President Obama delivered his fifth State of the Union Address to the nation Tuesday night. Here’s everything that went down: the policy, the posturing, and the most memorable moments.
Retirement: The president said on Wednesday that he will direct the Treasury to create a new way for working Americans to start their own retirement savings: MyRA. Obama said it’s a new savings bond that encourages people to build a nest egg.
Minimum wage: Obama pledged to issue an executive order in the coming weeks that will require federal contractors to raise the minimum wage for their federally funded employees to $10.10 an hour.
NSA surveillance: Without offering specificity, Obama said he will reform surveillance programs, “because the vital work of our intelligence community depends on public confidence, here and abroad.”
Iran sanctions: Obama touted the progress made with Iran on eliminating its stockpile of higher levels of enriched uranium, and he said if Congress sends him a new sanctions bill now, he will veto it.
Immigration: Obama said that if Congress is serious about economic growth, then “let’s get immigration reform done this year.”
Close Guantanamo Bay: Obama said, again, that this year needs to be the year we close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, urging Congress to lift the remaining restrictions on detainee transfers.
Climate change: Obama made the statement that “climate change is a fact” and said lawmakers should be able to tell their grandchildren they built “a safer, more stable world, with new sources of energy.”
American energy: The president said he would cut red tape to help states get factories that use natural gas built. He also said he wants to continue making progress on solar, and is pushing for a tax policy that stops giving billions of dollars a year to fossil-fuel industries that don’t need it and invests more in fuels of the future that do.
Reform unemployment insurance: Obama wants to reform unemployment insurance, but first he said Congress needs to restore the unemployment insurance it let expire for 1.6 million people.
Pre-kindergarten: Obama called for Congress to help states make high-quality pre-K available to every 4-year-old, and he said he will pull together a coalition of elected officials, business leaders, and philanthropists willing to help more kids access high-quality pre-K.
Nasty tweet: Rep. Randy Weber, R-Texas, caused a stir when he tweeted from the House floor that he was awaiting the “Kommandant-In-Chef.” He also called Obama a “socialist dictator.” Within an hour, the missive had been retweeted more than 700 times — and favorited nearly 150 times.
Did Justice Ginsberg fall asleep? Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 80, was trending during Obama’s speech, with viewers speculating that she had fallen asleep, or at least was in full head-bob mode. We may never know for sure if it was a slump or a nap.
Cory Remsburg: Obama’s introduction of Army Ranger Cory Remsburg at the end of the speech was an emotional highlight. Obama talked about his recovery after a near-death injury in Afghanistan, after which the audience gave Remsburg the longest standing ovation. Remsburg gave Obama the thumbs up, and Obama saluted him back.
Mad Men quip: Obama cited Mad Men while pushing women’s wages, which was the most tweeted about point in the speech. There were 33,555 tweets of people reacting to the reference. “It’s time to do away with workplace policies that belong in a Mad Men episode,” Obama said. “This year, let’s all come together — Congress, the White House, and businesses from Wall Street to Main Street — to give every woman the opportunity she deserves. ”
Congressman threatens reporter: Rep. Michael Grimm, R-N.Y., was caught on camera after the State of the Union Address physically threatening reporter Michael Scotto. The exchange, aired by NY1, shows Grimm getting in Scotto’s face and reportedly threatening him after Grimm refused to answer questions about allegations concerning his campaign finances.
Special guest: Willie Robertson of TV’s Duck Dynasty was in the House as a guest of Rep. Vance McAllister, R-La. Willie is the son of Phil Robertson, whose anti-gay comments in December led to the patriarch’s brief suspension by A&E.
Joe Biden’s wacky faces: Joe Biden may have had the best time at the State of the Union Address, and viewers had the best time watching his facial expressions. At one point, Biden seemed to have lost his focus on Obama’s speech and began using animated hand signals to talk to someone in the audience. Best SOTU moment ever?
Jill Biden’s cast: Viewers watching the State of the Union Address may have been wondering: What happened to Jill Biden’s arm? Biden arrived sporting a camouflage cast. The vice president’s office says Biden broke her left wrist last week after slipping and falling.
Obama’s health care joke: Obama cracked a joke about HealthCare.gov, which seemed to go over better than expected, considering the website’s flawed rollout. “Tonight, I ask every American who knows someone without health insurance to help them get covered by March 31. Moms, get on your kids to sign up. Kids, call your mom and walk her through the application. It will give her some peace of mind — plus, she’ll appreciate hearing from you.”
Alia E. Dastagir, USA TODAY