Joint session — one week from today

JOINT SESSION — ONE WEEK FROM TODAY…. George Stephanopoulos reports this afternoon:

President Obama will address a joint session of Congress on Sept 9.

This comes as the White House has been signaling publicly that they are ready to take charge of the health care debate.

Other networks are reporting the same thing.

The address will come 16 years to the month after former President Clinton delivered a speech to a joint session of Congress on the same subject. But it will come under very different circumstances — Clinton’s speech came after administration officials had crafted a plan, and the address to Congress effectively began the process in earnest on the Hill. This year, the process on the Hill has already been unfolding for months, and Obama’s speech is intended to help seal the deal.

It also resolves the question of location. Reports this morning made it clear the White House was making plans for a “major speech” on health care reform; the question would be when and where. There was some talk about an Oval Office address, or perhaps taking the show on the road, but I think a joint-session speech is the right call — it’s hard to beat the political grandeur of a president addressing the Congress (and the country) from the House floor.

Under the circumstances, to state the painfully obvious, this is a speech that can have an enormous impact on the larger debate. For one thing, it’s the president’s chance to sell reform to a skeptical public. For another, it’s a chance to perhaps generate some momentum for the reform campaign, and unite lawmakers behind a single vision. Obama will also no doubt present himself as ready to work with Republicans who are serious about reform, perhaps shifting the onus to the GOP on who’s ready to make a deal.

As we discussed this morning, the White House intends to start getting into more specifics and offering more details about what the president expects reform to look like. We’ll hear all about it a week from today.