The White House said the timing of the Republican debate and Obama’s proposed speech — announced in a letter to congressional leaders — was a coincidence. But Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner asked Obama to come on Thursday instead of Wednesday, and the White House agreed.
“As the majority leader announced more than a month ago, the House will not be in session until Wednesday, Sept. 7, with votes at 6:30 that evening,” Mr. Boehner wrote.
“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.”
“No, of course not,” the White House press secretary, Jay Carney, replied when a reporter asked if the timing of the president’s speech had been meant to play havoc with the Republican debate plans. He said that “one debate of many was no reason not to have a speech when we wanted to have it.”
The reschedule was confirmed in a statement by White House press secretary Jay Carney on Wednesday evening. “We consulted with the Speaker about that date before the letter was released, but he determined Thursday would work better,” said Mr Carney.
“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.”
“We appreciate the president working with us tonight and look forward to hearing his new proposals,” said Brendan Buck, a Boehner spokesman.
Presidential candidate Michelle Bachmann suggested Obama’s original proposed timing aimed to distract Americans from watching her party’s debate. “Now does this show maybe a little insecurity on the part of the president?” she said in Iowa.
Mr. Obama’s initial proposal to address the nation on the same night as the candidates’ debate immediately became fodder for heated talk-radio discussion over whether he was trying to upstage the televised event.
Obama said in his letter to congressional leaders he would use the address to lay out job-boosting proposals that members of both parties could support.
“As I have traveled across our country this summer and spoken with our fellow Americans, I have heard a consistent message: Washington needs to put aside politics and start making decisions based on what is best for our country and not what is best for each of our parties in order to grow the economy and create jobs,” Obama said in the letter.
By the way, the new date could have its own complications. The season-opening NFL football game between Wisconsin’s Green Bay Packers and Louisiana’s New Orleans Saints will air at 8:30 p.m. EDT the same night on the NBC network, and many Americans would likely tune into that rather than watch an address by the president if they are at the same time.
The timing of the speech has yet to be determined. As it stands now, the Republican presidential field will have no rival broadcasting during its debate on Wednesday night. Obama, for his part, may avoid competing with the NFL season opener, which is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. on Sept. 8. A White House official says “We won’t conflict with football,” meaning an early time frame for the speech.
A White House official said Mr. Obama and his advisers had chosen Wednesday because it was Congress’s first day back. “The debate was never really an issue,” because there are a total of 20 and three this month alone, said the official, who would not allow his name to be used because he was not authorized to speak publicly.
“Had Mr. Boehner told us he had a problem with Wednesday this morning,” when the White House consulted him, the official said, “we would have done Thursday from the beginning.” [via BBC, Reuters, The New York Times and Huff Post]