So much for hoping Congress might arrive at a newfound sense of comity after watching its approval ratings dip to record lows following the summer’s battle over raising the debt ceiling.
A partisan clash over when President Obama will deliver a speech, of all things, shows just how little Washington has moved on from the intractable fights and bickering that were widely panned before Congress left for its August recess.
Republicans complained the White House did not give House Speaker John Boehner sufficient notice before announcing President Obama would address a joint session of Congress on Sept. 7, the same night as a GOP presidential debate.
Democrats complained that Boehner failed to show the president proper deference when he responded by asking Obama to speak Thursday instead--the first time a speaker has ever turned aside a presidential request to address Congress, reported the office of the historian.
Obama’s action was “unfortunate” and “ignored decades of precedent,” a spokesman for Boehner said.
The speaker’s behavior was “disgraceful,” said Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY).
Though now resolved--Obama has agreed to speak Sept. 8 instead, as requested by Boehner--the kerfuffle would seem to indicate both sides will return to Washington recharged to renew their partisan battles instead of the chastened to end them.
Indeed, Boehner got attaboys from fellow Republicans for standing up to president.
“Good on you, Mr. Speaker,” said Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), who is close to many tea-party freshmen. “There’s no requirement that we bow down and kiss the ring.”
“From one Speaker to another ... nicely done John,” tweeted former House Speaker and presidential candidate Newt Gingrich.
The dust up comes as new bipartisan panel charged with reducing the federal deficit prepares to begin work.
The group has been careful to set a tone of unity--with GOP Chairman Rep. Jeb Hensarling (Tex.) and Democratic Chairman Sen. Patty Murray (Wash.) issuing joint statements promising cooperation.
Neither side issued ultimatums or conditions for negotiations following separate strategy sessions held this week by the committee’s Democrats and Republicans.
But the hard feelings over Obama’s address is yet another reminder of the intractable partisan environment that will greet the committee as it holds its first meeting, likely some time next week.
“We were hoping to get a fresh start after all the rancor of the debt ceiling debate,” said Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), a member of the panel. “This is not a good way to start.”