Emotions run high as Obama opens speech

Astronaut Mark Kelly holds the hand of his wife, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., in her Houston hospital room Tuesday as they watch the State of the Union speech.
Astronaut Mark Kelly holds the hand of his wife, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., in her Houston hospital room Tuesday as they watch the State of the Union speech.Office of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords
/ Source: msnbc.com staff and news service reports

Emotions ran high early in the State of the Union speech Tuesday when House Speaker John Boehner and President Obama congratulated each other.

After Boehner introduced the president to a standing ovation from Congress and guests, Obama turned to Boehner, seated behind the podium, and shook his hand.

Obama then opened his speech by saying, "I want to begin by congratulating the 112th Congress as well as your new speaker, John Boehner."

The remarks appeared to get Boehner choked up.

Also at the State of the Union speech:

Justices: Six Supreme Court Justices attended, NBC News reported: John Roberts, Anthony Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan. Absent were Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia, and Samuel Alito, the most conservative members of the court.

Cabinet skip: Interior Secretary Ken Salazar did not attend the speech. The administration typically picks one Cabinet member to stay away from the Capitol so the government can continue to function in case a catastrophe were to strike the building.

Family leave: Aides to Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, left the House chamber just before the speech to join her family at George Washington University hospital when she got word that her youngest son was scheduled for an appendectomy, NBC News reported.

View from Houston: Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., and her husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, watched the speech from the congresswoman's hospital room in Houston. Giffords was shot in the head Jan. 8 in a rampage in Tucson, Ariz., that left six dead and 13 wounded, including the congresswoman. Many members of Congress wore black-and-white ribbons signifying the deaths of the Tucson victims and the hopes of the survivors. Giffords' House seat was empty in the packed chamber. The Tucson tragedy was cited by Obama as well as Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., who gave the Republican response to the speech.

Response in Spanish: Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of south Florida delivered the Republicans' response to the State of the Union in Spanish. Her speech aired nationwide by Spanish-language media. Her remarks covered the same themes as the response given in English by U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis. Ros-Lehtinen delivered her talk from Miami, where she was tending to her ailing mother. Ros-Lehtinen chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee. She was first elected to Congress in 1989.

Markets favorable initially: Stock index futures ticked up late on Tuesday, pointing to a stronger opening on Wednesday, after Obama stressed a freeze on government spending and the need to lower corporate tax rates. The president proposed a five-year freeze on some government spending to tackle the budget deficit.

Playing ball together: Members of the Congressional Women's Softball Team, of which Giffords is a member, sat together. They included Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.V., Jean Schmidt, R-Ohio, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., and Jo Ann Emerson, R-Mo. Ros-Lehtin is also on the team, but, as noted, stayed in Florida.

Congressman atwitter: Rep. Paul Broun, R-Ga., stayed in his office so he could tweet about Obama's speech, according to Roll Call. Broun harshest comment: “Mr. President, you don’t believe in the Constitution. You believe in socialism." His tweets are at twitter.com/reppaulbrounmd.