President addresses nation with State of the Union, Republicans - NEWS10 ABC: Albany, New York News, Weather, Sports

President addresses nation with State of the Union, Republicans offer rebuttals

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WASHINGTON -- President Obama addressed the nation for the first time in his second term with his State of the Union speech -- and he says the union is strong.

He touched on topics ranging from education to strengthening the middle class -- but certain issues did stand out.

A noticeable presence of small ribbons, worn by more than 40 invited guests, all victims or related to victims of gun violence, the president saying we can't stop all senseless violence, but need to do a better job preventing it.

He also announced that about 34,000 troops now in Afghanistan will be home by this time next year.

But the focus remained primarily on the economy, with several proposals including a plan to raise the minimum wage - and another to spend $50 billion dollars fixing the nation's infrastructure

There were two responses tonight to the state of the union, Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) for the Tea Party.

Rand Paul says his speech serves as an extra response to Rubio's speech, but having two responses may end up highlighting the divisions in the GOP, especially from two men who are seen as contenders for the 2016 republican presidential nomination.

This is not the first time there have been two responses, Rand Paul is the third person to do so for the Tea Party.

But Marco Rubio, did have a first tonight, the first to give a response in both English and Spanish.

The son of Cuban immigrants, Rubio has played a high-profile role in promoting comprehensive immigration reform -- which the president identified as a top priority this year.

"We can also help grow our economy if we have a legal immigration system that allows us to attract and assimilate the world's best and brightest, we need a permanent solution for those here illegally, but first we need to follow through on broken promises to secure our borders and enforce our laws," said Rubio.

Also turning to immigration reform, a top policy debate of the year, in his response, Paul urged members of his party to see immigrants "as assets, not liabilities."

He said the party had a history of embracing "hard work and ingenuity" and that meant republicans must embrace "the immigrant who wants to come to America for a better future."

The two speeches will help frame how republicans respond to Obama's first State of the Union address of his second term and try to shape the agenda at a time of divided government.

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