A president can’t just tell Congress he or she wants to deliver a speech to a joint session; a president has to be invited. It is, after all, a separate branch. So when President Obama said today he intends to deliver his big economic speech to Congress next week, he was, in effect, asking for an invitation.
It’s generally just a formality. After all, what’s Congress going to say, “No”?
As it turns out, in an unusual response, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) sent a letter of his own to the White House today. Apparently, Boehner doesn’t like Wednesday, and wants Obama to go with Thursday instead. Here’s the complete text of the Speaker’s letter.
Dear Mr. President:
Thanks you for your letter requesting time to address a Joint Session of Congress next week. I agree that creating a better environment for job creation must be our most urgent priority. For months, the House has been implementing an agenda designed to reduce economic uncertainty, remove unnecessary government barriers to private-sector job creation, and help small businesses, and we welcome the opportunity to hear your latest proposals.
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. And as the Majority Leader announced more than a month ago, the Hose will not be in session until Wednesday, September 7, with votes at 6:30 that evening. 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. As such, on behalf of the bipartisan leadership and membership of both the House and Senate, 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.
We look forward to hearing your ideas and working together to solve America’s jobs crisis.
Picking dates is, of course, pretty tricky, and it’s worth noting that the NFL season opener is Thursday, September 8. I would imagine the White House was cognizant of this when picking Wednesday.
I suppose it’s worth noting that Boehner didn’t exactly rule out the president’s request, but he did “recommend” the day after, and extended the formal invitation for the Speaker’s preferred day.
This only helps capture the larger farce: the parties are so far apart, they can’t even agree on when to schedule a speech. It’s not exactly a good sign.
I haven’t the foggiest idea what happens next, and/or whether Boehner is just trying to throw his weight around a bit. Will the White House say, “Thanks for the recommendation, but we want Wednesday”? And then what?
And if Obama accepts Thursday, will Boehner change his mind again and say, “You know what? Let’s make it Friday”?
For that matter, has there ever been an instance in which a president requested a joint session and the Speaker of the House replied, “Pick a different day”?