By MICHAEL FALCONE (@michaelpfalcone)
- PARALYZED CONGRESSMAN TO SHOWCASE GUN VICTIMS TONIGHT. Rep. Jim Langevin, D-R.I., the first quadriplegic to serve in the House of Representatives, has led an effort to persuade lawmakers to give their guest pass to a victim of gun violence, notes ABC’s John Parkinson. Since the president is expected to address gun violence during his speech, Langevin told ABC’s Jonathan Karl that he wanted to be sure there was a “heavy presence” of people who have been directly affected by gun violence in order “to really put a human face on the tragedy of gun violence.” “I was so affected by the tragic shootings that took place in Newtown, Connecticut, as we all were,” Langevin, D-R.I., said as he explained the impetus behind his idea. “My concern was that the news cycle moves on after a period of time and we’re on to other things and I don’t want us to lose focus on the tragedy of Newtown, the tragedy of these mass shootings that have taken place over the last several years.” More than two dozen lawmakers have taken Langevin up on his appeal. Attending the president’s address will be victims or family members of victims from some of the nation’s deadliest shootings, including Virginia Tech, Aurora, Tucson and Newtown.
- BACKSTORY: As a 16-year-old, Congressman Langevin was critically injured while working with the Warwick Police Department in the Boy Scout Explorer program. A veteran officer handling a .45-caliber semiautomatic pistol, not realizing a round rested in the chamber, pulled the trigger, bouncing a bullet off a metal locker and striking the teenager in the neck, severing his spinal cord.
- OBAMA CONDEMNS NORTH KOREA NUKE TEST. President Obama called North Korea’s latest nuclear test “a highly provocative act” that undermines regional stability and threatens international peace, reports ABC’s Gloria Riviera. North Korea announced earlier today that it successfully tested a miniaturized nuclear device underground, according to state media. Official state media said the test was conducted in a safe manner and is aimed at coping with “outrageous” U.S. hostility that “violently” undermines the North’s peaceful, sovereign rights to launch satellites. Unlike previous tests, North Korea used a powerful explosive nuclear bomb that is smaller and lighter, state media reported. Still, Obama said in a statement this morning, “The danger posed by North Korea’s threatening activities warrants further swift and credible action by the international community. The United States will also continue to take steps necessary to defend ourselves and our allies.” http://abcn.ws/Y9i0oE
ABC’s RICK KLEIN: The State of the Union is … all over the map. It’s not just the political divisions that linger from an election year. It’s the angst over an economy that may be improving, unless it’s backsliding; an immigration bill that’s either a perfect recipe for the future unless it’s amnesty without border security; of gun-control measures that are either vital for our children’s safety, or unconstitutional intrusions on our liberty. President Obama is well beyond being able to heal such divisions. His charge is now to rally his side for action, in a nation weary of inaction. Against this backdrop, building bridges is less important than fortifying your own castle.
ABC’s CHRIS GOOD: President Obama is expected to speak up for clean energy and climate legislation tonight. He’s mentioned it in all of his State of the Union speeches so far, and if history is any indication, his forward-looking energy idealism will sound implausible. Carbon-emissions legislation failed in his first term, and Republicans now control the House: It’s not as if cap-and-trade will pass anytime soon. Obama took office with energy as one of three main priorities, along with education and health care, but it’s gone nowhere. And yet, what’s the president supposed to do? If he doesn’t talk about energy at all, it’ll look like he’s given up. Before a significant climate bill can pass, environmentalists will have to wait until Democrats can win the House and enough Senate seats to overcome GOP resistance; thanks to House gerrymandering and a Senate map that could favor Republicans in 2014, that will likely take more than two years. After coming very close in 2010, energy reform once again will require a long, slow push.
ABC’s SHUSHANNAH WALSHE: Democrats may not have seen the president’s speech ahead of his State of the Union address tonight, but on a DNC conference call yesterday they still previewed the tone and themes they thought the president would lay out tonight. When asked by a reporter what the tone may be like, Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) answered it would be “positive.” “I think the president will focus on what we need to do to expand the economic recovery and support Americans, and he will talk about the important investments in order to strengthen jobs and have greater shared prosperity,” Van Hollen said. DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) previewed the speech as well, saying she thinks the president will include the need to address climate change and the sequester, as well as the continuing resolution to fund the federal government and the potential government shutdown. She also thinks the president will tell Republicans that their “my way or the highway politics” is “really harmful to our short-term and long-term future and global economy.”
ABC’s DEVIN DWYER: After delivering his State of the Union tonight, President Obama will pivot immediately to a campaign to help get his top agenda priorities done. Obama’s remarks are scheduled to begin at 9 p.m. ET in the House chamber. By 10 p.m., he is expected to be on the phone — holding his first live conference call with supporters of his new outside advocacy group, Organizing for Action. The newly re-tooled campaign organization, with an impressive 12 million email subscribers, is already beginning to mobilize around Obama’s gun control plan and package of immigration reforms. The president will also take his message on the road, visiting Asheville, N.C., on Wednesday; Decatur, Ga., on Thursday; and Chicago, Ill., on Friday.
ABC’s COKIE ROBERTS: Pope Benedict XVI might be popular — 74 percent of American Catholics said they were satisfied with his leadership in a Pew Research survey last year — but he’s not heeded. In that same survey 83 percent said they were satisfied with the leadership of Catholic nuns, the group the pope landed on last year, giving further evidence that his views are irrelevant to many. So, though all of the heated speculation about Benedict’s successor will be interesting, the choice of the next pope will probably mean little if anything to the daily lives of lay Catholics, who will go on believing what they want to believe, further eroding the moral authority of the pope. Unless of course the Holy Spirit surprises us and guides the cardinals to choose someone who is once again ready to open the windows of the church to let in the fresh air, as John XXIII did when he called the Second Vatican Council. That seems highly unlikely, but who knows — sometimes prayers are answered. http://abcn.ws/YSm6CN
THE STATE OF THE UNION IS…BY CONGRESSMAN TOM COLE AND NICOLLE WALLACE. Each day leading up to President Obama’s State of the Union address, ABCNews.com has been bringing you a different newsmaker’s thoughts on what “The State of the Union is …” Here are the final two interviews. (brought to you by ABC’s Arlette Saenz) http://abcn.ws/12b95Jn
Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla.:
“The state of the union is the second opportunity for the president to do what he didn’t do in the inaugural address – that’s talk to the 48 or 9 percent of the people that didn’t support him,” Cole said. “I’m hopeful he’ll lay out a much more detailed plan about how to deal with the economy, about how we work together across the partisan divide and perhaps point out some of the places where we have such as the fiscal cliff and Sandy relief where both sides ended up better off because we cooperated instead of fought one another, but again, it’s up to the president. He is the president and he’s the leader so hopefully he’ll set the right tone.”
ABC News Political Analyst Nicolle Wallace:
“The State of the Union is coming. It’s Tuesday night and I think the stakes are high for both sides,” Wallace, a GOP strategist, said. “Obviously President Obama has to follow up on his rather historic inaugural address but republicans have to raise their game if they want to be in it with this president on every issue Americans are talking about and care about at this point in time.”
DEMOCRATS OFFER PRE-BUTTAL TO RUBIO. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio was labeled his party’s “savior” by Time magazine last week, and Tuesday he will be giving the Republican Party’s official response to the president’s State of the Union address, but Democrats are denying they see him as the new face of the GOP and therefore their political opposition. “No, not necessarily,” Democratic National Committee chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) said on a conference call to “prebut” Rubio’s Tuesday night response, when asked if they now see Rubio as the person who personifies their political opposition, reports ABC’s Shushannah Walshe. Wasserman Schultz said the response to her fellow Floridian was merely because he’s the person tasked with the response and they regularly scheduled advance rebuttals of Mitt Romney speeches during the campaign. The focus of the call was to hit Rubio in advance of his high-profile appearance, but they also eagerly labeled the Republican star as a member of the GOP leadership. “What is particularly unfortunate is that Sen. Rubio, really along with the leadership of the entire Republican Party, has clearly not gotten the message from the voters following the election,” Wasserman Schultz said. http://abcn.ws/VbRT1K
MR. NUGENT GOES TO WASHINGTON. In an effort to attach faces to their push for stricter gun control laws, President Obama and congressional Democrats have invited victims of gun violence to his State of the Union address tonight in Washington. ABC’s Gregory Krieg reports Texas Rep. Steve Stockman, a Republican, is bringing a guest, too: Seventies rock star turned National Rifle Association darling Ted Nugent. “I am excited to have a patriot like Ted Nugent joining me in the House Chamber to hear from President Obama,” Stockman said in a statement released Monday morning. “After the Address I’m sure Ted will have plenty to say.” http://abcn.ws/XxDEBe
ANTI-’AMNESTY’ ADVOCATES PREPARE FOR A FIGHT. The forces that helped to bring down a proposed sweeping overhaul of the U.S. immigration system in 2007 are quietly mobilizing to do the same again, reports ABC’s Devin Dwyer. As President Obama prepares to use his State of the Union address tonight to appeal for expanded legal U.S. immigration and a path to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants already here, activists are lining up their legions of supporters to fight it. “In 2007, when callers shut down the Senate phone lines and stopped the amnesty bill in its tracks, we had 350,000 members. We’ve now got 1.4 million,” said Rosemary Jenks, chief lobbyist for NumbersUSA, which led the shut-down effort five years ago. “Our goal is to make sure that every one of those 1.4 million people, plus anyone else we can find, will be faxing their members of Congress, calling their members of Congress, emailing their members of Congress, and making it absolutely clear that the American people are not onboard with this,” she said. Jenks and other advocates for a more restrained U.S. immigration policy say they’re unconvinced that a changed American political landscape following the 2012 election, or a reinvigorated bipartisan coalition on immigration reform, means passage of a landmark immigration bill this year is inevitable. http://abcn.ws/XFKYg9
BIDEN NOT RUNNING (FOR POPE). Well, we know one position Vice President Joe Biden isn’t running for – Pope. ABC’s Arlette Saenz notes that at the end of remarks following a roundtable on gun safety in Philadelphia, Biden, the first Catholic to become vice president, was asked about Pope Benedict XVI’s decision to step down from his post. “I’m not running,” Biden joked, according to CNN and Politico. Biden said the Pope’s decision to step down showed he had “great integrity” and noted that the Pope sets “an incredibly high standard.” “The decision reinforces for me as a practicing Catholic that this is a man of great integrity and looking out for what he believes is in the best interest of our church,” Biden said. “I admire him for it.” http://abcn.ws/WFozC0
IN THE NOTE’S INBOX:
FROM THE SPEAKER’S OFFICE: From an aide to House Speaker John Boehner: “We have a robust, GOP Conference-wide digital response and bracketing effort centered on GOP.gov/SOTU. We designed GOP.gov/SOTU to be a good “second screen” for viewers where they can quickly find real-time fact checks, charts, graphics, and more – while the president is speaking – via desktop, smart phone, or tablet. On the site, we’ll be live streaming both SOTU and the GOP Address to the Nation with Senator Rubio immediately after. And we’ll have a feed highlighting House Republicans and GOP staff who will be Tweeting throughout the night.” http://1.usa.gov/X0xltC
@markknoller: By my count, tonight’s State of the Union Address will be Pres Obama’s 7th speech to a Joint Session of Congress.