President Obama to Deliver First State of the Union Tonight

Obama will tonight push a bipartisan commission to make recommendations on how to reduce the national debt, despite the Senate's voting Tuesday against a measure that would have created an entity, modeled after the Base Closure Commission, to issue such recommendations.

The fiscal commission vote failed with 53 votes, seven shy of the required 60. Even seven of the bill's original cosponsors voted against it.

The White House said Tuesday it will continue to pursue other options to create the commission.

"There are alternatives to a statutory version," the OMB's Orszag said. "We have long said that we believe a bipartisan caucus is necessary and that is what we will be pursuing."

But one of the lead sponsors of the failed Senate bill, Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., said a commission created by executive order and not by the Congress itself was of questionable worth.

"I don't see how that's effective because there's no assurance at all of a vote on the recommendations of the commission," Conrad told reporters Tuesday.

The Senate bill would have required Congress to vote on its recommendations.

The critical challenge for the president right now is to rally his liberal base while at the same time reach out to independents.

"Hit dogs bark and one of the things that popular presidents do is that they step on the toes of their own constituencies," McKinnon said.

First Lady, Guests Among Address Attendees

First lady Michelle Obama will continue the tradition of inviting notable guests to sit with her in the House Gallery for the State of the Union.

Her guests will include two servicemembers, military spouses and Americans whom the White House wants to highlight for their work as an entrepreneurs or community activists.

Sgts. Kimberly Munley and Mark Todd, civilian members of the Ft. Hood police force who stopped the deadly rampage on the Texas military base on Nov. 5, will be attending tonight's speech and sitting with the first lady.

Also in attendance will be Ambassador Raymond Joseph, Haiti's ambassador to the United States; Rebecca Knerr, wife of Captain II Joseph Knerr, leader of Fairfax County's Va.'s Task Force 1 serving in Haiti, and two college students who participated in the White House's D.C. Scholars program as high school students.

One of those students, Clayton Armstrong, says he almost missed the White House call.

"English class was just ending," the college freshman told ABC News. The caller "asked me if I would be able to come back to D.C." from the University of Arizona. "The First Lady is inviting you to sit with her in the box" for the State of the Union address.

Clayton was stunned, silent. "He wanted to make sure I was still on the phone… My heart was pounding the rest of the day."

Armstrong and the second student, Janelle Holloway, a freshman at Harvard, are both products of troubled Washington, DC, public high schools. Both beat the odds and made it to college, and both held White House internships last summer.

Janelle's work on the correlation between abused children and teen violence caught the eye of the West Wing's Domestic Policy Council.

Both will be seated with the VIPs for the President's address and both say they will be listening for one issue: education.

ABC News' Ann Compton and Sunlen Miller contributed to this report.

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