Why John Boehner Won't Cancel the State of the Union Address

The speaker rejected a call from conservatives to ban President Obama from addressing Congress as retribution for his unilateral immigration action.

Charles Dharapak/AP

Of all the ideas Republicans floated for rebuking President Obama over his decision to circumvent Congress on immigration, perhaps the most intriguing was a call for Speaker John Boehner to bar him from delivering his annual State of the Union address in the Capitol.

The speaker rejected that proposal on Thursday, but not out of respect for Obama or for the august office of the presidency. Quite the opposite, in fact. “The more the president talks about his ideas, the more unpopular he becomes." Boehner said with a smirk during a Capitol press conference. "Why would I want to deprive him of that opportunity?"

It is Boehner's decision to make because, as fans of The West Wing know well, the speaker of the House by tradition extends a formal invitation for the president to address a joint session of Congress. Until Woodrow Wilson, presidents typically delivered their State of the Union messages only in writing, and a refusal by the House to invite the president would have been unprecedented. Boehner has always accommodated Obama's requests to address lawmakers in the House chamber, but the two did haggle over the date and time of a speech he delivered in September 2013 to present a new jobs plan that House Republicans soon blocked.