FACT CHECK: Obama claims credit for an incomplete recovery

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President Obama Soaks In Applause At The 2015 State Of The Union


WASHINGTON (AP) - The U.S. may not have "risen from recession" quite as rousingly as President Barack Obama suggested in his State of the Union speech Tuesday night. Seven years after that severe downturn began, household income hasn't recovered and healthy job growth is complicated by the poor quality, and pay, of many of those jobs.

It's always problematic when a president takes credit for an improving economy, just as it is when he's blamed for things going bad. A leader can only do so much, for better or worse, and there are two sides to every economy. But after an election in which Obama largely held off on chest-beating, he claimed credit in bold terms for what is going right.

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Also in his speech, Obama skimmed over the cost to taxpayers of free community college tuition and invited closer scrutiny with his claims about U.S. support for Syrian moderates and about his record of public-lands preservation.

A look at some of his claims, and the facts and the political climate behind them, as well as a glance at the Republican response:

OBAMA:

-"At this moment - with a growing economy, shrinking deficits, bustling industry and booming energy production - we have risen from recession freer to write our own future than any other nation on Earth."

THE FACTS: By many measures, the economy is still recovering from the deep scars left by the Great Recession.

Job growth has been healthy, but fueled in part by lower-paying jobs in areas such as retail and restaurants, which have replaced many higher-paying positions in manufacturing and construction. Part-time jobs also remain elevated: There are still 1.7 million fewer workers with full-time jobs than when the recession began in December 2007.

RELATED: Read the full text of Obama's speech

And the faster hiring hasn't pushed up wages much. They have been growing at a tepid pace of about 2 percent a year since the recession ended 5 1/2 years ago. That's barely ahead of inflation and below the annual pace of about 3.5 percent to 4 percent that is typical of a fully healthy economy.

That has left the income of the typical household below its pre-recession level. Inflation-adjusted median household income reached $53,880 in November 2014, according to an analysis of government data by Sentier Research. That is about 4 percent higher than when it bottomed out in 2011. But it is still 4.5 percent lower than the $56,447 median income in December 2007, the month the recession began.

RELATED: President's speech focuses on middle class

Booming energy production is indeed a reality, but that's a phenomenon many years in the making, with the development of cost-effective extraction from fracking and other means playing into the rise of the U.S. as an energy production giant.

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OBAMA: "I am sending this Congress a bold new plan to lower the cost of community college - to zero."

THE FACTS: Zero for qualifying students; an estimated $60 billion over 10 years to the treasury.

Obama confronts a Republican-controlled Congress that can be expected to be wary of a new program costing that much. Moreover, the proposal requires states to contribute about a quarter of the money, and getting them to go along is bound to be tough. Many states refused to expand Medicaid under the health care law, for example, even though Washington is picking up the entire cost in the first years.

RELATED: Highlights from the 2015 State of the Union speech

On the other hand, community college is an issue close to home for state government, perhaps more appealing than partnering with Washington on the health law, so the idea could have a fighting chance if it can get through Congress. Educators are divided on its merits, with some worrying that aid for a community college education could divert students and scholarships away from four-year schools.

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OBAMA: "We've set aside more public lands and waters than any administration in history."

THE FACTS: Waters is the key word here. Before expanding the Pacific Remote Islands National Monument last year from almost 87,000 square miles to more than 490,000 square miles, Obama had protected far fewer acres than his four predecessors, including President George W. Bush.

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Expansion of the massive Pacific islands monument puts Obama on top. It's nearly all water, however, and the move has limited practical implications. While it bans commercial fishing, deep-sea mining and other extraction of underwater resources, little fishing or drilling occur in the mid-ocean region now.

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OBAMA: "Thanks to a growing economy, the recovery is touching more and more lives. Wages are finally starting to rise again. We know that more small-business owners plan to raise their employees' pay than at any time since 2007."

THE FACTS: A survey of small businesses by the National Federation of Independent Business does show that a rising proportion plans to raise wages. But plans to raise pay aren't the same as actually raising them.

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Average hourly earnings rose just 1.7 percent in December from 12 months earlier, according to the Labor Department. That's about half the rate that is typical of a healthy economy and actually lower than the previous month. Economists generally expect wage gains to accelerate this year, as unemployment continues to fall and businesses are forced to offer higher pay to attract workers. But there is scant evidence that it is happening yet.

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OBAMA: "In Iraq and Syria, American leadership? - ?including our military power? - ?is stopping ISIL's advance. Instead of getting dragged into another ground war in the Middle East, we are leading a broad coalition, including Arab nations, to degrade and ultimately destroy this terrorist group. We're also supporting a moderate opposition in Syria that can help us in this effort."

RELATED: Photos from inside the Capitol

THE FACTS: The U.S. also has been slow to set up long-promised training for the moderate Syrian opposition, and has yet to begin the actual vetting of the rebels. Also, despite persistent pleas from the rebels, the U.S. hasn't sent the more lethal weapons they want. U.S. officials have expressed concerns that the weapons could end up in the hands of insurgents.

Military leaders, however, agree that coalition airstrikes and the military effort in Syria and Iraq have stopped the momentum of the Islamic State group, or ISIL, made it hard for the insurgents to communicate and travel, and hurt their oil revenues.

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SEN. JONI ERNST: The freshman from Iowa listed Obama's health care law among his "failed policies" and added, "We see the hurt caused by canceled health care plans and higher monthly insurance bills."

THE FACTS: The jury is still out on the law Republicans call "Obamacare."

The number of uninsured people is down by at least 10 million. A large ongoing Gallup survey documented a steady drop in the nation's uninsured rate since the law's big coverage expansion began last year.

RELATED: Vines of highlights and notable quotes

The law's record on affordability is mixed. The share of Americans forgoing needed medical care because of cost is down significantly, according to a Commonwealth Fund survey, and fewer are struggling to pay medical bills. Yet many insured people with modest incomes still have problems with high out-of-pocket costs.

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As for harm caused by lost insurance, many in Ernst's party are intent on repealing the law, which would probably mean even more lost coverage, because many of the estimated 10 million uninsured people who have gained coverage through the Affordable Care Act would no longer be able to afford their premiums.

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FACT CHECK: Obama claims credit for an incomplete recovery
President Obama mostly focused on economic issues, taxes and the middle class in his State of the Union address on Tuesday. He also discussed foreign policy and called for congress to authorize the use of force against Islamic State militants. (Jan. 21)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: U.S. President Barack Obama shakes hands after delivering the State of the Union address on January 20, 2015 in the House Chamber of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC. Obama was expected to lay out a broad agenda to address income inequality, making it easier for Americans to afford college education, and child care. (Photo by Mandel Ngan-Pool/Getty Images)
U.S. President Barack Obama, center, speaks with Secretary of State John Kerry as he enters the House Chamber to deliver the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at the Capitol in Washington, U.S., on Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015. Obama declared the U.S. economy healed and said the nation now must begin work to close the gap between the well-off and the wanting. Photographer: Pete Marovich/Bloomberg via Getty Images
U.S. President Barack Obama, left, shakes hands with an attendee as he arrives to deliver the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015. Obama declared the U.S. economy healed and said the nation now must begin work to close the gap between the well-off and the wanting. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
US President Barack Obama departs following his State of the Union address at the US Capitol in Washington on January 20, 2015. AFP PHOTO/NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: U.S. lawmakers pay tribute to the victims of the Paris terrorist attacks by holding up pencils during the State of the Union address by U.S. President Barack Obama on January 20, 2015 in the House Chamber of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC. Obama was expected to lay out a broad agenda to address income inequality, making it easier for Americans to afford college education, and child care. (Photo by Mandel Ngan-Pool/Getty Images)
US lawmakers pay tribute to the victims of the Paris attacks by holding up pencils during the State of the Union address by US President Barack Obama, before a joint session of Congress on January 20, 2015 at the US Capitol in Washington, DC. AFP PHOTO/JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama, bottom row second left, astronaut Scott Kelly, top row from right, aid worker Alan Gross, a former Cuban prisoner, and his wife Judy Gross applaud while listening to U.S. President Barack Obama, not pictured, deliver the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at the Capitol with in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015. Obama declared the U.S. economy healed and said the nation now must begin work to close the gap between the well-off and the wanting. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Muriel Bowser, mayor of Washington, D.C., applauds as she listens to U.S. President Barack Obama, not pictured, deliver the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015. Obama declared the U.S. economy healed and said the nation now must begin work to close the gap between the well-off and the wanting. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
U.S. President Barack Obama, front, waves as he arrives to deliver the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress while U.S. Vice President Joseph 'Joe' Biden, second right, and U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican from Ohio, right, applaud at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015. Obama declared the U.S. economy healed and said the nation now must begin work to close the gap between the well-off and the wanting. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: U.S. President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union speech before members of Congress in the House chamber of the U.S. Capitol January 20, 2015 in Washington, DC. Obama was expected to lay out a broad agenda to including attempts to address income inequality and making it easier for Americans to afford college education and child care. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
U.S. President Barack Obama delivers the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015. Obama declared the U.S. economy healed and said the nation now must begin work to close the gap between the well-off and the wanting. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015, in Washington, as Vice President Joe Biden applauds and House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, listens. (AP Photo/Mandel Ngan, Pool)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: U.S. President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union speech before members of Congress in the House chamber of the U.S. Capitol January 20, 2015 in Washington, DC. Obama presented a broad agenda on income inequality and making it easier for Americans to afford college education and child care. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: U.S. President Barack Obama delivers the State of the Union address on January 20, 2015 in the House Chamber of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC. Obama was expected to lay out a broad agenda to address income inequality, making it easier for Americans to afford college education, and child care. (Photo by Mandel Ngan-Pool/Getty Images)
President Barack Obama listens to applause as he arrives to deliver his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015, in Washington. Vice President Joe Biden and House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, applaud in the background. (AP Photo/Mandel Ngan, Pool)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: U.S. President Barack Obama arrives for the State of the Union address on January 20, 2015 in the House Chamber of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC. Obama was expected to lay out a broad agenda to address income inequality, making it easier for Americans to afford college education, and child care. (Photo by Mandel Ngan-Pool/Getty Images)
Alan Gross (C), the US contractor released from prison in Cuba last month, is applauded during US President Barack Obama's State of the Union address at the US Capitol in Washington on January 20, 2015. AFP PHOTO / JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: U.S. President Barack Obama delivers the State of the Union speech before members of Congress in the House chamber of the U.S. CapitolJanuary 20, 2015 in Washington, DC. Obama was expected to lay out a broad agenda to address income inequality, making it easier for Americans to afford college education, and child care. Also pictured are Vice President Joe Biden (L) and Speaker of the House John Boehner (R) (R-OH). (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: Alan Gross (C), recently freed after being held in Cuba since 2009, pumps his fist after being recognized by U.S. President Barack Obama during the State of the Union speech in the House chamber of the U.S. Capitol January 20, 2015 in Washington, DC. U.S. President Barack Obama was expected to lay out a broad agenda including attempts to address income inequality and making it easier for Americans to afford college education and child care. Also pictured are Dr. Pranav Shetty of Washington, DC, Judy Gross, and NASA astronaut Scott Kelly. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: U.S. President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union speech before members of Congress in the House chamber of the U.S. Capitol January 20, 2015 in Washington, DC. Obama was expected to lay out a broad agenda to including attempts to address income inequality and making it easier for Americans to afford college education and child care. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015, in Washington. (AP Photo/Mandel Ngan, Pool)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: U.S. President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union speech before members of Congress in the House chamber of the U.S. Capitol January 20, 2015 in Washington, DC. Obama was expected to lay out a broad agenda to including attempts to address income inequality and making it easier for Americans to afford college education and child care. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
President Barack Obama prepares to give his State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015.(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
President Barack Obama waves before giving his State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Vice President Joe Biden and House Speaker of Ohio listen as President Barack Obama gives his State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
President Barack Obama waves before giving his State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015. House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio and Vice President Joe Biden applaud (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
President Barack Obama gives a copy of his State of the Union address to Vice President Joe Biden, prior to delivering it before a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015.House Speaker John Boehner of hio is at right. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: U.S. President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union speech before members of Congress in the House chamber of the U.S. Capitol January 20, 2015 in Washington, DC. Obama was expected to lay out a broad agenda to including attempts to address income inequality and making it easier for Americans to afford college education and child care. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
President Barack Obama is greeted on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015, before his State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
US President Barack Obama (R) departs following his State of the Union address on Capitol Hill January 20, 2014 in Washington, DC. AFP PHOTO / BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
President Barack Obama arrives to deliver his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015, in Washington. (AP Photo/Mandel Ngan, Pool)
US President Barack Obama (C) arrives to deliver the State of The Union address on January 20, 2015, at the US Capitol in Washington, DC AFP PHOTO/JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama arrives to deliver the State of the Union address at the US Capitol in Washington on January 20, 2015. AFP PHOTO/JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
President Barack Obama greets House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio and Vice President Joe Bien on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015, before his State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress . (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
President Barack Obama hugs Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015, before giving his State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
U.S. President Barack Obama greets attendees as he arrives to deliver the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015. Obama declared the U.S. economy healed and said the nation now must begin work to close the gap between the well-off and the wanting. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: U.S. Vice President Joe Biden (L) talks with Speaker of the House U.S. Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) before the start of U.S. President Barack Obama's State of the Union speech January 20, 2015 in Washington, DC. Obama was expected to lay out a broad agenda to address income inequality, making it easier for Americans to afford college education, and child care. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: Gen. Raymond Odierno (L) talks with Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) before the start of U.S. President Barack Obama's State of the Union speech January 20, 2015 in Washington, DC. Obama was expected to lay out a broad agenda to including attempts to address income inequality and making it easier for Americans to afford college education and child care. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) (C) shakes hands before the start of the State of the Union speech in the House chamber of the U.S. Capitol January 20, 2015 in Washington, DC. U.S. President Barack Obama was expected to lay out a broad agenda including attempts to address income inequality and making it easier for Americans to afford college education and child care. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: U.S. Vice President Joe Biden (L) and Speaker of the House John Boehner await the arrival of President Barack Obama for the State of The Union address on January 20, 2015 in the House Chamber of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC. Obama was expected to lay out a broad agenda to address income inequality, making it easier for Americans to afford college education, and child care. (Photo by Mandel Ngan-Pool/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry greets members of Congress in the House chamber of the U.S. Capitol before U.S. President Barack Obama's State of the Union speech January 20, 2015 in Washington, DC. Obama was expected to lay out a broad agenda including attempts to address income inequality and making it easier for Americans to afford college education and child care. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rep.Paul Ryam R-Wis. waits on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015, before President Barack Obama's State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress . (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: U.S. Vice President Joe Biden (L) and Speaker of the House U.S. Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) wait for the start of U.S. President Barack Obama's State of the Union speech January 20, 2015 in Washington, DC. Obama was expected to lay out a broad agenda to including attempts to address income inequality and making it easier for Americans to afford college education and child care. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Attorney General Eric Holder talks with Rep.Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015, before President Baraclk Obama's State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of Calif., center, talks with Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., left, and Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015, before President Barack Obama's State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Alan Gross waves from the first lady's box before President Barack Obama's State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Chief Justice John Roberts arrives on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015, for President Barack Obama;s State of the Union addre. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell waits for the start of the State of the Union address by President Barack Obama Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015, in the House Chamber of the U.S. Capitol in Washington. (AP Photo/Mandel Ngan, Pool)
First lady Michelle Obama acknowledges applause on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015, before President Barack Obama's State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress. Front rowm from left are, Astrid Muhammad, Anthony Mendez, Mrs. Obama, and Jill Biden. Second row, from left are, Pranav Shetty, Judy Gross, Alan Gross and Scott Kelly. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
US First Lady Michelle Obama arrives for the State of the Union address by husband US President Barack Obama at the US Capitol in Washington on January 20, 2015. AFP PHOTO / NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama, center, attends the State of the Union address by U.S. President Barack Obama, not pictured, to a joint session of Congress at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015. Obama declared the U.S. economy healed and said the nation now must begin work to close the gap between the well-off and the wanting. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: U.S. President Barack Obama's motorcade makes its way along Independence Avenue toward the U.S. Capitol prior to the State of the Union address to Congress, January 20, 2015 in Washington, DC. Obama was expected to lay out a broad agenda to address income inequality, making it easier for Americans to afford college education, and child care. (Photo by Drew Angerer-Pool/Getty Images)
Members of the media set up for television broadcasts in National Statuary Hall before U.S. President Barack Obama delivers the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015. President Obama will focus on the gap between wealthy Americans and middle- and lower income households Tuesday night in Washington when he lays out his plans for what the White House is calling the 'fourth quarter' of his presidency. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
U.S. Capitol police officers stand on guard in the Capitol Building Rotunda before U.S. President Barack Obama delivers the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015. President Obama will focus on the gap between wealthy Americans and middle- and lower income households Tuesday night in Washington when he lays out his plans for what the White House is calling the 'fourth quarter' of his presidency. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images`
Capitol police gather at the Capitol in Washington on January 20, 2015 before US President Barack Obama delivers the State of the Union. AFP PHOTO/NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: The sun sets behind the U.S. Capitol ahead of U.S. President Barack Obama's State of the Union Address January 20, 2015 in Washington, DC. Later this evening, Obama will deliver his sixth and final State of the Union adress to the nation. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: U.S. Capitol Police Officer John O'Shea (C) checks passes while standing guard ahead of U.S. President Barack Obama's State of the Union Address at the Capitol building January 20, 2015 in Washington, DC. Later this evening, Obama will deliver his sixth and final State of the Union adress to the nation. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
The Washington Monument is seen on the eve of the State of the Union address on Capitol Hill January 20, 2015 in Washington, DC. US President Barack Obama will on Tuesday demand a hostile Congress increase taxes on the rich, in a State of the Union address that sets the stage for coming election battles. AFP PHOTO/BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
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