They’re baaack …
After a month-long recess away from the Capitol, the House of Representatives returns to Washington today. But with the debt limit debate in the distant past, members of Congress have now shifted their focus to the president’s address to a joint session of Congress Thursday evening.
Tuesday evening’s announcement that neither House Speaker John Boehner nor Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell would name an individual to deliver an official GOP response to the president’s speech met with swift push back, with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., calling the GOP’s decision “not only disrespectful to [President Obama] but to the American people.
“In nearly 250 days of being in the majority, House Republicans have not passed a single piece of legislation to create jobs,” Pelosi said Tuesday night in a statement. “The Republican silence on Thursday evening will speak volumes about their lack of commitment to creating jobs.”
Boehner’s spokesman Michael Steel countered that, “Republicans are, and have been, entirely focused on job creation. Every member of Congress, and – more importantly – the American people, will provide a reaction to the president’s address. We trust in the good judgment of the American people, and the president’s proposals will rise or fall on their own merits.”
But the decision against anointing a single official responder to the president’s speech won’t leave the Respublicans speechless. An aide to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., said Tuesday morning that he would be available to ABC News and the other TV networks in Statuary Hall following the president’s address in the House chamber. An aide to the chairman of the House Natural Resources committee, Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., also conveyed a similar pitch.
“Republicans are, and have been, entirely focused on job creation (the House Republican plan for job creation can be read at Jobs.GOP.gov). The speaker is opening Statuary Hall to media following the speech, giving every member of Congress the opportunity to provide a reaction to the president’s address,” a senior aide to the speaker wrote in an email to ABC News. “Our hope is that the president uses this opportunity to change course, to speak to the American people in a straightforward manner and to challenge both sides – including the half of Congress controlled by his own party – to work together to address the considerable challenges facing our nation.”
So, Stat Hall could turn into a free-for-all Thursday night, with both Republicans and Democrats free to book their own interviews with anyone who will bite.
Rep. Paul Broun, R-Ga., along with other returning GOP members, said he would not attend the joint session but would make himself available to the media Thursday to discuss job creation and any proposals that the president puts forth., and will host a live Twitter town hall – Broun (@RepPaulBrounMD) — during the president’s speech.
The presiden’ts speech is not all that’s happening Thursday. The first full meeting of the newly minted 12-member Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction also meets that day, at 10:30 a.m., for opening statements, and is open to the public and the media. And next Tuesday, Douglas Elmendorf, director, Congressional Budget Office, testifies before the exclusive panel in another meeting that is open to the public and press.