John Boehner Tells President Obama He Must Delay Joint Address To Next Thursday

Well, this is a surprise. Speaker Boehner has already replied to President Obama’s request to address a Joint Session of Congress, and he’s told him he picked the wrong day:

House Speaker John Boehner says he wants President Obama to talk to Congress not Wednesday evening next week, but on Thursday.

The White House had said Obama planned to speak to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday, at the same time that a GOP presidential debate (sponsored by POLITICO and NBC) was scheduled. Boehner wrote Obama a letter this afternoon, giving this explanation:

“As your spokesperson today 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. 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. As such, on behalf of the bipartisan leadership and membership of both the House and Senate, I respectfully invite you to address a Joint Session of Congress on Thursday, September 8, 2011 in the House Chamber, at a time that works best for your schedule.

Boehner does have a point here, I think

More from Politico:

House Speaker John Boehner threw a serious procedural brush back pitch at President Barack Obama late Wednesday — urging Obama to delay his hastily called Sept. 7 address to Congress by a day to avoid “parliamentary and logistical” problems.

“[T]he House will not be in session until Wednesday, September 7, with votes at 6:30 that evening,” Boehner (R-Ohio) wrote the president hours after Obama requested the scheduling of a joint session to address employment and the deficit.

“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,” Boehner added.

His conclusion, which stunned but didn’t necessarily surprise the West Wing: “I respectfully invite you to address a Joint Session of Congress on Thursday, September 8, 2011 in the House Chamber, at a time that works best for your schedule.”

Within hours of Obama’s request to deliver a joint economic address to Congress — intended, on its surface, to promote bipartisanship — the situation had devolved into Marx Brothers-style partisan political scrum that mingled the arcana of congressional procedure, presidential pride and the fate of Cheese-Heads everywhere.

Republicans say Obama’s timing was intended to eclipse a major GOP presidential debate.

By the afternoon – as word of Boehner’s request leaked — Obama’s defenders were fuming over Boehner’s cheek in suggesting Sept. 8th — which would conflict with the NFL’s opening night matchup between the Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers and New Orleans Saints.

So, now we can look forward to a few days of them arguing over the date. In my opinion, though, I think the Obama White House misplayed their hand here. Requesting an invitation to a Joint Session of Congress on the day that Congress returns from vacation without prior consultation, and doing it on the same day as a Republican debate, is a blatantly political move. As Chris Cillizza said this afternoon, there are no coincidences in Presidential politics. This is not an address to the nation, this is a policy speech to set up the 2012 election. The President is entitled to ask for a Joint Session, he’s not entitled to pick the date out of thin air. They bungled this one, and I think they’re going to end up blinking in the end.

Here’s the letter:

John Boehner Letter to President Obama 8/31/2011

FILED UNDER: Barack Obama, Congress, Politicians, Quick Takes, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020.

Comments

  1. alkali says:

    On what planet does Obama not tell the Speaker to get stuffed? (“Yes, on second thought, it was presumptuous of me to want to talk about how the country will confront 9% unemployment, what with the 2012 Republican Convention just 12 short months away.”)

  2. The President cannot invite himself to Congress. It is Congress’s choice to invite him. He can no more pick the date without consulting them than I can show up at your door unannounced and demand to be let in.

  3. Boyd says:

    @alkali: I’m unsure why it’s vital for the President to address Congress on Wednesday. Could you fill us in?

    Also, I’d like to understand your reasoning on what power the President has to dictate to Congress when and how they conduct business, since it is a session of Congress and not a function of the Executive branch.

  4. Fiona says:

    This was definitely a politically tone-deaf move on the Obama administration’s part. Boehner’s letter makes them look pretty stupid and ineffectual.

  5. Rob Prather says:

    I like Obama and he made a very dumb move with this. Thursday will work just fine.

  6. KansasMom says:

    Thursday is the opening NFL game between the Packers and Saints. No way will the speech be given that night. I’d rather he just do an Oval Office address on Wed. Make Boehner look uncooperative, contrast himself with the crazies in the TeaGop and then continue that theme through the election. It has the added bonus of being true.

  7. alkali says:

    Of course Boehner can tell Obama he can’t come because other stuff is more important than hearing from the President on jobs. I’m sure the House’s 6:30 vote on declaring National Pickle Week is very important. I look forward to the press conference.

  8. Brian Lehman says:

    @alkali: You really think Obama has anything of worth to say about jobs? After years of doing nothing about it? Your faith in him is amazing.

  9. Boyd says:

    @alkali: And the President’s speech is important…how?

    I mean, even if the President has the perfect plan which will solve all of the US’s employment problems, please ‘splain to me how this speech is going to make a difference. Shouldn’t he just, y’know, implement his plan? Today?

  10. Terrye says:

    Obama is being petty here. His Royal Highness had to know this would inconvenience a lot of people..and for what?

  11. Terrye says:

    @KansasMom: I see, Obama is important enough to call a Joint session of Congress, but it is not important enough to interfere with football.

    Come on, the whole thing is absurd anyway. Bush called a Joint Session one time, after 9/11. But it seems that Obama just has to be the center of attention all the time.

  12. MBunge says:

    @Boyd: Shouldn’t he just, y’know, implement his plan? Today?

    I’m sure Obama is pleased to know you support his assumption of dictatorial powers. Perhaps when he starts executing annoying Congressmen, he can name the gallows after you.

    Mike

  13. Terrye says:

    @alkali: If it is that damn important, then he could have arranged to do it another day when he knew there would be time. Obama called it this particular to stick it to the GOP. Apparently, jobs runs second to political grandstanding as far as Pres. Obama is concerned.

  14. EddieInCA says:

    A question to all:

    When was the last time the Congress, any Congress, refused a Presidential request to speak to a Joint Session of Congress?

    Anyone?

  15. Fiona says:

    @Terrye:

    Because we all know that Republicans never grandstand. (snark)

    And Kansas Mom, I think you’re right. Opening game of the NFL season would get more viewers than the presidential address and GOP debate combined.

  16. Anderson says:

    Following precedent, Obama should give his speech that night at the Lincoln Memorial.

  17. KansasMom says:

    @EddieInCA: Sam Stein at HuffPo says never.

  18. PD Shaw says:

    The President can give a speech any time he wants to at his own digs.

    @EddieInCA:”When was the last time the Congress, any Congress, refused a Presidential request to speak to a Joint Session of Congress?”

    Lincoln never asked to speak to a joint session of Congress; he would have thought it improper, as did many (most?) Presidents. Not going to be a lot of precedent on this one. Maybe less than a dozen times in history has the President asked to address Congress outside of the state of the union.

  19. EddieInCA says:

    @PD Shaw:

    So… Never.

  20. EddieInCA says:

    Doug –

    So your position is that the Congress’ regular business and a very early GOP debate is reason enough to deny the President his request to speak to the nation and Congress; a request that’s previously never been denied?

  21. @alkali: On what planet do you think the Speaker of the House of Repersentatives bends to a Presidential whim? The fact that he REQUESTED to speak shows he cannot do so by edict.

  22. Boyd says:

    @MBunge: So which way do you want it? Either the President has a plan and needs to move forward, or he needs to coordinate and cooperate with Congress. Certainly on any legislation, and you’d think scheduling a Joint Session might figure into that “coordinate” part, too.

    And even if he does have a viable plan, surely there’s something in it that the Executive branch can do on its own.

  23. @EddieInCA: He does not want to do anything more than bigfoot the GOP debate. If it was so important why didn’t he call up the networks and talk to the nation tonight?

  24. KansasMom says:

    @PD Shaw: They are actually pretty common since the 20th c., especially in times of war and economic turmoil. Reagan called four of them addressing inflation and the economy. Bush had one on the economy and then 9/11. Truman even used joint sessions to deal with the railroad strikes. It looks like every President since WWI has called for at least one.

  25. bains says:

    @EddieInCA: I think Doug’s point is that it is a boneheaded move on team Obama’s part to ask the Speaker of the House to preempt previously scheduled campaign events so that Obama could have his own campaign event.

  26. PD Shaw says:

    @EddieInCA: Did I say never?

  27. EddieInCA says:

    @PD Shaw:

    You’re welcome to tell me when, in the entire history of the USA, has Congress refused a request by the President to speak to a joint session of congress.

    Feel free.

    Go ahead. I’ll wait.

  28. Jon Snow says:

    Just because Congress hasn’t done something doesn’t mean they cannot Eddie. And do you deny that this is an attempt to skew the viewers away from the GOP debate?

    To act as if Obama and his ilk didn’t know about the debate is to say they are idiots. Plain and simple.

  29. WR says:

    And what a shock this turns out to be — Obama briefed Boehner privately on the plan, and Boehner admits he had no objection at the time. It wasn’t until Obama had made his announcement that Boehner decided to “make his stand.”

    In other words, more bad faith from the great orange charlatan.

    But go ahead and talk about what a big meanie Obama is.

  30. @WR:

    You believe the White House?

  31. Jon Snow says:

    @WR: Source? Everything I’ve seen indicates that Obama’s people “claim” they briefed him but Boehner’s people vehemently deny it. It’s “he said, she said” without any proof.

  32. @EddieInCA:

    They’re not denying the request, they’re requesting he do it on a different day. Congress is a co-equal branch of government and does not have to be dictated to by POTUS when it comes to these matters.

  33. PD Shaw says:

    @EddieInCA: Go ahead and tell me when, in the entire history of the USA, the President dictated there was only one day to speak to a joint session of Congress?

  34. michael reynolds says:

    This is a complete face-plant. Horrible staff work at the White House.

  35. Neil Hudelson says:

    Jeeezus this guy has never been this stupid before. Amateur hour at the White House.

  36. WR says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Do I believe the White House? I don’t know. If Ghandi contradicts them, maybe not. If the tribe of liars that makes up your party does… well, yeah. Boehner, Cantor and the rest have never told the truth in their lives. Do you believe them?

  37. Jay Tea says:

    The White House has already walked back their story from “confirmed” with Boehner’s office to “consulted.”

    J.

  38. Jamie McCartney says:

    Eddie you are sooo right… It doesnt matter what debate is on television, THIS IS THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES!!! He is trying to get congress off their butts to do something to save this country. Boehner is not the President, furthermore, hes an idiot. His lack of respect for our President is getting very old FAST…. What is wrong with people? None of this crap would have flown if it were any other President. Anyone who claims it would have is a liar.

    Jamie