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President Obama Delivers State of the Union Address; Republicans Respond to State of the Union

Aired January 28, 2014 - 22:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Speaking for more than an hour, the president of the United States outlining his agenda for this year.

But the most powerful moment was right at the very end, when he saluted Army Ranger Cory Remsburg, a truly, truly emotional, powerful moment that brought that crowd, liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans, to their feet in enthusiastic applause, gratitude from a nation for the men and women of the United States military, who have paid such an awful price over these years, these many, many years.

The president also telling members of Congress, Democrats and Republicans, let's work together. He wants this to be a year of action. But he says, in effect, we can do this the easy way or the hard way. Pass legislation. Let's make a deal. Otherwise, otherwise, I will take unilateral action on my own.

So, there you see the president of the United States. He's going to make his way out of the chamber.

Jake Tapper is outside of the chamber himself right now.

Jake, you have an exclusive interview with the president of the United States coming up this week.


We will be talking to the president in Wisconsin on Thursday. The interview will air on "NEW DAY" Friday morning and on "THE LEAD" Friday afternoon, the first interview with President Obama after the State of the Union, a lot to talk about, both in terms of what his plans are and what the Republican response will be to those plans.

We have already heard grumbling from Republicans, people taking issue with his approach, with the discussion of doing things through executive order, taking action if he cannot find bipartisan compromise, some Republicans saying that he hasn't seen enough -- they haven't seen enough examples of the president and the White House reaching out to Republicans who are willing to do things with President Obama.

So we will have a lot to talk about with him in Wisconsin on Thursday, Wolf.

BLITZER: We will look forward to that, Jake. Candy Crowley, we saw a lot of times the vice president standing up together with the Democrats, the speaker sitting down, no applause. There are clearly many differences on these issues the president outlined.


The one thing there's no real difference in, Wolf, though, that struck me the most was none of these are new issues. And, in fact, if you go back I think through the last State of the Union addresses that this president has delivered, you will hear all of these issues again, the patent reform, the job training, universal pre-K, equal pay for equal work, on and on, the gun control, more money for research and development.

So this is definitely the president's agenda and has been for some time now. It's hard to see where much is going to be different in the Republican response to that. You add in that it's also an election year, it makes things look difficult, not impossible, but certainly difficult.

As the president pointed out and as Republicans point out, there are some things that they agree on, but they're not the big things. It just doesn't sound like a year when great big things are going to happen.

BLITZER: One line basically the president had on gun control, but he did speak enthusiastically about the Affordable Care Act, Obamacare, saying that's something that has already done wonders for the American people, as promised. A lot more Republicans strongly disagree.

Anderson, I know you have a panel of analysts and experts who are anxious to weigh in as well.


Let's start with former Speaker Gingrich, who has sat through a lot of these speeches.

What did you think of this speech tonight?

NEWT GINGRICH (R), FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I think it's a very good speech. I think it communicated to the country. I think his close with the young Ranger was extraordinarily powerful.

And I think most people, if they stayed through the speech, most people would have been impressed. That doesn't mean he's going to move the country dramatically. But I do think you have to say that, for this evening, he gave a very solid speech that I think had real power to it.

COOPER: Gloria Borger, what did make of it?


Look, I think it was in a way a very traditional State of the Union speech, where the president listed things he cares about, his priorities. What struck me was his going on the offense on health care. If the Web site were not up and working, I guarantee you that the president would not be doing that.

But he went on offense on that and said, we don't need 40 more votes, right? We're done with that. Let's just move on. He also said, look, let's just get immigration reform done, kind of nodding to the Republicans.

I think this is a president in a difficult time who is trying to jump- start his presidency. He's low in the polls. He's got a public that's not happy about the way things are going. And he was saying, OK, I'm a leader, I can get things done.

COOPER: Quick impressions, John.


And we talked about earlier a president at a low point, how is he -- does he rise to the moment, number one? Number two, I think the first half was conciliatory, tax reform, immigration, personally reaching out to Speaker Boehner, common ground.

The second half, when he got to minimum wage, equal pay, and then health care, much more drawing the lines for 2014.

COOPER: David Maraniss wrote the book "Barack Obama: The Story."

What did you make? You have heard a lot of this speeches.

DAVID MARANISS, BIOGRAPHER: You could see him. From the moment he came in, he had his game face on.

And he ended it in a very brilliant and difficult way, which was to both draw the emotion of the individual soldier, and at the same time make it a symbolic representation of the struggle that he also gone through., without being self-referential about it.

And I think that, beyond that, he wasn't strident. He never used the words together income inequality, and yet the essence of much of the speech was about trying to close that gap, something that he really has been trying to do since 1985, when he first started as a community organizer in Chicago on the South Side and all of these decades since then. I think he reached that point tonight.

COOPER: Karen Hughes...


KAREN HUGHES, FORMER UNDERSECRETARY OF STATE FOR PUBLIC DIPLOMACY AND PUBLIC AFFAIRS: It was nice to hear a more optimistic tone. I think that's good for the country and encouraging. People need to hear that.

He wrapped himself very well I think in the power of the presidency with the very moving tribute to the Army Ranger and the military, even mentioned Olympic gold. That said, I do think a lot of the specific policy proposals in the speech, A., are things we have heard before, B., involve quite a bit of government spending, which conservatives believe is part of the problem, not part of the solution, and didn't quite feel equal to the big challenges that are facing us, which is massive debt and too much government spending

Paul Krugman, did you expect to hear what you heard?

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's pretty exciting. You guys having fund so far? All right, here you go. Whose pen is this? Thanks, guys.


PAUL KRUGMAN, COLUMNIST, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": It's now being touted. This is a success story, and I think is. It's irreversible.


KRUGMAN: He knows, even though he may lose the Senate, even though he's...


KRUGMAN: ... he knows that he's one of the most consequential presidents we have had.

COOPER: Stephanie Cutter, what did you...

STEPHANIE CUTTER, FORMER OBAMA DEPUTY CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Well, I agree with a lot of what everybody said.

I think that this was a very good speech for the president. I think in terms of the ideas that he laid out, they're real, achievable, concrete things that we can do to strengthen the middle class and help people get into the middle class.

Just because he's mentioned them before doesn't mean we shouldn't get them done. Congress should act. I think the president also demonstrated that he's serious about getting something done.

COOPER: Alex Castellanos, the first we have heard from you tonight.

ALEX CASTELLANOS, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think I have said before that I think a speech by Barack Obama is a lot like sex. The worst there ever was is still excellent.

And I thought he gave a very competent performance tonight. One of the things working with candidates and political leaders is when they're in a weak political position, sometimes, they confuse volume and loudness with strength.

And that's what I felt the first half of the speech, that he was willing himself to demonstrate strength and confidence. But he did it with optimism. And that is the rare gift that a president has. A president is the only guy in that top job who can say, we're going to someplace better, follow me. I think it's going to help him. It's going to help the Democrats. The policy was, I thought Karen was dead right, too small for the moment.

COOPER: We are awaiting the GOP response, I think point out.

Was it less sort of throwing down the gauntlet to Republicans than some had thought maybe?

KING: I think we heard a lot of people saying beforehand he would be defiant. It wasn't defiant.

He drew lines. He drew lines, but he also -- he attempted to say, hey, let's try to work together. We should all be mad at ourselves that this town has been so dysfunctional. And I think beginning with the stories of individual citizens doing things to change their lives was sort of a lesson to Washington, saying, if the American people can do it at tough times, find ways to make their lives better, why can't we get some things done? I think it was a smart way to start.


CASTELLANOS: And not just tonight in the Republican response, but the next few days, if Republicans have any brains at all, they will respond the same way.

BORGER: Well, I think what he was doing was taking the side of the American public in all of this, essentially saying, OK, Congress didn't get anything done.

Maybe things didn't go so well on Obamacare, but, OK, now we just have to move on.

COOPER: Well, what would House Republicans actually deliver on from this speech?

BORGER: I think he did sort of open the door on immigration, for example.


HUGHES: Agreement in other areas, lowering corporate tax rates, for example.


BORGER: Corporate tax rates was another area.

COOPER: Newt, did anything jump out at you?

GINGRICH: Let me just point out, speeches are terrific.

And Clinton came in and sold health care and it lasted four days, and then it disintegrated in 1993-'94. The problem this president has is that this morning, Senator Tom Coburn announced that he had lost his cancer doctor under the Obamacare bill. Now, that kind of stuff day after day...

KRUGMAN: It's a totally misleading story, by the way.

GINGRICH: Of course it is, Paul.


KRUGMAN: It's no -- nobody has ever found that their private insurer has told them that they are -- that the doctor they were using is no longer in network. It's a garbage story. It really is.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whether Newt is right or not about that...

KRUGMAN: The point is...

COOPER: One at a time.

KRUGMAN: The point is, Clinton talked health care and it didn't happen. Obama talked health care and it did happen. And it's not going to be reversed, and that's the important news here. He knows he's got it.

COOPER: We've got to go.

GINGRICH: I'm glad you -- in the country at large, day after day after day, people learning they have lost their insurance, people learning what the size of the cost of the new program is, people learning they can't go to their favorite hospital, they can't go to their favorite doctor...


COOPER: One at a time.

CUTTER: The American people do not want to repeal the president's health care law. Millions of people are already benefiting from it.

KRUGMAN: That's not true.

CUTTER: And Republicans are in the difficult position of taking something away from people if they try to repeal it. So the president's message tonight was let's move on.

CASTELLANOS: Let's be clear about where the American people are. They don't want to repeal Obama care because there is no alternative. They're in a locked room with something they don't like. If Republicans can come up with a door, with an alternative out of that room...

COOPER: We're going to talk about this. We've got a lot of time ahead. Let's go back to Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Anderson. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, she's the fourth ranking Republican in the House of Representatives. She's going to be delivering the official Republican response. She's got a very impressive personal story. Clearly the Republicans want to showcase her. Here is Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers.

REP. CATHY MCMORRIS RODGERS (R), WASHINGTON: What an honor it is for me to be with you after the president's State of the Union. Tonight, we honor America, a nation that has witnessed the greatest rise of freedom and opportunity our world has ever seen. A nation where we are not defined by our limits, but by our potential, and a nation where a girl who worked at the McDonald's drive-through to help pay for college can be with you from the United States Capitol.

But the most important moments right now aren't happening here. They're not in the Oval Office or in the House chamber. They're in your homes, kissing your kids good night, figuring out how to pay the bills, getting ready for tomorrow's doctor's visit, waiting to hear from those you love serving in Afghanistan or searching for that big job interview.

After all, we, the people, have been the foundation of America since her earliest days. People from all walks of life and from all corners of the world. People who come to America because here, no challenge is too great and no dream too big. That's the genius of America.

Tonight, the president made more promises that sound good but won't actually solve the problems facing Americans. We want you to have a better life. The president wants that, too. But we part ways when it comes how to make that happen.

So tonight, I'd like to share a more hopeful Republican vision, one that empowers you, not the government. It's one that champions free markets and trusts people to make their own decisions, not a government that decides for you. It helps working families rise above the limits of poverty and protects our most vulnerable. And it's one where Washington plays by the same rules that you do. It's a vision that is fair and offers the promise of a better future for every American.

If you would have told me as a little girl that I would one day put my hand on the Bible and be sworn in as the 200th woman to serve in the House of Representatives, I wouldn't have thought it possible.

I grew up working on my family's orchard and fruit stand in Kettle Falls, a small town in eastern Washington, getting up before dawn with my brother to pick apples. My dad drove a school bus and my mom worked as a part-time bookkeeper. They taught me to work hard, help others, and always, always dream for more.

So when I showed my 4-H animals at the county fair, my parents used to say to me, "Cathy, you need to save this money so you can go to college one day." And so I did. I saved; I worked hard; and I became the first in my family to graduate from college.

The chance to go from my Washington to this one was unexpected. I came to Congress to help empower people, not politicians; to grow the working middle class, not the government; and to ensure that everyone in this country can find a job. Because a job is so much more than a paycheck. It gives us purpose, dignity, and the foundation to build a future. I was single when I was elected, but it wasn't long before I met Brian, a retired Navy commander, and now we have three beautiful children, one who was born just eight weeks ago. Like all parents, we have high hopes and dreams for our children. But we also know what it's like to face challenges.

Three days after our son was born, Cole, we got news no parent expects. Cole was diagnosed with Down syndrome. The doctors told us he could have endless complications, heart defects, even early Alzheimer's. They told us all the problems. But when we looked at our son, we saw only possibilities. We saw a gift from God.

And today, we see a 6-year-old boy who dances to Bruce Springsteen, who reads above grade level and who is the best big brother in the world. We see all the things he can do, not those he can't.

And Cole and his sisters, Grace and Brynn, have only made me more determined to see the potential in every human life, that whether we're born with an extra 21st chromosome or without a dollar to our name, we are not defined by our limits but by our potential. Because our mission, not only as Republicans, but as Americans, is to once again ensure that we are not bound by where we come from but empowered by what we can become.

That is the gap Republicans are working to close. It's a gap we all face between where you are and where you want to be.

The president talks a lot about income inequality. But the real gap we face today is one of opportunity inequality. With this administration's policies, that gap has become far too wide. We see this gap growing every single day.

We see it in our neighbors who are struggling to find jobs. A husband who's now working just part-time. A child who drops out of college because she can't afford tuition, or parents who are outliving their life's savings. Last month, more Americans stopped looking for a job than found one. Too many people are falling further and further behind, because right now, the president's policies are making people's lives harder.

Republicans have plans to close the gap. Plans that will focus on jobs first, without more spending, government bailouts and red tape. Every day we're working to expand our economy. We have plans to improve our education and training systems so you have the choice to determine where your kids go to school. So college is affordable, and skills training is modernized.

And yes, it's time to honor our history of legal immigration. We're working on a step-by-step solution to immigration reform, by first securing our boarders and making sure America will always attract the best, brightest and hardest working from around the world.

And with too many Americans living paycheck to paycheck, we have solutions to help you take home more of your pay, through lower taxes, cheaper energy costs, and affordable health care. Not long ago, I got a letter from Betty in Spokane, who had hoped the president's health-care law would save her money but found out instead her premiums were going up nearly $700 a month. We've all talked to too many people who've received cancellation notices they didn't expect. Or who can no longer see the doctors they always have.

No, we shouldn't go back to the things -- the way things were, but this law is not working. Republicans believe health-care choices should be yours, not the governments. And that whether you're a boy with Down syndrome or a woman with breast cancer, you can find coverage and a doctor that will treat you.

So we hope the president will join us in a year of great action by empowering people, not by making their lives harder with unprecedented spending, higher taxes and fewer jobs.

As Republicans, we advance these plans every day, because we believe in a government that trusts people and doesn't limit where you finish because of where you started. That is what we stand for. It's for an America that is every bit as compassionate as it is exceptional.

If we're successful, years from now, our children will say that we rebuilt the American dream. We built a working middle class that could take in anyone and a workforce that could take on the world. Whether you're a girl in Kettle Falls or a boy from Brooklyn, our children should be able to say that we closed the gap. Our plan is one that dreams big for everyone and turns its back on no one.

The president said many things tonight, but now I ask him to listen to you. For the true State of the Union lies in your heart, and in your home.

tomorrow, I'll watch my son Cole get on the school bus. Others will wait in the doctor's office or interview for that first job. Some of us will celebrate new beginnings. Others will face great challenges. But all of us will wake up and do what is uniquely American. We will look forward to the balanced potential that lies ahead. We will give thanks to the brave men and women who have answered America's call to freedom. Like Sergeant Jacob Hess from Spokane, who recently gave his life to protect all of ours.

So tonight, I simply offer a prayer, a prayer for Sergeant Hess's family, your family, and for our larger American family: that with the guidance of God, we may prove -- prove ourselves worthy of his blessings of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. For when we embrace these gifts, we are each doing our part to form a more perfect union.

May God guide you and our president, and may God continue to bless the United States of America.

BLITZER: Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Republican of Washington state, delivering the official Republican response to the president and doing it in a powerful, emotional way, relaying her own personal story, which is very impressive, but also going point by point, rebutting the president, especially when it comes to the Affordable Care Act, Obama care as it's called. She says this law is not working.

Stay right here. You're going to find out how the president's speech is playing with voters, people shaping the political debate. We have a lot ahead, including live interviews with senators Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, two Republicans eyeing the White House themselves.

Plus, CNN's exclusive instant poll of Americans who watched the president's speech. Did his message impress? Did his message disappoint?

We're also going to show you the responses from our focus group in Iowa. You're going to see exactly which of the president's lines got the best and worst reactions. Lots coming up. Let's go back to Anderson in the meantime -- Anderson.

COOPER: Let's continue our conversation here with our panelists. Speaker Gingrich, you just heard the GOP response. She was saying that the GOP has affordable alternatives on health care. Do they? Because that's the criticism of the GOP.

GINGRICH: Sure. You just had a bill introduced this week by several senators. But it's true across the board. You just had today Senator Tim Scott and Senator John Hoeven (ph) introduce new bills to provide health to children and on the education side.

The fact is, there are a lot of positive things the coming down the road. Some of them are very small, eliminating funding for the political conventions and taking the money and putting it into pediatric research, which on a bipartisan basis has passed the House and is now sitting in the Senate, waiting for senators to choose between politicians to send their money to.

COOPER: Do you think it's possible to somehow repeal the Affordable Care Act?

GINGRICH: I think you can step by step replace the parts that don't work. And even the president said, "Look, if you have specific fixes, come see me."

I think it would be very interesting if they simply passed a bill that was entitled the Obama Promises Act. You can keep your doctor; you can keep your insurance. And I said to the president and the Senate Democrats, you want to keep the president's word or not?

COOPER: Paul Krugman, do you believe that they actually do have proposals?

KRUGMAN: That Senator proposal, that bill is quite amazing: it actually would have destroyed employer-based insurance for millions of people, probably at least 6 million, probably more like 10 million. So it was actually a far worse, vastly more destruction than anything that's happening under -- under Obama care.

So now, actually, I was amazed by that Republican response. I kept on waiting for the thing to start. Where was the -- where was the substance? There was nothing there. I mean, that's what I meant about Obama has got the ideas. There was no content. Lovely personal story, but actually zero policy content, and that is actually true about everything that's happening. There is no Republican alternative on health care.

CASTELLANOS: I think there's perhaps a slightly different view from the Republican side.

COOPER: Did you see content in that speech?

CASTELLANOS: I saw a narrative, a vision very different from the vision of Barack Obama...

KRUGMAN: Narrative vision. What content?

CASTELLANOS: It's very different from what Obama presented. It's interesting to me to see Barack Obama, who campaigned as the candidate of hope and change, stand there tonight as the leader of the Washington establishment, and tell America after Obama care, that the next great Washington idea is going to work so much better than the last.

COOPER: Did you hear it from the GOP?

CASTELLANOS: What I saw -- what I heard tonight from the GOP, which I really liked -- first of all, the GOP response can't be a mini State of the Union, it has to be a response: what did we just see? What did we think about that? If you try to do a mini State of the Union, you've failed.

What I heard from Cathy McMorris Rodgers, one is I saw a wonderful new face for the Republican Party, and I want to see more of that.

But two, I heard a very different vision than President Obama offered tonight, which is instead of a top-down, command-and-control, Washington-knows-best machine-like way, hey, we're going to take apart this health-care system like we wouldn't let Harry Reid take our watch apart and put it back together, explaining he'd make it better. He took apart something which is much more complicated: our health-care system. What I heard tonight is a different vision from Republicans: bottom up, natural way to health care. Making choices between you and your doctor.

CUTTER: That's interesting. Because she didn't put out any specifics on anything.

CASTELLANOS: She referred to a lot of the -- she's referred to the...

CUTTER: She had lots of great rhetoric in there. A lot of great rhetoric that the president said. On opportunity and closing the gap.

CASTELLANOS: But you know the policy...

CUTTER: But no...


COOPER: One at a time.

CASTELLANOS: But aren't you aware of the policy...

COOPER: Guys, don't talk over each other. I promise; no one listens -- Paul.

KRUGMAN: Anderson, research: School bus-drivers currently make -- a weekend school-bus driver make $29,550 a year. Do you think people like that are getting health insurance without government's help? Do you think people like that will have a decent retirement without a strong Social Security system?

That's exactly -- the kind of family she grew up in is the kind of family that was middle class when she was growing up but is no longer. And this is why we need the kind of thing that the Democrats are advocating. Whether or not they're going to actually make it happen, at least on health care, they have.

GINGRICH: I understand Paul's passion about these things. But the fact is, the Republican Party -- Alex, you're exactly right. The Republican Party, if you're following the president of the United States, in either party, it is a very difficult job.

And the Republican Party picked somebody who is attractive. She is articulate. She has a great personal story. Her description of her son's recovery is unbelievable.

And what she said to the country was, "Look, if you think Washington bureaucrats are the solution, you've got a great leader. But if you think maybe all of us back home have to take control of our lives some more, that's an alternative path."

And frankly, in response to the State of the Union, that's about the most you can get. Now, I understand Paul would have hated Reagan's speeches too. Effective, thematic speeches are very useful in a setting. You don't have the time to get specific.

BORGER: I think she did do one thing specific, which is she talked and immigration and said, "We're working on a step by step solution to immigration." Now, this may be the leadership of House Republicans. It is not all House Republicans. That is the subject of great debate within the Republican Party. But she did say, "We're trying to do something on that," which is more than we've heard before.

COOPER: Jake Tapper is standing by with Senator Ted Cruz -- Jake.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks, Anderson. I'm sitting here with Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican of Texas, a Tea Party favorite, and also somebody who is said to be contemplating a presidential run in 2016, although I'm sure it's the farthest thing from your mind.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: Tonight what's on my mind is the State of the Union.

TAPPER: Well, let's talk about it. What is your response to what President Obama had to say, both there was talk of executive order, doing things on his own, but also some things he wanted to do with Congress. What was your response?

CRUZ: Well, there were really two things. There was one, the continued pattern we've seen over and over again in this presidency, of just going it alone, of asserting executive power that has really been a disturbing pattern in this administration.

But secondly, there was a lack of acknowledgement of the problems people are facing. For example, the president, nowhere did he acknowledge that as a result of the Obama economic policies, today we have the lowest labor force participation this country has ever seen since 1978. That what we're doing isn't working and what he proposed is more of the same.

More of the same policies that have caused, under the Obama administration, the rich to get richer, and yet people who are struggling -- young people, Hispanic, African-Americans, single moms, by the millions to lose their jobs, to lose their health insurance, to struggle, and he didn't acknowledge any of that.

TAPPER: Well, he did talk about economic struggle. But let's unpack your two points. The first one having to do with the president taking executive action. He talked specifically about the action he took today: raising the minimum wage for federal contract workers in the future. Not a huge step. In fact, Speaker Boehner said it impacts, in the immediate term, no one.

But the argument from the White House is, look, the president wants to work with Congress, but there is a group of Republicans, Tea Party Republicans such as yourself and many in the House, who block any attempts at compromise and therefore he has to do something. What's your response?

CRUZ: And that's their talking point, but he doesn't try to work with Congress. He doesn't talk with Congress.

You know, I remember when we were having the battle last fall about defunding Obama care. I remember one surreal meeting, when he invited every Republican to the White House, all the Republican senators, sat us in a room and said, "I invited you here to tell you I will not compromise. I will not negotiate on anything. Never been in a meeting where someone brings you in to say we're not going to talk about it. Let's take a couple of examples --

TAPPER: When you said he wouldn't compromise, you mean he wouldn't compromise on -- he wasn't going to unfund Obama care?

CRUZ: Well, you know, it's interesting. In hind light, I bet you there are a lot of Democrats that wish he hadn't taken that hard line, because as we've seen the disaster that is Obama care, you've got now a dozen Democrats who have publicly come out for delaying many aspects of Obama care, which we could have agreed to do then, but he dug in, said he wasn't interested of talking of compromise.

You know, there are many pro-growth, pro-economic, pro-job policies that have bipartisan support. For example, building the Keystone Pipeline. Overwhelming bipartisan support. Over 60 senators voted for it last year, including a number of Democrats.

TAPPER: Right.

CRUZ: President Obama is single-handedly blocking building the Keystone Pipeline, which would immediately create tens of thousands of high-paying jobs and Harry Reid won't allow it to come up for a vote.

TAPPER: But the Keystone Pipeline, obviously, whatever the amount of the project, that's not an economic plan. I mean...

CRUZ: But it would produce tens of thousands of new jobs.

TAPPER: Right.

CRUZ: Another example, where you have bipartisan -- talk about areas of compromise. Bipartisan agreement, repealing the medical devices tax. We had a vote on that. Had over 70 senators, huge bipartisan vote, but once again, Harry Reid at President Obama's urging, won't allow it to come up for a vote.

The medical device tax is punitive. It kills jobs; it kills innovation. What we ought to be doing if we want to see jobs is not raising regulations, adding regulations. We ought to be championing fundamental tax reform, fundamental regulatory reform, reducing the burden on small business. That's how you get jobs.

TAPPER: You have scathing -- permit me to use the word "scathing" -- op-ed in "The Wall Street Journal" coming out tomorrow. "The Imperial Presidency of Barack Obama" is the title. The subtitle, "In the nation's history there is simply no precedent for an American president so wantonly ignoring federal law."

Now, if you look at the record of executive orders, this president has issued fewer executive orders than George W. Bush at this point in his presidency, Bill Clinton at this point in his presidency. How can you say an imperial presidency wantonly ignoring federal law?

CRUZ: Because the measure isn't how many executive orders. It's what substantive he has done.

Over and over again if he disagree with a law, he simply says he won't enforce it. He's done that on immigration law, on drug laws, on welfare law. And most strikingly, he's done that on Obama care.

The text of Obama care says the employer mandate kicks in on January 1, 2014. Contrary to law, President Obama just granted a one-year extension to big business. He has no authority in the statute to do so, but he told big business, ignore that part of the law for a year.

The text of the law says members of Congress should be on the exchange with no subsidies, just like millions of Americans. Because Harry Reid and the Senate Democrats didn't want to be on the exchanges, the president unilaterally granted them an exemption the law doesn't allow.

And let me tell you the most striking one of all. When over 5 million Americans lost their health insurance, because Obama care made their health insurance illegal, every other president facing something like that would have gone to Congress, would have tried to negotiate a way to fix a law that was hurting people.

What he did instead is he held a press conference and he told insurance companies issue laws [SIC] that the statute Obama care makes illegal. There is no precedent for a president instructing private companies, "Violate the law, I'm telling you to ignore the law." I've got to say, that's dangerous when the president picks and chooses what laws to follow.

TAPPER: I know President Obama disagrees with how you're assessing many of those things. I'll be interviewing him on Thursday. We'll run the interview on Friday. So we'll get some response.

Wolf, we're going to have more with Senator Ted Cruz later on CNN. But for now, I'm going to throw back to you.

BLITZER: All right. Thanks very much, Jake. We're looking forward to your exclusive interview with the president later this week, as well.

Candy Crowley is up on Capitol Hill. She has a special guest with a very different perspective -- Candy.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN ANCHOR: Absolutely. We don't have to wait for the president to get our initial response to Ted Cruz. I've been standing here with Senator Barbara Boxer, Democrat from California. And I can assure you, she's going to disagree here.

First of all, this idea of the imperial presidency, that he came out and said, "Sure, I'll work with you, but guess what? I'm not going to stand still. I'm going to use the power of my pen to do executive orders."

SEN. BARBARA BOXER (D), CALIFORNIA: Listen, the president spoke for the people. Bottom line: the people want action. You know, the people understand. And I think it was really important that the president explained to them what is the fact, that we have created 8 million jobs since this great recession.

CROWLEY: Not great jobs, you'd admit.

BOXER: Well, some of them are terrific; not all of them are. But the fact is, as the president said, the stock market reached new levels, created 8 million new jobs. But the middle class is stuck, stuck. And opportunity isn't there. And the whole notion of opportunity for all is what the president was saying.

Listen, as I mentioned to you before we went on camera, I've seen 30 of these speeches. And up to now, hands down, Ronald Reagan was the best. I have to tell you, being in that room -- that's why when I heard Senator Cruz, I don't think he was in the room. But being in that room, I think this president was great. And I thought it was one of the greatest speeches, because he spoke to the dreams, the aspirations, the hopes, the fears of the people, and yet he was specific. He was specific, as well. So I don't know if Cruz was in the room with me or not.

CROWLEY: Well, he was specific, but he was specific about a lot of things that he's pushed for before. The minimum wage. He obviously wants to extend unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed. Job training, pre-K, all of that. He's been unable to get it so far. Why is this year any different? These are good middle-class...

BOXER: But the people want it. Everything you said, the people are on his side and on the side of the Democrats. We just need to reach across the aisle and get a hand back. And I think we're going to.

Now, my dad used to tell me when I was a kid, "Nothing good comes easy. You've got to work hard. You don't give up." Just because they blocked immigration reform, I think we're going to get it this year. Just because they weren't with us on the minimum wage before, you keep pushing. You don't give up.

And I think the point, and why I thought this was such a great speech, and why I think Senator Cruz was somewhere else, when the president introduced that wounded hero standing next to Michelle, standing next to a shall, after what that man went through, lying on the ground, and all the rest of it, his point was, "You never give up. He doesn't give up. I'm not going to give up. I hope you don't give up, whatever your dreams are." And the president spoke to that. And that's why this was a great speech. Now, as...

CROWLEY: How realistic is it?

BOXER: Very realistic. For example, he called for the passage of a water resources bill and a transportation bill. I'm the chairman of that committee. I'm meeting with my Republican counterparts. I had a great meeting today with one of them. And bottom line is, we're going to get that done. And I think you're going to see immigration reform.

And I think, yes, he has issued executive orders. But as your reporter pointed out before this segment, less than any other president since Ronald Reagan. So he's going to do what he can do. Raising the minimum wage for contract employees is a good start. I think we're going to see some of this done, Candy.

CROWLEY: Even though it's -- even though it's a midterm election year, which always tends to get in the way of getting stuff done?

BOXER: I don't look at it that way, Candy. I think people are watching; people are resonating with this middle-class agenda. They're going to demand that we act.

We've already seen a couple of bills past, right? Budget appropriations, et cetera. So I think we're on a roll.

CROWLEY: Senator Barbara Boxer, let's talk more later. I appreciate it.

BOXER: Absolutely. Any time.

CROWLEY: Wolf, back to you. BLITZER: Candy, thanks very much. Thanks to Senator Boxer, as well.

Our coverage of the president's State of the Union address continues right now.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Speaker, the president of the United States!

ANNOUNCER: A familiar power walk, and a vision for moving forward.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Opportunity is who we are. The defining project of our generation must be to restore that promise.

ANNOUNCER: Tonight, President Obama laid out his 2014 priorities, with a difficult year behind him and two important elections ahead.

OBAMA: Let's make this a year of action. That's what most Americans want.

ANNOUNCER: A different spin from Republicans, and a new face to deliver their message.

RODGERS: Tonight, the president made more promises that sound good but won't actually solve the problems facing Americans.

ANNOUNCER: The promises and pot spots. Will anything be different? Will anything get done?

OBAMA: Wherever and whenever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for American families, that's what I'm going to do.