Live Blog: Preamble to the State of the Union

US President Barack Obama delivers his first State of the Union address January 27, 2010 at the US Capitol in Washington, DC. Obama declared that the worst of the economic storm had passed, but that a trail of devastation was left behind. Seated behind Obama is Vice President Joe Biden and former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

As President Obama prepares to deliver his second State of the Union message, the airwaves and Internet are filled with talking points, spin and a modicum of civility in the wake of the tragedy in Tucson. Following are some of the highlights in the run-up to the State of the Union speech at 9:00 PM ET. webcast coverage of the State of the Union starts at 8:00 PM ET. 

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Last Updated: 8:50 PM ET

Congress Members File In: Members of congress are now filing into the chamber -- some with their designated opposite-party seat-partners -- for President Obama's State of the Union Speech.  Watch our live broadcast of the speech here -- and stay tuned afterward for a special webcast with Katie Couric.

SOTU's "Designated Survivor": The White House has announced that Interior Secretary Ken Salazar will serve as the administration's "designated survivor" this evening, in accordance with a long-held tradition dictating that one member of the president's cabinet skip the speech each year in the event of a catastrophic event.

Last year it was Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan who stayed at home -- although Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who was away on duty, also missed the event.


David Axelrod on the Five-Year Spending Freeze: In an interview with CBS News chief White House correspondent Chip Reid on Tuesday, White House senior adviser David Axelrod talked about the five-year freeze on non-security discretionary spending that President Obama will announce during his speech. Axelrod called the plan "the most aggressive effort to cut fed spending in decades."

Excerpts from Obama's Speech: The White House has released the full text of President Obama's prepared remarksfor this evening's State of the Union address. According to the text, Mr. Obama will focus on civil unity, jobs and economic growth, and innovation and education. Here are some excerpts from the prepared speech.

"We know what it takes to compete for the jobs and industries of our time. We need to out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world. We have to make America the best place on Earth to do business. We need to take responsibility for our deficit, and reform our government. That's how our people will prosper. That's how we'll win the future. And tonight, I'd like to talk about how we get there."

"We are part of the American family. We believe that in a country where every race and faith and point of view can be found, we are still bound together as one people; that we share common hopes and a common creed; that the dreams of a little girl in Tucson are not so different than those of our own children, and that they all deserve the chance to be fulfilled."

"Half a century ago, when the Soviets beat us into space with the launch of a satellite called Sputnik? We had no idea how we'd beat them to the moon. The science wasn't there yet. NASA didn't even exist. But after investing in better research and education, we didn't just surpass the Soviets; we unleashed a wave of innovation that created new industries and millions of new jobs."

Check out the full text here.

Anita Dunn's SOTU Preview:

In an interview with CBS' "Washington Unplugged" on Tuesday, former White House communications director Anita Dunn tells CBS News political analyst John Dickerson that President Obama will take a "thematic approach" in his speech this evening.

Watch the full clip at left.

More GOP Response: More excerpts from Republican Rep. Paul Ryan's response.

On spending: "A few years ago, reducing spending was important. Today, it's imperative... No economy can sustain such high levels of debt and taxation. The next generation will inherit a stagnant economy and a diminished country. Frankly, it's one of my greatest concerns as a parent - and I know many of you feel the same way."

On "fiscal challenge": "Our nation is approaching a tipping point. We are at a moment, where if government's growth is left unchecked and unchallenged, America's best century will be considered our past century. This is a future in which we will transform our social safety net into a hammock, which lulls able-bodied people into lives of complacency and dependency. Depending on bureaucracy to foster innovation, competitiveness, and wise consumer choices has never worked - and it won't work now. We need to chart a new course."

On health care: "The President mentioned the need for regulatory reform to ease the burden on American businesses. We agree - and we think his health care law would be a great place to start. Last week, House Republicans voted for a full repeal of this law, as we pledged to do, and we will work to replace it with fiscally responsible, patient-centered reforms that actually reduce costs and expand coverage."

On the role of government: "It's no coincidence that trust in government is at an all-time low now that the size of government is at an all-time high."

Obama excerpts: Excerpts from President Obama's speech show he will emphasize the economy and bipartisanship. Here's a sample of his prepared remarks:

"With their votes, the American people determined that governing will now be a shared responsibility between parties. New laws will only pass with support from Democrats and Republicans. We will move forward together, or not at all."

"Two years after the worst recession most of us have ever known, the stock market has come roaring back. Corporate profits are up. The economy is growing again... But we have never measured progress by these yardsticks alone. We measure progress by the success of our people. By the jobs they can find and the quality of life those jobs offer."

Check out the rest of the excerpts here.

Aisle Hogs: Members of Congress claim their seats for the State of the Union on a first come, first served basis. Some show up early to stake out prime seats in the House chamber, where they can be seen greeting the president as he enters. has a list of the "five biggest aisle hogs" in Congress from the past 10 State of the Union speeches. They are: Dale Kildee (D-Mich.), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), and Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.). Read more about them on Salon.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi

Pelosi's Guests: Joining House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi tonight are: Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (D); Dr. Randy Friese, a trauma surgeon from Tucson, Ariz. who first treated Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and others following the Tucson tragedy; Ben Jealous, president of the NAACP; Barry Rand, CEO of the AARP.

Tea Party Response: Rep. Michele Bachmann, head of the House Tea Party Caucus, will be delivering her own response to the State of the Union tonight. Excerpts of her prepared remarks have been released: "After the $700 billion bailout, the trillion-dollar stimulus, and the massive budget bill with over 9,000 earmarks that the President signed, many of you implored Washington to please stop spending money we don't have. But, instead of cutting, we saw an unprecedented explosion of government spending and debt at President Obama's direction; unlike anything we have seen in the history of our country."

Check out more of her planned remarks and background about her speech here.

Spending Freeze Feud: The president has yet to deliver his speech, but partisans on both the left and the right are criticizing the plan for a five-year spending freeze he is expected to propose tonight. @markknoller of CBS tweets that House Speaker John Boehner said Mr. Obama's call for a partial spending freeze "is simply inadequate." Meanwhile, @KatrinaNation, the Nation magazine Editor in Chief Katrina vandenHeuvel, tweets, "Focus on deficits & freeze in non-security discretionary spending distract from what is essential to real recovery: job creation."

"Tribute to Gabby": In an interview with CBS News Congressional correspondent Nancy Cordes on Washington Unplugged today, Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) explains that part of his motivation for suggesting bipartisan seating tonight stemmed from the tragedy in Tucson that seriously injured Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.).

"Many of us know Gabby Giffords, many of us know what a spirited legislature she is, many of us know what a pragmatist she is, and someone who looked for common ground," Udall said.

Paul Ryan

GOP Response: Here's the first excerpt from Republican Rep. Paul Ryan's State of the Union response tonight: "Americans are skeptical of both political parties, and that skepticism is justified - especially when it comes to spending. So hold all of us accountable. In this very room, the House will produce, debate, and advance a budget. Last year - in an unprecedented failure- Congress chose not to pass, or even propose a budget. The spending spree continued unchecked. We owe you a better choice and a different vision. Our forthcoming budget is our obligation to you - to show you how we intend to do things differently ... how we will cut spending to get the debt down... help create jobs and prosperity ... and reform government programs."

SOTU Games: Various websites and groups are offering a few games to play during the State of the Union.

Americans for Tax Reform has 10 different bingo cards for its version of State of the Union Bingo. The conservative group also provides a conveniently partisan "key" with which to "interpret" the president's words. For instance, it says that "investment" amounts to "even more government spending to employ union workers."

The centrist group No Labels is also supplying bingo cards for visitors willing to submit their e-mail addresses.

You'll find a State of the Union drinking game in the Huffington Post's "comedy" section (as well as a disclaimer that the site does not condone binge drinking), as well as tips for drinking games from Washington pundits and reporters at Politico's "Click" section.

Speech length: White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs says the speech will be approximately the same word length as last year. Mr. Obama's speech last year ran about one hour and 10 minutes long.

Honoring Gabrielle Giffords: Members of Congress and other political leaders will be wearing black and white ribbons in honor of the Arizona congresswoman who was seriously wounded in a mass shooting earlier this month, CBS News confirms.

Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) and Mike McCaul (R-Texas) distributed a letter today encouraging everyone attending the State of the Union to wear the ribbons.

"The black/white ribbon has been a symbol of unity and hope for the entire Tucson community in the wake of this event," the letter said. "The white ribbon represents hope for a peaceful, nonviolent society. The black ribbon is in remembrance of all who have died and been wounded as a result of violence."

Additionally, the Arizona congressional delegation plans to leave an empty seat for Giffords during tonight's speech, in between Reps. Raul Grijalva (D) and Jeff Flake (R).

Reid on proposed earmark ban: Meredith Shiner of Politico reports on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's response to reports Obama will propose an earmark ban in his speech tonight: "It's a lot of pretty talk but it's only giving the president more power and he's got enough power already."

SOTU Date Night Update: At our latest count, CBS News reports that at least 100 members of Congress are participating in the bipartisan seating plan tonight, including at least 61 senators.

Eric Cantor's date: Nancy Pelosi turned down Eric Cantor's invitation to sit with him during the State of the Union, but Democratic Rep. Bobby Scott, his fellow Virginian, has accepted.

Speech advice: Reagan Speechwriter Rep. Rohrabacher to Obama: Use "We," Not "I"

President Obama calls for budget freeze: A senior administration official let out some State of the Union news: "As a down payment toward reducing the deficit, the President is calling for a five-year freeze on non-security discretionary spending. In areas outside the freeze, we also will be looking for cuts and efficiencies. For instance, the President is putting forward a five-year plan developed by Secretary Gates to achieve $78 billion in defense savings."

President Obama's SOTU lunch: What does the president do on the day of the State of the Union? He has lunch with TV anchors at the White House to brief them on the speech. Of course, the lunch is off-the-record and comments embargoed until the speech.

Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD)

Nancy Pelosi:

Democratic House leader Pelosi tweeted that she could not accept the invitation of Republican House leader Eric Cantor to sit together during the State of the Union speech tonight. She had previously invited Republican Rep. Roscoe Bartlett of Maryland, and wasn't going to stand him up on this date.

"I thank @GOPLeader for his #SOTU offer, but I invited my friend Rep. Bartlett from MD yesterday & am pleased he accepted"

President Obama: Walking from the Oval Office to the residence, he responds to question about State of the Union: "I think it will be ok. I hope so anyway." 

Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski: "Maybe we do need to get out of our conventional skins every now and again and come out and do something that indicates to the rest of the country that we are not afraid to sit next to each other, that there are no cooties to be had, Republican between Democrats that together we can join together in this very important speech that the president will deliver to us tonight."  via CNN

Arizona delegation: A seat will be kept open tonight in honor of wounded Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

Twitter: Mark Knoller--Unless Chuck Schumer is sitting next to Angelina Jolie, tonight's seating arrangement seems of little genuine consequence.

Twitter: KeithOlbermann--This is an update from #FOK News. Tonight's State of the Union will be live-tweeted by our team. Well, by one of the guys. OK - by me

Politico: Tim Pawlenty, former Minnesota governor and likely Republican presidential candidate, says he would like to hear President Barack Obama say in his State of the Union address: "I realize that I overreached. ... I'm sorry, and now I'm going to work ... to take the country and the Congress in a different direction that is more mainstream." More

John Boehner and Eric Cantor

Odd couple: Eric Cantor's chief of staff has asked House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi's office if she would sit with the Republican House majority leader.

Rep. John Boehner on what he expects from the State of the Union: "I am hopeful that the word investment isn't more stimulus spending and a bigger government in Washington."

Supreme Court: Court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg confirmed that six justices would be present at Tuesday's speech, although she would not say which ones. But as three justices had previously all but ruled themselves out, it seemed a safe assumption that Roberts and Justice Anthony Kennedy would join their four colleagues who were appointed by Democratic presidents.

Justice Samuel Alito, who mouthed the words "not true" in response to Obama's criticism (watch at left), is in Hawaii this week.

Meanwhile, Justice Antonin Scalia told The Hill on Monday that that he hasn't "gone to the State of the Union in at least 10 years, and I'm not starting tomorrow night either.

Jake Tapper: President Obama will call for a ban on earmarks and he will propose an overall budget freeze, ABC News has learned.

Inside the State of the Union speech: The White House has produced a video that takes citizens behind the scenes, showing how a State of the Union speech gets made. The video features Obama speechwriter Jon Favreau and outgoing senior advisor David Axelrod, as well as U.S. House of Representatives Historian Matthew Wasniewski and other White House staff. It's mostly a history lesson, with a charming sound track. Axelrod says Mr. Obama is the "best speech writer in the building." 

After the speech the White House will host a panel of policy experts, who will take questions via the web. In addition the White House will webcast the State of the Union, with "charts, graphs and other content" as Mr. Obama delivers his speech.

Washington Unplugged: Preview of State of the Union with CBS News' Chip Reid, Rob Hendin, Bob Orr and Ward Sloane.