President Obama has sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker John Boehner, requesting time on September 7 to deliver a speech before a joint session of Congress to unveil his jobs plan. One problem though -- that is the same night Republican presidential candidates are holding a televised debate.
Boehner was taken by surprise and asked in his response to hold the speech on the following night. Boehner did not mention the debate by his GOP colleagues as the reason; instead, he said there are scheduling and safety concerns:
“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. 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. 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."
A spokesman for presidential candidate Ron Paul was less diplomatic, telling Politico, “It is undignified that the President of the United States would resort to such transparent tactics to step on our Republican debate,” Jesse Benton said. “The real losers here are the American people, who deserve the opportunity to watch both events.”
Speaking in Iowa, presidential candidate Michele Bachmann said, “Now, does this show maybe a little insecurity on the part of the president? Either a) he wants to distract the American people so they don’t watch him or b) he doesn’t want the American people to hear what the next president of the United States is going to say!”
White House spokesman Jay Carney said the debate did not factor into Obama's decision to pick that day, saying it was "coincidental."
"Once you decide you want to do a speech to Congress and you have to deal with congressional schedules and other -- there are other -- there are many other factors here," Carney said. "And, obviously, one debate of many that's on one channel of many wasn't enough reason not to have the speech at the time that we decided to have it."
It's still up in the air whether Obama will be able to deliver his speech that night. The Washington Post reports that a Boehner aide said that both sides are still talking in an effort to resolve the dispute.