President Barack Obama decided on Wednesday to move his scheduled economic speech before a joint session of Congress from Sept. 7 to Sept. 8, as requested by House Speaker John Boehner. The anticipated speech will cover Obama’s job growth agenda and plans to cut the federal deficit.
The speech was originally scheduled to occur on the same day as the Republican presidential debate in Simi Valley, California at the Reagan Library. Reporters asked White House Press Secretary Jay Carney about the conflict and he responded, “This is the right time to do it and the right day to do it.”
He added that if the Republicans want to “adjust the timing of their debate…that would be completely fine with us.”
Carney said the timing was “coincidental” and attributed the conflict to various factors, such as Congress returning from an August recess on Wednesday, Sept. 7.
“Today, the President asked to address the Congress about the need for urgent action on the economic situation facing the American people as soon as Congress returned from recess,” Carney said in a statement.
“Both Houses will be back in session after their August recess on Wednesday, Sept. 7, so that was the date that was requested. We consulted with the Speaker about that date before the letter was released, but he determined Thursday would work better.”
“The President is focused on the urgent need to create jobs and grow our economy, so he welcomes the opportunity to address a Joint Session of Congress on Thursday, Sept. 8 and challenge our nation’s leaders to start focusing 100% of their attention on doing whatever they can to help the American people,” he said.
Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee disagreed that the timing was “coincidental,” rather is was “further proof this White House is all politics all the time.”
Precedent is that approval from leaders of both chambers of Congress are needed for such a president’s request. A Democratic Senate leadership aide says the Senate approved Obama’s speech request for Sept. 7. Although the president’s State of the Union address often requires four to six weeks of consultation, a White House official said Boehner’s office raised no objection to the scheduled speech.
However, the Speaker’s office says he was not consulted. Boehner’s spokesman Brendan Buck said “no one in the speaker’s office-- not the speaker, not any staff-- signed off on the date the White House announced today.”
“Unfortunately, we weren’t even asked if that date worked for the House,” Buck said. “Shortly before it arrived this morning, we were simply informed that a letter was coming.”
Buck said the White House is ignoring “decades…of protocol” necessary to make a public announcement, but a senior Democratic aide familiar with scheduling such events said “the childish behavior coming out of the speaker’s office today is truly historic.”
“It is unprecedented to reject the date that a president wants to address a joint session of the Congress,” the senior Democratic aide said. “…Yes, consultation always occurs, but the president always gets the date he wants.”
Boehner, in a letter to Obama, responded saying the 8.pm speech would occur less than two hours after the House is scheduled to complete legislative business. The Speaker also noted that security sweeps of the chamber typically take more than three hours; therefore, Boehner recommended the speech he moved to Thursday so "we can ensure there will be no parliamentary or logistical impediments that might detract from your remarks.”