TPM News

In tonight's State Of The Union address, President Obama will call on the members of his divided Congress to lay down their political arms for the moment and greet what he'll call "our generation's Sputnik moment."

According to excerpts from the speech released by the White House this evening, Obama will say America is "poised for progress" two years after the recession, pointing to a stock market that "has come roaring back," and rising corporate profits.

"At stake right now is not who wins the next election," Obama will say. "After all, we just had an election."

"The economy is growing again," Obama will say.

But the country still faces serious challenges -- ones that Obama will say cannot be faced unless the partisan sides choose to face them together.

"With their votes, the American people determined that governing will now be a shared responsibility between parties," Obama will say. "We will move forward together, or not at all - for the challenges we face are bigger than party, and bigger than politics."

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Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) will soon introduce legislation that puts just about all other spending cut plans proposed by Republicans this Congress to shame.

The bill, passed my way by a source, calls for $500 billion in specific spending cuts during Fiscal Year 2011 -- which comes to a close at the end of September, just eight months from now. Like the House's Republican Study Committee before him, Paul targets projects and agencies dear to liberals. It defunds completely the Affordable Housing Program, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

But it goes much farther than that.

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An effort to change the Senate's filibuster rules on a majority-vote basis ended Tuesday evening under growing pressure from Democratic and Republican party leaders.

In its place, senators from both parties will soon consider a bipartisan framework, negotiated by Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN), which include a handful of more modest reforms.

"We don't have an agreement yet," Alexander told reporters Tuesday afternoon. "We're still having discussions. Several of our members, and several Democratic members still have decisions to make. And when we finish, Senator Reid and Senator McConnell will go to the floor and announce an agreement when there is an agreement.

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Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) will call on President Obama to back a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution and will promise tea partiers that "there's reason to hope that real spending cuts are coming" in her post-State Of The Union speech tonight.

Late Tuesday afternoon, Bachmann released excerpts of the speech, which Bachmann has said is not intended to usurp the official Republican response, which will be delivered by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI). The excerpts suggest a speech that's focused on core conservative values of drastically shrinking the size of government, slowing environmental regulations and drilling, baby, drilling.

"For two years President Obama made promises... He claimed that he would find solutions to fix our economy and help create jobs," the excerpts read. "Well, here are a few suggestions."

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Former Sen. Jim Talent (R-MO), who had been eyeing a possible comeback bid in 2012 for the Senate seat he held until his defeat in 2006, is now reportedly out of the race after all. Instead, he'll be sticking with the private sector -- and backing Mitt Romney for president.

Had he run, Talent would have faced a primary race against former state Treasurer Sarah Steelman.

Politico reports:

Talent's decision against a 2012 campaign was telegraphed in recent weeks with his lack of activity in the state an an overseas trip with almost-certain presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

...

Talent backers said the former senator just did not have the stomach for what would have been a contentious primary and bruising general election at a time when he was content in the lucrative private sector and serving in an advisory role to a likely presidential candidate.

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Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell pre-empted President Obama's State of the Union address Tuesday by dismissing what is expected to be one of the key pillars of that speech: a call for a five-year non-defense discretionary spending freeze. Instead, McConnell endorsed House Republicans' plan to reduce that spending to 2008-levels -- significantly below what he'd agreed to support in 2010.

"It strikes most of us that the effort by the House of Representatives to get us back to 2008 spending levels would be the direction to go if we really wanted to have an impact on our annual deficit problems," McConnell told reporters at his weekly press conference.

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President Obama is reportedly planning to join with Congressional Republicans and call in tonight's State Of The Union address for a ban on earmarking. In response, the leader of the Democrats in the Senate is saying the same thing he said when Republicans proposed an end to earmarking: Bad move.

At a press conference today, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid summarily rejected the idea of a ban on the Congressional practice of tagging federal dollars for projects in members' home districts -- a staple of lawmaking in Washington that has become increasingly unpopular over the years.

"I don't think that's helpful. I think it's a lot of pretty talk and it's only giving the president more power," Reid said when asked about the earmark language set of the SOTU. "He's got enough power already."

There's not a lot new here -- Obama has been calling for an end to earmarking for quite a while now, and Reid said just last month that he'd publicly oppose any president who tried to curb the practice. But with the House Republican majority already operating with a ban and the Senate minority living with their own earmark restrictions, Obama's criticism of earmarking tonight will once again make Congressional Democrats the lone defenders of the practice in Washington.

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It's a question privacy advocates and law enforcement have been grappling with for years: Does the protection of Little Sister justify Big Brother's prying eyes?

House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security met Tuesday morning to try to answer that question, with help from the Department of Justice, the United States Internet Service Provider Association and others. At issue is how long internet service providers should be required to keep massive amounts of user data for law enforcement to potentially sort through later.

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It's a question privacy advocates and law enforcement have been grappling with for years: Does the protection of Little Sister justify Big Brother's prying eyes?

House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security met Tuesday morning to try to answer that question, with help from the Department of Justice, the United States Internet Service Provider Association and others. At issue is how long internet service providers should be required to keep massive amounts of user data for law enforcement to potentially sort through later.

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