GOP, Dems use cheers, boos to express their politics

WASHINGTON (AP) — In a polarized Washington, President Barack Obama's last State of the Union address drew sharply different partisan reactions, with a few exceptions.

The two parties made their feelings known Tuesday night with their cheers and their feet.

Democrats cheered loudly when Obama mentioned fixing a broken immigration system, protecting children from gun violence and raising the minimum wage. Republicans remained in their seats. Some even avoided any applause.

A few in the GOP booed when Obama said the talk of America's economic decline and the country's enemies getting stronger is "political hot air."

Some of the president's nearly hourlong speech drew a bipartisan response. When Obama praised the armed forces, nearly everyone in the chamber stood and cheered. Most everyone rose when the president said there is "red tape that needs to be cut" and pressed for a new initiative to try and cure cancer.

Some issues were more complicated. When Obama asked Congress to approve the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement with 11 Pacific nations, only about a dozen Democrats stood and clapped. The reaction reflects the difficulty Obama will have winning Democratic support for that priority this year.

When Obama said lawmakers need to "reject any politics that targets people because of race or religion," several Republicans stood up and clapped. The remark was seen as a veiled swipe at Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump, who has suggested blocking Muslim immigrants from coming to the United States.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., was seated behind Obama, but that didn't stop him from criticizing the speech — while it was being delivered.

Ryan said in a statement released by his office that after 30 minutes, Obama's speech "isn't going so well." Obama's "lofty platitudes and nostalgic rhetoric" made for nice soundbites but did not explain how to solve problems, such as defeating the Islamic State terrorist group, fixing social safety-net programs or getting the economy back on track, Ryan said.

The speech drew huge cheers from Democrats at the end. Republicans stood and clapped but began filing out almost before Obama finished.

Two White House hopefuls were in the chamber: Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

Rubio back-slapped with GOP colleagues such as South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, and laughed with Arizona Sen. John McCain after a brief chat.

Sanders shook hands as he entered the House chamber and then joined Rhode Island Sen. Jack Reed to sit and listen to the speech.

Two other GOP candidates in Congress — Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul — skipped the speech.

As Obama made his way out of the chamber, he hugged lawmakers and signed autographs. As he reached the door of the ornate House chamber, Obama turned around and said, "Let me take one more look at this thing." Then he turned, waved and left the building.


AP Photographer Evan Vucci contributed to this story.