Boehner To Obama: How About Thursday?

Wall Street Journal

Update: President Barack Obama Wednesday night moved the speech on his jobs and deficit-reduction plan to Thursday, as House Speaker John Boehner had suggested.

House Speaker John Boehner asked President Barack Obama to postpone by one day — until Thursday, Sept. 8 — his appearance before a joint session of Congress.

In a letter to the president, the Ohio Republican didn’t even mention that the president’s preferred date, Wednesday, Sept. 7, conflicted with the Republican presidential debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif. Instead, the speaker pointed out the procedural hurdles to a presidential address on Wednesday. For starters, Mr. Boehner reminded the president that the House didn’t plan to be in session until Wednesday, and didn’t plan any votes until 6:30 p.m.

“With 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, it is my recommendation that your address be held on the following evening, when we can ensure there will be no parliamentary or logistical impediments that might detract from your remarks,” he wrote, suggesting that Sept. 8 would work better.

“We look forward to hearing your ideas and working together to solve America’s jobs crisis,” he wrote, in closing.

Mr. Boehner’s reaction was far more muted than that of other Republicans.

“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,” said Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus. “This is yet another reminder that the President is out of touch and out of ideas. The only job he seems to care about is his own.”

Kevin Madden, a Republican strategist helping presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, was blunt: “President Obama has regularly confronted big moments in his presidency with actions that display a sense of smallness.” He said that Americans are “exasperated about the condition of our economy and the lack of jobs, and the president is instead focused on winning a news cycle with yet another speech timed just so he can compete with a candidates debate.”

The timing of the speech poses a particular complication for Reps. Ron Paul of Texas and Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, the two sitting members of Congress to participate in next week’s Republican debate. The lawmakers must decide whether to attend the speech, or make the trip out to California to appear alongside their rivals for the nomination.

Mrs. Bachmann, in an appearance on Fox News Wednesday evening, said the timing of the speech will be negotiated, but President Obama’s plan to deliver it as the GOP debate is happening indicates “this administration has a great deal of insecurity about their jobs plan and the lack there of.” She said Mr. Boehner was suggesting “we want to give full attention to what the president is going to say,” and that Americans should watch both his speech and the GOP presidential candidates’ assessments of Mr. Obama’s performance on jobs and the economy.

Jesse Benton, an aide to Rep. Paul, said, “It is undignified that the president of the United States would resort to such transparent tactics to step on our Republican debate.”

A spokesman for Mr. Paul said the Texas congressman is considering a move that would require the House to vote on Mr. Obama’s request to address a joint session of Congress next week. A single lawmaker can request a vote on allowing the president to address Congress, but a majority would be required to prevent Mr. Obama from speaking next Wednesday.

This is the fourth Republican debate this year, and the first to include Texas Gov. Rick Perry. In each of the previous three, the candidates spent the bulk of their time attacking Mr. Obama. By delivering his long-awaited jobs speech as eight Republicans take the state in Simi Valley, Calif., the president will give voters a literal choice between hearing his vision for job creation and their plans for the economy — a fact at least one campaign embraced.

“Next Wednesday night, TV viewers will have a choice between Republican candidates talking about the future or America, or Barack Obama talking about the future of his presidency,” said Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul.

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