In this “year of action,” President Barack Obama’s label for the agenda spelled out in his State of the Union address, Chief Justice John Roberts Jr., who helped save the president’s 2010 health care law, joined the procession of justices taking front and center seats.
The president would not have such a welcome audience for his praise of the Affordable Care Act, however, in the House chambers where a joint session of the House and Senate convened for his sixth such address.
And dissenting votes in the Supreme Court’s Obamacare-saving ruling were conspicuously absent tonight.
In two dozen NBC/WSJ polls since 4/09, percentage saying #obamacare is a good idea has varied only between 31-40%. Now at 34.
— Ronald Brownstein (@RonBrownstein) January 28, 2014
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It was morning in America, judging from the opening of the president’s address starting at 9:14 pm EST — a teacher prepped, an entrepreneur started up, an auto-worker fine-tuned, a farmer reaped his harvest and “after 12 long years” a war “is finally coming to an end.”
The president started with a positive outlook for the American economy: The lowest unemployment rate in five years, more oil produced at home than imported from abroad, the deficit cut in half.
“This can be a breakthrough year for America,” Obama said.
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He turned quickly, however, to the dysfunction that has paralyzed Congress since that time when he was able to win his health-care law.
He pointed to the government shutdown in the fight over Obamacare.
And he pointed to the path out of gridlock.
“But the budget compromise should leave us freer to focus on creating new jobs, not creating new crises,” the president said. “In the coming months, let’s see where else we can make progress together. Let’s make this a year of action.”
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This speech is running to 6,778 words — with just 462 of them defending the health care law, his signature legislative achievement.
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And here was the president’s nod to the speaker of the House, a barkeep’s son from Ohio — as described by the “son of a single mom:”
“The point is, there are millions of Americans outside Washington who are tired of stale political arguments, and are moving this country forward,” Obama said. “They believe, and I believe, that here in America, our success should depend not on accident of birth, but the strength of our work ethic and the scope of our dreams. That’s what drew our forebears here. It’s how the daughter of a factory worker is CEO of America’s largest automaker; how the son of a barkeeper is Speaker of the House; how the son of a single mom can be President of the greatest nation on Earth. ”
Boehner smiled and nodded.
GM CEO Mary Barra was in the visitor’s gallery with the first lady.