by a single dime on a single person.

Because of the steps we took, there are 2 million Americans working who would otherwise be unemployed. 200,000 work in construction/clean energy, 300,000 are teachers or in education, tens of thousands are police, firefighters and first responders, and we will add another 1.5 million this year.

What made this possible is the recovery act, also known as the stimulus bill.

[Sustained applause]

Economists on the left and the right say this bill has helped save jobs and avert disaster. But don’t take their word for it–talk to a small business in Phoenix, the windowmaker in Philadelphia, the single teacher raising two kids told in the last week of school she wouldn’t be laid off.  There are stories like this across America and, after 2 years of recession, the economy is growing again.

But for every success story, there are those who wake up with the anguish of not knowing where their paychecks will come from, who send out their resumes with no response, that’s why jobs must be our focus in 2010 and that’s why I’m calling for a new jobs bill tonight

[Sustained applause]

UPDATE IV: The true engine of America’s economy will always be business, but government can create the conditions that let businesses expand and hire new workers.

We should start where most jobs begin–in small businesses. These companies have weathered the recession and they’re ready to grow, but even though banks on Wall St. are lending again, they’re mostly lending to bigger companies. Financing remains difficult for small business owners.

Tonight, I propose we take $30 billion of the money we gave big banks and give it to community banks for small business loans.

[Applause]

I’m also proposing a small business tax credit, one given to businesses who hire new workers or raise wages.

[Applause]

While we’re at it, let’s eliminate all capital gains taxes on small businesses and give tax breaks to all businesses to invest in new plants and equipment.

There’s no reason Europe or China should have the fastest trains or the best green technology factories. We should put Americans to work building new infrastructure and green technologies, and to encourage companies developing those technologies to stay in the United States let’s eliminate the tax breaks for companies who send our jobs overseas.

The House has already passed a bill like that, and I encourage the Senate to do the same.

People are hurting, they need help, and I need a jobs bill on my desk without delay.

But, the truth is, this will not make up for the 7 million jobs we’ve lost in the past 2 years. We need to lay a new foundation for long-term economic growth. We can’t afford another economic expansion like the one from the last decade, the lost decade, when jobs grew more slowly than any prior expansion and household incomes declined, when prosperity was built on a housing bubble and speculation.

I’ve been told tackling these issues is too contentious, our politics are too gridlocked. To those who say that I have one question–how long do we wait? How long do we put our future on hold? Washington has told us to wait for decades. Meanwhile, China isn’t waiting, Germany isn’t waiting, India isn’t waiting. They’re focusing on math and science, rebuilding their infrastructure, they’re investing in green technology.

Well, I will not accept second place for the United States of America.

[Applause]

As hard as it may be, it’s time to get serious about fixing the problems hampering our growth.

One place to start is serious financial reform. I’m not interested in punishing banks, I’m interested in protecting our economy. We must guard against the same recklessness that nearly brought down our entire economy. We can’t allow financial institutions to take risks that threaten the whole economy.

The House has already passed financial reform, and the lobbyists are trying to kill it, but we cannot let them win this fight. And if the bill that lands on my desk does not meet the test of real reform, I will send it back until we get it right.

Next, we need to encourage American innovation. Last year we made the biggest investment in research in history. And no area is more ripe for such innovation than energy.

UPDATE V: We need safe, new nuclear power plants. We need to make tough decisions in opening offshore areas for oil and natural gas development. We need continued investment in advanced biofuels and clean coal technologies. And we need to pass a climate bill that will make clean energy the most profitable energy in America.

I’m grateful for the House for passing such a bill last year, and this year I’m eager to advance the bipartisan effort in the Senate.

I know there are question as to if we can pass such a bill in a rough economy. I know there are those who doubt the existence of global warming. But even if you don’t believe, investing in clean energy is the right thing to do and America must be a leader in clean energy technologies.

We need to export more of our goods, because the more products we make and sell to other countries the more jobs we create here. SO, we will double our exports in the next five years, which will create an extra 2 million jobs.

To meet this goal we’re launching a national export initiative to help small businesses and farmers export, as well as to aggressively seek new markets.

We cannot sit on the sidelines and allow other countries to sign trade agreements, but when we sign agreements we must force our partners to follow the rules. And we must keep our current trading partners.

We must invest in the abilities of our people. We have launched a national competition to improve our schools, investing in success and reform, turning around failing schools and encouraging math and science education.

The best anti-poverty program is a world-class education.

[Applause]

And in this country the success of our children cannot rely on where they live, but on their potential.

In this economy a high school diploma doesn’t guarantee a good job, so I urge the Senate to follow the House and to pass a bill to revitalize our nation’s community colleges.

To make college more affordable, this will end the taxpayer subsidies that go to banks for student loans. Instead, let’s give families tax breaks to afford college and expand Pell grants. And let’s tell another million student that they will only have to pay 10% of their income toward student loans and their loans will be forgiven in 20 years–10 if they go into public service.

And it’s time for colleges and universities to lower their own costs.

We’re doubling the child care tax credit. We’re giving workers access to retirement accounts and tax breaks to those who invest in nest eggs. We shored up the housing market, allowing more Americans to take out loans and saving them $1,500 on mortgage payments. And, to ease the burden on middle-class families, we still need health insurance reform.

[Applause]

Now, let’s clear a few things up.

I didn’t choose to tackle this issue to get a legislative victory under my belt, and it’s obvious I didn’t take it on because it’s good politics.

I took on health care because of the Americans whose lives depend on coverage, because of the families who are one illness away from poverty.

Our approach would let Americans to keep their doctor and plan, it would reduce costs for millions of Americans and businesses and–according to the CBO–it would bring down the deficit by as much as $1 trillion in the next 2 decades.

Still, this is a complex issue–the longer it was debated the more skeptical people became. I take my share of blame for not explaining it better. And most people were left wondering ‘what’s in it for me?’

But the problem is not going away. More Americans will lose their health insurance, premiums will grow, the deficit will grow, small businesses will be forced to drop coverage.

I will not walk away from these people and neither should the people in this chamber.

[Applause]

So, as temperatures cool I want everyone to take another look at our plan. There’s a reason why doctors, nurses and health care experts consider this a vast improvement. But, if anyone has a better approach that will bring down premiums, bring down the deficit, cover the uninsured and stop health insurance abuses, let me know. I’m eager to see it.

Here’s what I ask Congress–don’t walk away. Let us find a way to come together and finish the job for the American people. Let’s get it done.

[Applause]

UPDATE VI: Let’s get the record straight–at the beginning of the last decade we had a surplus of $200 billion. By the time I took office we had a one-year deficit of $1 trillion and a projected deficit of $8 trillion over the next decade. All of this was before I walked in the door.

If we had taken office in ordinary times I would have liked nothing more than to bring down the deficit, but we took office in the midst of a crisis. Our efforts to end the recession added another $1 trillion to our deficit.

But families across America are tightening their belts and making tough decisions, and America should do the same.

[Applause]

So tonight, I’m proposing steps to pay for the $1 trillion we spent to save the economy. Starting in 2011 we’re ready to freeze spending for 3 years. Spending for Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security and National Security will not be touched. Like a family we will work within a budget, and if I must enforce this discipline with a veto I will.

[Applause]

We will continue to go through the budget to eliminate programs we can’t afford and don’t work. We already identified $20 billion in savings next year. We’ll extend our middle-class tax cuts, but we will not continue tax cuts for oil companies, investment fund managers and those making more than $250,000 a year. We just can’t afford it.

Even if we pay off what we spent on my watch, we will still have the deficit we had when I came in office, and the costs of Medicare and Social Security will grow–this is why I proposed a bipartisan deficit commission. The Senate blocked a bill creating this commission so we will pass an Executive Order allowing us to move forward because I refuse to pass this problem on the next generation.

And tomorrow, the Senate should restore the pay-as-you-go law that was the reason for our surplusses in the 1990’s.

[Applause]

This freeze will not take effort until next year, when our economy is stronger. But understand, if we don’t take meaningful steps to reign in our debt it could jeopardize our recovery.

Some on the right may argue for their own policies to grow the economy, but that’s what we did for 8 years–that’s what led to this crisis, to this deficit. It’s time to try something new.

Let’s invest in our people. Let’s meet our responsibility to the citizens who sent us here. Let’s try common sense, a novel concept. But we have to recognize we face not only a deficit of dollars, but a deficit of trust.

We have to take action on both ends of Penn. Ave, to reduce the influence of lobbyists, to do our work openly and to give people the government they deserve. That’s what I came to Washington to do, that’s why we’ve excluded lobbyists from policymaking jobs and seats on federal boards and commissions. It’s time we force lobbyists to disclose their contacts in Congress and my administration.

I urge Congress to continue down the path of earmark reform–you trimmed some of the spending and embraced some change, but restoring the public trust demands more. I’m calling Congress to publish all earmark requests online before a vote, so the people can see how their money is being spent.

But nothing will happen unless we reform how we work with one another. I never thought the fact of my election would usher in peace and harmony and post-partisanship. On some issues there are deep philosophical difference that will not go away–those debates have been going on for 200 years, they are fundamental to our democracy.

But we cannot wage a perpetual campaign–every day cannot be election day. No party should obstruct every single bill just because they can. The confirmation of well-qualified public servants shouldn’t be held hostages to the grudges of a few individual Senators. Washington may think saying anything about the other side–no matter how false or malicious–is part of the game, but that kind of politics has stopped us from serving the people and it has served to divide our people and sow distrust of the government.

I know it’s an election year and, after last week, I remind Democrats we have the largest majority in decades and the American people expect us to govern, not to run for the hills. And if the GOP leadership insists that 60 votes are required in the Senate for everything then the responsibility to govern is on you too–saying no to everything is not leadership.

So let’s show the people we can do it together. I’d like to begin monthly meetings with both parties’ leadership–I know you can’t wait.

We can argue all we want over who’s to blame but I am not interested in arguing the past. We all love this country, so let’s put aside the schoolyard taunts, let’s leave behind the fear and division, so let’s do what it takes to forge a more hopeful future for America and the world.

UPDATE VII: We are doing more to defend our country. We’re learning from the failed Christmas bombing. We’re strengthening our alliances. In Afghanistan we’re increasing our troops and striving to train Afghanistan’s security forces so our troops can come home.

We will reward good governance and work to reduce corruption. We’re joined by allies and partners who will come together tomorrow in London to reaffirm our common purpose.

As we take the fight to Al-Qaeda we are responsibly leaving Iraq to it’s people.  We will have all combat troops out of Iraq by the end of August, we will support the Iraqi government as they hold election and we will continue promoting regional peace and prosperity. But this war will end and all of our troops will come home.

Tonight, all of our men and women in uniform must know they have our respect, our gratitude, our full support. Just as they need the resources in war they must know they have our support when they come home.  That’s why we made the largest increase in investments in veterans in decades last year.

We’re also confronting the threat of nuclear weapons. I’m embracing the vision of John Kennedy and Ronald Reagan to reduce our stockpiles. In April we will bring 44 nations together to secure all vulnerable nuclear materials in the world in 4 years so that they never fall into the hands of terrorists.

[Applause]

These diplomatic efforts have strengthened our hands with nations seeking nuclear weapons. That’s why we have strengthened our sanctions on North Korea, that’s why Iran is more isolated, and Iran’s leaders should know they too will face the consequences. That is a promise.

We’re launching a new initiative to help us respond faster and more effectively to bioterrorism or the spread of a new disease. We take these actions because our destiny is tied to those beyond our shores and because it is right. That is why tens of thousands are taking action to help the people of Haiti rebuild.

[Applause]

America must always stand on the side of freedom and human dignity. Always.

[Applause]

Abroad, America’s source of strength has always been our ideas. The same goes at home. We draw on the promise enshrined in our Constitution that we are all created equal, that if you abide by the law you should be protected by it. We must continually renew that promise. My administration is prosecuting civil rights violations, we strengthened our laws to prosecute laws driven by hate, and I will work to repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve their country in uniform. It’s the right thing to do.

[Applause]

We will crack down on violations of equal paw laws.

[Applause]

And we should continue the work of fixing our broken immigration system, to enforce our borders and obey our laws.

[Applause]

In the end it’s our ideals and values that built America. Values that drive our citizens still. Every day Americans meet their responsibilities, time and again they lend a hand to their neighbors. These are American values.

Too many Americans have lost faith in our biggest institutions–our corporations, our media, our government. All of these are full of honorable men and women doing important work, but each time a CEO rewards himself for failure, or a banker puts all of us at risk for their own gain, or a lobbyist games the system, or a politician tears somebody down, or a TV personality boils issues down to silly controversies it harms all of us. No wonder people are cynical.

I promised change, but I cannot do it alone. Democracy is noisy and messy, and it stirs people’s passions. We could play it safe and avoid hard truths and point fingers, doing what’s necessary to keep our poll numbers high instead of doing what’s best for the next generation.

But, had people done that 50 years ago, 100 years ago or 200 years ago we wouldn’t be here tonight. We’re here because generations were unafraid to do what was hard, to do what was necessary to keep the dream of this country alive.

My administration has had some setbacks, some of them deserved. But they are nothing to the setbacks families across the country have faced this year. Despite all these setbacks, though, optimism and the fundamental decency of the American people live on.

UPDATE VIII: We have finished a difficult year. We have come through a difficult decade. But a new year has come, a new decade stretches before us. We don’t quit. I don’t quit. Let’s go forward and strengthen our union once more.

Thank you, God bless you and God bless the United States of America.

UPDATE IX: A CBS poll shows that 83% of the American people agree with Obama’s proposed policies. Before the speech 57% said Obama had the same priorities–after, 73% said so. Looks like President Obama hit one out of the park tonight.

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