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Posted at 11:53 AM ET, 01/26/2011

State of the Union: Top five reactions from inside Statuary Hall

By Felicia Sonmez

There was plenty of reaction to be had on the airwaves and online following President Obama's State of the Union address last night. But some of the most intriguing responses came from inside Statuary Hall, which sits just outside the House chamber and has traditionally served as the post-State of the Union "spin room." Here's a little of what we learned inside the hall last night:

1. You don't have to watch the speech in the chamber to weigh in on it. Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), who had been watching Obama's speech on television in his office, arrived in Statuary Hall about 20 minutes before the State of the Union had even wrapped up.

DeFazio said that in his 24 years in Congress, he's only attended three State of the Union addresses -- by Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton as well as Obama's first address to Congress.

"I hate jumping up and down and clapping, so I never go," DeFazio said. "It's no disrespect to this president. I just watch him in my office. I read the speech. I've already read it. I can read faster than he can talk."

DeFazio, who serves as the ranking member on the House Subcommittee on Highways and Transit, said he was pleased that transportation issues "got a nod" from Obama but was looking for more specifics. "We need a concrete plan to get the investment we need to rebuild our common infrastructure and become more competitive in the world economy," he said.

2. Some members' seating arrangements didn't exactly go according to plan. Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) had invited Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) to sit together with the Arizona delegation, but Gosar explained after the State of the Union that once the Arizona members sat down, they realized they didn't have a seat for Cummings.

"We just couldn't get everything; it was musical chairs, and there were just not a lot of spaces," said Gosar, who also spoke earlier Tuesday at a press conference with several other lawmakers promoting the plan for bipartisan seating.

Gosar noted that he talked things over with Cummings and the two ultimately concluded that it was important for members of the Arizona delegation to sit together alongside the empty seat they had planned to reserve in honor of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.).

"When you've got lots of people scrambling for such a small, little space, you know, you always try," Gosar said.

3. Bipartisan seating gets positive reviews. Many lawmakers said after the address that they were pleased with how their bipartisan seating arrangements worked out. House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who sat next to House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) for the president's address, said that he enjoyed sitting next to his Democratic counterpart and that the bipartisan seating plan sent the right message to Americans.

"Steny and I talk often," he said. "We're able to sit and talk and that's what I think people would look for, the American people, to actually find solutions."

Asked whether the bipartisan seating made the clapping awkward, McCarthy laughed and shook his head, noting that the two joked with each other at times about who was sitting and who was standing.

"It's a bipartisan feel," he said.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who had delivered a speech at the National Cathedral before the midterms urging lawmakers to work together in a more bipartisan way, said that she was pleased with the night's proceedings.

"I thought the tone of the president's speech was encouraging in that he reached out to both Democrats and Republicans to work together," Collins said. She added that it was "interesting" that the shooting in Tucson led members to reconsider the tone of political discourse even though the alleged gunman was a "deranged individual, apparently" and the tragedy "was not related to the political discourse."

"It did have the effect of causing people to think about the level of debate, and I think that's a very positive thing," she said.

4. Less standing can be a good thing. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said that he "had a good time" sitting next to Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) during the address and joked that that he was glad members jumped to their feet less often than in previous years.

"We got up a lot of the time together, and sometimes we got up separately, but overall, we didn't get up as much, and that's pretty good," Schumer said.

5. Japan was in the house. Ichiro Fujisaki, the Japanese ambassador to the U.S., was in the chamber for his third address by Obama to Congress. Fujisaki said that Obama "came out very strong on Iran and North Korea" and was "really to the point" on those issues.

But Fujisaki declined to specifically weigh in when asked whether there were things he would have preferred Obama mention in his address. Much of Obama's speech focused on U.S. competitiveness against other countries, particularly China and India, each of which was mentioned by Obama at least four times in his speech. By contrast, Obama made no mention this year of Japan, which he cited by name once in his 2009 address to Congress as a country that has surpassed the U.S. in producing solar technology.

Asked about U.S.-Japan relations on the whole, Fujisaki said that "overall, I think that's on the right track."

By Felicia Sonmez  | January 26, 2011; 11:53 AM ET
Categories:  44 The Obama Presidency  
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Comments

What I heard in this speech was praise for China, and something about a salmon.
I was too distracted by his head bobbing back and forth between the 2 Teleprompters.
He never really makes eye contact with anyone, he just looks at one prompter, then the other.
Does he use those when he's talking to Michelle?
I bet that ticks her off.

Posted by: HawkSprings | January 26, 2011 6:18 PM | Report abuse

I think President Obama's 2nd 'State of the Union' speech describe his core political ideology, while masterfully disarming his critics:

http://www.doubledutchpolitics.com/2011/01/driving-in-the-center-lane-on-a-3-lane-highway

-Ryan Colpaart
Founder, Editor-In-Chief
Double Dutch Politics

Posted by: RyanC1384 | January 26, 2011 5:22 PM | Report abuse

I think President Obama's 2nd 'State of the Union' speech describe his core political ideology, while masterfully disarming his critics:

http://www.doubledutchpolitics.com/2011/01/driving-in-the-center-lane-on-a-3-lane-highway

-Ryan Colpaart
Founder, Editor-In-Chief
Double Dutch Politics

Posted by: RyanC1384 | January 26, 2011 5:17 PM | Report abuse

Catmomtx, your logic is astounding. Yes I did object to the Bush group in office. Thats why it was refreshing when Obama made his promises. The point is they were all lies and he did the same thing only spent 20x more of our tax dollars. I don't care about the past, I wanted a change and got this, which was the same as the past only 20x the spending.

If the Repubs didnt lockstep with NO how much would have been spent then? Thank God they did that. We'd never get out of the debt.

So what are you sayin?

Posted by: TBOregon | January 26, 2011 2:20 PM | Report abuse

Sonmez you are better than Ambien.

Posted by: FoundingMother | January 26, 2011 2:14 PM | Report abuse

The problem is his walk doesn't match the talk. He came into office claiming he was going to change the way Washington worked by opening the doors to the public, crossing the isles, and working together. What happened was he called the other party the enemy, held closed doors meeting from the other party and the American people, telling the other party to sit and the back. Nice. So when he talks about working together it is an empty action.

Posted by: TBOregon | January 26, 2011 12:58 PM
??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

And you expected this President to do this all by himself? It is really impossible to unite people and change the way Washington works when the opposing party and all that seem to speak for the opposing party say right from the beginning that they want you to fail. It is difficult for any one person and I don't care who they might be to change ANYTHING if the people you are dealing with want to see you fail and do everything they can to see that happen. Interesting you refer to something President Obama said, taking it totally out of context and use that as a way of excusing bad behavior from Republicans. Republicans have spent the last two years doing everything they can to make this President fail. They have refused to participate in the governing of this country but whine to gullible people that "the Democrats won't listen to us". Even when Democrats catered to their wishes, Republicans still voted NO in lock step. During the midterms and after the election they specifically said they would not compromise with President Obama, something they did not do even before that. They have said their main goal was to make sure he is a one term President. Republicans have made no secret that they dislike this President and their goal is to do everything they can to get rid of everything he has accomplished over the past two years. Republicans don't care about the American people. They are willing to waste time effort and our tax dollars to show the world they are the boss, they can defy the President when they know good and well nothing will come of their antics. Republicans/conservatives/right wing/tea party/Obama haters have spent the past two years spewing fear, scare, smear, hate, intolerance, bigotry, and total disrespect towards our President and his family but yet you want to blame the President for not changing the tone in Washington? Yeah right. My question is when will Republicans/conservatives/right wing/tea party/Obama haters ever take responsibility for what THEY do?

Oh, and by the way you want to complain about secret meetings? Did you complain about the secret meetings Dick Cheney had with the oil industry that gave us extremely high energy cost, $5.00 a gallon gasoline and record profits for the oil companies? I'm just sayin.......

Posted by: catmomtx | January 26, 2011 2:05 PM | Report abuse

I believed that I served my country (1956-1962) so that we could all have freedom. I joined the service. I salute the uniform at all times. In today's world, they tear down the uniform. The State of the Union address was well received by my family, and it has shown the traitors as I see it by the action of the Congress. What happen to respect? Today is the tomorrow that you worried about yesterday, a old old saying that is more appropriate today instead of yesterday.

Posted by: carrollwaynewallace | January 26, 2011 1:13 PM | Report abuse

The problem is his walk doesn't match the talk. He came into office claiming he was going to change the way Washington worked by opening the doors to the public, crossing the isles, and working together. What happened was he called the other party the enemy, held closed doors meeting from the other party and the American people, telling the other party to sit and the back. Nice. So when he talks about working together it is an empty action.

He talks about freezing spending, yet he just spent 4 trillion dollars last year. I'm not sure if people realize how much money that is. He could stop spending for the next 20 years and we will never catch up. We need to cut all that spending, and then 20 years of bureaucracy before that.

I did like the tax code changes he mentioned. I liked the removal of the loopholes for the mega rich. I wish he would go further and go to a flat tax with no loopholes. Once again as an Independent, his past dishonesty makes me not believe a word of it.

He still was preaching the Cap and trade tax on energy, which will benefit him and his cronies via the Chicago carbon exchange, making them beyond billionaires. Very dishonest and once again makes me very suspicious of his reasoning and motivation.

I hope concerning productive cuts to bureaucracy they will work together while they can, because we know if he is in office and his party takes control again in 2012, he will break the bank with his wild spending. Small business pay 1.75 trillion a year dealing with huge government red tape and bureaucracy, it needs to go away so jobs will stay in the USA.

All in all I thought it was a poor speech, certainly not one of his best.

Posted by: TBOregon | January 26, 2011 12:58 PM | Report abuse

I quit watching any of Obama's speeches when I became convinced he espouses the radical progressive tactic that says "the end justifies the means". Under that theory his lies are justified in his mind, and the same goes for those around him.

I judge Obama by his actions rather than his talk. So far his actions are much different than his stated intentions.

Posted by: thehamptons1 | January 26, 2011 12:55 PM | Report abuse

@ohioan: I agree that it needs to be reduced. But to seriously make the changes that we need to make, we also need to reduce defense spending and a few others. While I agree with most of what you say, I don't think that you or anyone is the representative voice of "Americans" as a whole. Maybe you don't agree with the President's direction, but you could take a step out of the rhetorical and accept that it moves us in the right direction. Half full?

Posted by: Northernmost | January 26, 2011 12:53 PM | Report abuse

Its downright Troubling to hear Obama say he wants to "Freeze" discretionary spending.
That's Wrong. It needs to be Reduced first, and then Frozen.
It says that Obama STILL DOESN'T GET IT.
OBAMA'S NOT PAYING ATTENTION TO THE CONCERNS OF AMERICANS.

Posted by: ohioan | January 26, 2011 12:38 PM | Report abuse

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