By Tracey Webb [twitter-follow screen_name='WebbWriterguru']
Get your daily scoop of what State of the Union is watching today, February 12, 2014
1. Mr. President, you're sued. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, has made good on his threat to sue the Obama administration over the government's massive surveillance program. The potential 2016 Republican presidential candidate and the conservative group FreedomWorks filed a class action lawsuit in federal court Wednesday. The suit is seeking to have the bulk metadata collection - which stores phone numbers and times of phone calls - declared unconstitutional based on the Fourth Amendment. "We don't do this out of disrespect to anyone we do this out of respect to the constitution and out of belief that these decisions cannot be made in secret by a secret court but that they need to be made in open by the Supreme Court," said Paul. In addition to President Obama, the lawsuit also names National Intelligence Director James Clapper, outgoing NSA Director Keith Alexander and FBI Director James Comey as defendants.
2. What's next for the debt ceiling. Now that the House and Senate have approved a debt ceiling increase without conditions, are the days of using the nation's borrowing limit as a political weapon over? Republicans were able to make the tactic work for them twice since taking control of the House in 2012, but the backlash from last year's partial government shutdown appears to have made them gun shy about another standoff with the White House over fiscal matters. Is a debt limit even necessary? The Wall Street Journal's conservative editorial page doesn't think so. The paper says getting rid of the debt ceiling "might provide better negotiating leverage to limit taxes and spending. It would also make Congress again directly responsible for government borrowing, returning some political accountability for federal debt accumulation that hasn't existed for nearly 100 years."
3. Obama orders minimum wage hike. President Obama signed an executive order that raises the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour for workers employed by businesses who have contracts with the federal government. The executive order, which takes effect next year, follows the President call in his State of the Union speech for Congress to raise the minimum wage for all workers. "I'm going to do what I can, Congress should do what it needs to do. I will not give up on this fight no matter how long it takes," the President told a White House gathering just before signing the order Wednesday. A minimum wage hike getting through the House appears unlikely, but Democrats see it as a winning political issue leading into this year's midterms.
4. Justice Thomas's race comments. He has a reputation as a man of few words - at least on the bench. But Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas didn't shy away from the subject of race during an appearance at a Florida College. "My sadness is that we are probably today more race and difference-conscious than I was in the 1960s when I went to school," he told students. "To my knowledge, I was the first black kid in Savannah, Georgia, to go to a white [Catholic] school. Rarely did the issue of race come up. Now, name a day it doesn't come up. Differences in race, differences in sex, somebody doesn't look at you right, somebody says something. Everybody is sensitive." Thomas, a member of the court's conservative wing, voted to strike down a key section of the landmark Voting Rights Act last year.