Obama bows to Boehner; jobs speech will be Sept. 8
Sept. 1, 2011, 7:53 a.m. | World
— by Associated Press
President Barack Obama gestures after a statement in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2011, where he urged Congress to pass a federal highway bill. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama has acceded to House Speaker John Boehner's wishes to deliver an address on jobs and the economy to a joint session of Congress on Sept. 8. The president had requested Sept. 7 for the long-anticipated speech.
In agreeing to Boehner's schedule, Obama's address will compete with the opening game of the National Football League season — a conflict the White House wanted to avoid.
But the change now will allow a planned Sept. 7 Republican presidential debate to proceed without Obama upstaging it.
Obama had asked Congress to convene an extraordinary joint session next Wednesday to hear his much-anticipated proposals to put jobless Americans back to work but Boehner balked and told the president he ought to wait and speak a day later.
The sudden political jousting over the speech's timing is just the latest bitter fight in a long summer that saw a protracted partisan battle over raising the nation's debt ceiling.
Obama is expected to lay out proposals to increase hiring with a blend of tax incentives for business and government spending for public works projects. With July unemployment at 9.1 percent and the economy in a dangerously sluggish recovery, Obama's plan has consequences for millions of Americans and for his own political prospects. The president has made clear he will ask for extensions of a payroll tax cut for workers and jobless benefits for the unemployed. Those two elements would cost about $175 billion.
Usually, presidential requests to address Congress are routinely granted after discussions between the White House and lawmakers. But Boehner, in his formal reply, said that the House would not return until the day Obama wanted to speak and that logistical and parliamentary issues might be an obstacle. The House and the Senate each would have had to adopt a resolution to allow a joint session for the president.
Boehner's letter did not mention the Republican debate on Wednesday or Thursday night's opening NFL game between the New Orleans Saints and the Green Bay Packers. But the political gamesmanship was clear.
Tweeted Republican presidential contender and former House speaker Newt Gingrich: "From one Speaker to another ... nicely done John."
Harry Reid, the Democratic Senate majority leader, had no objection to Obama's request. "Senator Reid welcomes President Obama to address Congress any day of the week," said Adam Jentleson, a spokesman.
The White House request came on the same day Obama issued an appeal to Congress to renew legislation to fund highways and air travel that he said would protect a million jobs. The law at issue expires Sept. 30. A Senate proposal would last two years and cost $109 billion, while the House is considering a six-year bill that could cut spending from current levels.
White House officials say all details of the president's address have not been decided.
Among those that are under consideration are tax credits for businesses that expand their payrolls. The president has proposed a similar effort totaling $33 billion before. The White House also is looking at a school construction and renovation plan of up to $50 billion.
Associated Press Writer Jim Kuhnhenn in Washington contributed to this report.