House Speaker John Boehner Rejects President Obama’s Request for Joint Session Next Wednesday, Obama Accepts Thursday Instead

Sep 1, 2011 10:39am

A scheduling issue turned into a public political spat Wednesday, when House Speaker John Boehner denied President Obama’s request to lay out his jobs plan before Congress next Wednesday and suggested Thursday instead.

Boehner wrote a letter to President Obama Wednesday afternoon, rejecting the president’s request for a joint session of Congress next Wednesday, Sept. 7, and instead proposed that the president address lawmakers next Thursday, Sept. 8 “at a time that works best for your schedule.”

Obama’s request for the joint session on Wednesday would have conflicted with a planned debate of Republican presidential candidates in California. Boehner’s request for the joint session on Thursday conflicts with the opening game of the NFL season.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney sent a statement Wednesday night relenting and accepting Boehner’s invitation to speak next Thursday.

“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, September 8th and challenge our nation’s leaders to start focusing 100% of their attention on doing whatever they can to help the American people,” the statement said.

The spat over timing for the speech, which is intended to lay out a long-awaited jobs plan from the White House, underscored the partisan bickering that has beset Washington.

It all started when White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley called Boehner Wednesday morning to tell him about plans for the jobs speech.

The Speaker did not object, but, Republicans say, he had to look at logistics and did not expect WH Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer to tweet the details an hour later.

With the House of Representatives not set to return to session from a month-long recess until hours before the president’s proposed time for a joint session, Boehner rejected the President’s intial request for Sept. 7th and  pointed to concerns about “the significant amount of time – typically more than three hours – that is required to allow for a security sweep of the House Chamber before receiving a President.”

“As your spokesperson (Wednesday) said, there are considerations about the Congressional calendar that must be made prior to scheduling such an extraordinary event.  As you know, the House of Representatives and Senate are each required to adopt a Concurrent Resolution to allow for a Joint Session of Congress to receive the President.  And as the Majority Leader announced more than a month ago, the House will not be in session until Wednesday, September 7, with votes at 6:30 that evening,” Boehner wrote in a letter to Obama Wednesday afternoon. “It is my recommendation that your address be held on the following evening [Thursday], when we can ensure there will be no parliamentary or logistical impediments that might detract from your remarks.”

Boehner wrote that he agrees with the president that “creating a better environment for job creation must be our most urgent priority” and said that the House has worked to implement “an agenda designed to reduce economic uncertainty, remove unnecessary government barriers to private-sector job creation, and help small businesses.”

“We welcome the opportunity to hear your latest proposals,” Boehner, R-Ohio, wrote to the president later in the day. “We look forward to hearing your ideas and working together to solve America’s jobs crisis.”

GOP aides say that the speaker was not made aware of the president’s request for a joint address until 15 minutes prior to the White House’s public announcement.

“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,” said Kevin Smith, communications director for the speaker.

This is not the first time that Boehner and Obama’s schedules have competed in the public spectrum.

Following the GOP’s electoral triumph last November, the White House announced a Nov. 18 meeting with the president and Congressional leadership without first confirming the attendance of the GOP leaders. After Boehner cited a scheduling conflict, the Oval Office sit-down was eventually rescheduled to Nov. 30.

Boehner is not the only Republican displeased with the president’s proposed timing for the widely anticipated address on job creation. Earlier Wednesday, Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus criticized Obama for trying to steal the show from Republicans vying to defeat him and participating in the GOP debate at the Reagan Library in California.

“President Obama’s decision to address Congress at the same time as a long-scheduled Republican Presidential debate cements his reputation as Campaigner-in-Chief,” Priebus wrote in a statement. “While the White House claims it’s simply a ‘coincidence,’ the American people can see right through that excuse.”

While Boehner’s proposal to have the joint session a day later solves the quandary between a presidential primetime address and the GOP debate, the speaker’s proposal abuts the president’s speech in primetime against the NFL’s season opener on NBC between the defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers and the New Orleans Saints.

In order to appear before a joint session of Congress, both chambers must adopt a concurrent resolution permitting the use of the House chamber for a joint session of Congress. The fastest way to adopt a concurrent resolution typically has been to obtain unanimous consent, which a single member of the House or Senate could object to.

Prior to Boehner’s proposal for an alternative date, Republican presidential candidate Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, was actively considering whether to object to the UC agreement.

When asked whether Paul is planning to withhold his consent, his national press secretary Gary Howard told ABC News, “He’s weighing his options.”

If any lawmaker in either chamber of Congress objects to the UC request, a full roll call vote would be forced, thus the dilemma Boehner would face if the address was scheduled next Wednesday.  According to the House schedule the earliest the lower chamber could currently hold a roll call vote is September 7, after 6:30 p.m. just hours before the president had initially asked to deliver his address.

ABC News’ Jason Volack contributed to this report.

This post has been updated.

 

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