By MICHAEL FALCONE and AMY WALTER
When President Obama goes before both chambers of Congress tonight to deliver his State of the Union address, he will be walking something of an economic and political tightrope.
He plans to make a forceful case for new investments in innovation, education and infrastructure at the same time that he will call for a reduction in total government spending.
In the speech that he is set to deliver to a Democratic-controlled Senate and a Republican-controlled House, Obama will wade into the thick of a debate that is likely to consume Washington for much of the second-half of his term.
“What tonight will do is provide the framework for how we have to tackle the deficit and we have to spend strategically and we need to tighten our belt,” White House adviser Valerie Jarrett told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos on “Good Morning America” today. “We also don’t want to walk away from investments that are going to build and grow our economy. Ultimately, George, the private sector is the engine. That’s what’s going to fuel the economy and create the jobs of the future and so what we don’t want to do is anything that’s going to have a chilling impact on that.” http://abcn.ws/gNgqBc
Jarrett noted that the president will begin by talking about the Tucson shooting, though she stopped short of saying whether he will call for a tightening of the nation’s gun control laws.
The White House has also indicated that the president will continue to defend the health care reform law, which Republicans have been seeking to dismantle. The speech will clearly focus on domestic policy, but expect a mention of the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan as well as other looming international and national security issues.
President Obama is delivering the address at a precarious time. His administration and Democrats continue to deal with consequences of the midterm elections. (The shot of Republican House Speaker John Boehner in the background tonight should provide a striking contrast). The White House is also in the midst of a mid-course transition with key aides on their way out — some are heading to the president’s re-election campaign — and new and old faces on their way in.
But Obama has recently been buoyed by better poll numbers — a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll put his approval rating at 54 percent. It will be interesting to watch the extent to which the tone he sets tonight focuses on compromise with Republicans or standing firm on his biggest policy priorities.
THE GOP RESPONSE. “Republican response to the State of the Union will showcase 40-year-old Paul Ryan, R-WI, chairman of the House Budget Committee,” ABC News’ Jonathan Karl reports. “Ryan is a policy intellectual and one of the few members of Congress who has seriously proposed ways to deal with the deficit, but his proposals – which would curtail the growth of Social Security spending and eventually replace Medicare with a voucher program – are controversial and have not been endorsed by the GOP leadership. Ryan will speak from the Budget Committee room and offer a no-compromise message on cutting federal spending. A senior House Republican sums the message up this way: ‘Ryan will make clear in his address that Washington’s spending binge is hampering job creation and piling debt on our children and grandchildren. Despite the government’s massive spending binge, we still have historic unemployment and the most debt in U.S. history. Ryan will make clear that in order to boost private-sector job creation we must cut spending.’” http://abcn.ws/fAwwx3
House Speaker John Boehner’s office announced today that Ryan’s address will be streamed live online tonight at Facebook.com/OfficeoftheSpeaker/ following the president’s speech. Per the Speaker’s office: “Boehner’s press staff will be blogging all day at Speaker.gov/Blog/ providing previews of the Republican address, and frequent fact-checks and responses to President Obama’s remarks.”
NOTED: This year, we’ll have not just one, but two responses to the State of the Union. Rep. Michele Bachmann plans to deliver the Tea Party response on behalf of the group, the Tea Party Express.
SEATING CHART. “Colorado Democratic Sen. Mark Udall's simple and largely symbolic proposal for colleagues to cross the aisle and sit side-by-side Tuesday has cast the evening as something of a ‘date night,’ with many members of Congress courting the perfect partner and some promising to go stag,” ABC News’ Devin Dwyer notes. “Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said he had successfully courted conservative Oklahoma Republican Sen. Tom Coburn. … Florida Tea Party-darling Sen. Marco Rubio is expected to sit with his Democratic counterpart, Sen. Bill Nelson. Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin will rendezvous with conservative Senate newcomer Mark Kirk. And, senior Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey will pair with freshman Sen. Pat Toomey for the occasion. Nebraska's Sens. Ben Nelson and Mike Johanns have also announced they will sit side-by-side Tuesday night. More pairings: http://abcn.ws/gFRg0Y
NOTED: There will be an empty seat in the House Chamber tonight for Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Black ribbons will be distributed to members of Congress to wear during the State of the Union in honor of the victims of the Tucson tragedy.
SPECIAL GUESTS. A few of those who have been invited to watch the State of the Union in First Lady Michelle Obama’s box, according to the White House: Dr. Jill Biden; Phil Schiliro, Assistant to the President and Director, Office of Legislative Affairs; Gary and Robert Allen, brothers who have been partners in the family business, Allen Brothers Inc., a roofing products manufacturing company in Rochester Hills, Mich.; Ursula M. Burns, the chief executive officer of Xerox Corporation; Brandon Ford, a junior at West Philadelphia High School, is a leader of the West Philly Hybrid X Team which includes students from an after school program at the West Philadelphia High School Academy of Automotive and Mechanical Engineering; John and Roxanna Green of Tucson, the parents of eleven-year-old Dallas and the late Christina Taylor, the nine-year-old girl killed in the Arizona shootings; Staff Sergeant Salvatore Giunta, who received the U.S. Army, the Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry for his actions during combat operations in Afghanistan. More guests: http://abcn.ws/fr2s2h
TUNE IN TONIGHT. Diane Sawyer and George Stephanopoulos will ABC News’ Coverage of the State of the Union and the Republican Response Beginning at 9 p.m. They will be joined by a team of ABC News anchors and correspondents including “This Week” anchor Christiane Amanpour, Senior White House Correspondent Jake Tapper, and Senior Political Correspondent Jonathan Karl. ABC News contributors George Will, Donna Brazile and Matthew Dowd will provide viewers with additional analysis.
ABCNews.com will live stream the network’s coverage of the President’s address and the Republican response. Check out ABCNews.com and well as the @ABCPolitics twitter feed for live coverage throughout the night.
ABC News NOW will provide live coverage of the State of the Union beginning at 9:00 p.m. ET. This coverage, anchored by John Berman and Claire Shipman with “World News” Senior Washington Editor Rick Klein, will include the latest news and analysis. News NOW’s broadcast will be live-streamed on Yahoo!, Hulu, and a variety of other platforms. ABC News Radio will also provide extensive coverage of tonight’s speech.
After the speech, ABC News’ Terry Moran will anchor a special edition of “Nightline” from Washington with complete State of the Union coverage and analysis live at 11:35 p.m., ET. Tomorrow, “Good Morning America” will bring viewers all the highlights of the president’s speech, plus reaction and analysis.
State of the Union: A One-Click Guide: Everything you need to know about the speech and what to expect this year. http://abcn.ws/gKcNTm
PROMISES, PROMISES. ABC News’ Karen Travers takes stock of President Obama's 2010 State of the Union Address. The theme of the president's speech tonight will be "How We Win the Future," but it's worthwhile to look back at what he outlined last year to see what he did and did not achieve on health care, job creation, financial reform and other goals. http://abcn.ws/ebxN5U
ON TODAY’S “TOP LINE.” ABC’s Rick Klein and Amy Walter host today’s edition of “Top Line,” which features a conversation with two GOP freshman lawmakers: Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Illinois, and Rep. Tim Scott, R-S.C. Tune in for special guest Daniel Hernandez, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ “Hero Intern,” who is in Washington to attend the State of the Union address. Watch “Top Line” LIVE at 12:00 p.m. Eastern. http://bit.ly/ABCTopLine
RAHM’S APPEAL. “Two state appellate judges accomplished Monday what months of campaigning could not: shattering the aura of inevitability Rahm Emanuel tried to establish that he'll be Chicago's next mayor,” the Chicago Tribune reports. “The ruling that Emanuel did not meet a one-year residency requirement for mayor sent the former White House chief of staff scrambling to the Illinois Supreme Court to keep his candidacy alive. Emanuel's lawyers filed an emergency motion with the high court to stop the appellate court ruling and asked the court to tell Chicago election officials to keep his name on ballots. They also asked the Supreme Court justices to expedite an appeal, which they said would be filed no later than Tuesday.” http://bit.ly/erAklS
NOTED: Obama Disagrees with Illinois Appeals Court, believes Rahm Emanuel Is Eligible to Run for Chicago Mayor, Valerie Jarrett says. “I think that he believes that [Rahm is] eligible and I believe that he believes that Rahm will pursue his appeal in the courts. And as he said then, he thinks Rahm would make a terrific mayor,” Jarrett told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos on “Good Morning America” today. http://abcn.ws/fntfPQ
ABSENT JUSTICES? “Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., who mouthed a dissent at last year’s State of the Union address, will not attend this year. Justice Stephen G. Breyer, who has sometimes been the sole justice in attendance, has said he will be there again Tuesday night,” The New York Times’ Adam Liptak reports. “The other seven justices’ plans are unclear, and Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. may find himself in a bit of a bind. On the one hand, he has spoken about how uncomfortable he was at last year’s address, which he called a “political pep rally.” On the other, he may worry that the court’s reputation as an avowedly apolitical institution will be harmed should only the court’s more liberal justices attend.” http://nyti.ms/h0d9kQ
BROWNER OUT. “Senior administration officials confirm reports that Carol Browner, assistant to the president for energy and climate change, is departing the White House in the next few weeks,” ABC’s Jake Tapper reports. “A White House official says Browner will stay on as long as necessary to ensure an orderly transition. ‘Carol is confident that the mission of her office will remain critical to the president and she is pleased with what will be in the State of the Union address tonight and in the budget on clean energy,’ the official says. ‘She is proud of the administration’s accomplishments – from the historic investments in clean energy included in the Recovery Act to the national policy on vehicle efficiency that will save 1.8 billion barrels of oil and lower consumers’ prices at the pump.’” http://abcn.ws/gWPvNF
FRESHMAN LAWMAKER UNDER ETHICS CLOUD. “Just three weeks into his congressional career, Rep. David Rivera (R-Fla.) has earned the dubious distinction of being the first member of the historic class of House GOP freshmen to find himself at the center of an ethics scandal,” Politico’s John Bresnahan and Marin Cogan report. “The 45-year-old Rivera, who was elected to the House in November after eight years in the Florida Legislature, has been under investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement since last fall over allegations that he failed to disclose more than $130,000 in loans from a company owned by his mother. Rivera has since repaid the loans by selling off some real estate, but there are least two parallel probes into his finances and campaign records going on now … [Eric] Cantor aides counter that the majority leader is aware of the allegations swirling around the Florida freshman, but they note that the state probe is ongoing, and Rivera has not been charged with any wrongdoing at this point. So at this point, Cantor will not take any stance on what should happen in the Rivera case.
@DavidChalian: McConnell: "I'm a big John Thune fan."
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