Noting that the House will not be in session on Wednesday until 6:30 p.m., Boehner argued there just isn't enough time to have the president in as a guest at 8 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," wrote Boehner, "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."
The next move is up to the White House, which has not yet responded. But if they accept Boehner's suggestion of Thursday night, they will find the president pitted against a ratings behemoth much tougher to overwhelm than any candidates' debate--the kickoff of the NFL season, with the defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers taking on the New Orleans Saints at 8:30 p.m. The game will be broadcast on NBC.
In deciding on the grandest possible venue to unveil Obama's jobs plan and in picking Sept. 7 even though it clashed with the Republican candidates' debate in California, the White House was playing political hardball. But it is also ratcheting up the pressure to deliver a program that is more than just a rehash of past proposals and is bold enough to put the economy on a course more positive than today's.
If Obama falls short on that measure, if his proposal looks timid or inadequate, he could regret seeking that large stage. But that will not be known until later. The immediate impact is on politics, and it assuredly leaves the eight challengers steaming and the debate sponsors miffed.
In his letter requesting the audience, the president placed his speech above politics. "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. And we must answer this call," he wrote. (Both chambers of Congress would have to approve such a session by passage of a joint resolution.)
Obama promised to use the speech "to lay out a series of bipartisan proposals that the Congress can take immediately to continue to rebuild the American economy by strengthening small businesses, helping Americans get back to work, and putting more money in the paychecks of the middle class and [of] working Americans, while still reducing our deficit and getting our fiscal house in order."
At the White House, officials professed to be shocked at any suggestion that they would intentionally step on the planned GOP debate. "Of course not," insisted a wounded-looking press secretary Jay Carney at his daily briefing. Asked how 8 p.m. Wednesday was selected, he responded, "There were a lot of considerations. You have to deal with Congress's schedule. This is one debate of many, that is on one channel of many. That was not enough reason not to have it."