“I have encouraged my colleagues to come tonight and to listen to the president,” Boehner told reporters after a closed-door meeting with House Republicans. “He is the president of the United States and I believe that all members ought to be here to do this. Doesn’t mean they’re going to.”
He urged reporters to “remember I’m just the speaker, all right?”
“I’ve got 434 colleagues who have their own opinions and they’re entitled to them,” Boehner added. “But as an institution, the president is coming at our invitation. We ought to be respectful and we ought to welcome him.”
Most members of both parties are expected to attend Thursday night’s address, although a handful of Republicans in both chambers have said they will skip the speech, which Obama will deliver at 7 p.m. in the House chamber. Complicating matters for the few Senate Republicans planning on skipping it was the announcement by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) that the chamber will hold votes immediately after the president’s address.
It’s rare for members of either party to boycott a presidential address to a joint session of Congress. In January 1971, all 12 African-American House members boycotted President Richard Nixon’s State of the Union address, arguing that the president had repeatedly refused to meet with Congressional Black Caucus members and that his administration had ignored the needs of African Americans.
And in January 1999, several Republicans skipped President Bill Clinton’s State of the Union address because they said it was inappropriate for the president to address Congress while his impeachment trial was still ongoing. William Rehnquist, the chief justice of the Supreme Court who was presiding over Clinton’s trial in the Senate, also did not attend.
Boehner’s message that House Republicans should attend the speech echoed House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s statement Wednesday. The Virginia Republican told reporters at his weekly pen-and-pad briefing that he was looking forward to the speech and believed that the number of members not attending would be at a minimum.
In contrast to a State of the Union address, Republicans do not plan to give an official response to Obama’s jobs speech, a move that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has criticized as disrespectful.
Boehner noted Thursday that the address is not a State of the Union and joked that “the American people shouldn’t be forced to watch some politician they don’t want to listen to, and, frankly, most of them would rather watch a football game.”
“We have opened up Statuary Hall so that all of our members can respond individually,” Boehner said, referring to the large room on the second floor of the Capitol just north of the House chamber. “And I think it’s a more appropriate and respectful way to go forward.”
House Republicans have invited 13 business owners to attend Thursday night’s address, seeking to make the point that the White House must reduce federal regulation in order to create jobs. Here are the bios of the House Republican leadership’s guests from the speaker’s office:
“Spencer Weitman is the President of National Cement, which recently suspended construction of a new $350 million cement kiln in Ragland, Ala. due to regulatory obstacles. The construction project would have created more than 1,500 construction jobs and 20 new full-time operational positions, but was determined too costly and unpredictable because of proposed changes to EPA Clean Air Act regulations. The obstacles encountered by National Cement are on the list of “Top 10 Job-Destroying Regulations” identified in Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s (R-VA) August 29 memo outlining the legislative agenda for the remainder of the year.
Rock Katschnig is a corn and soybean farmer of 32 years from Prophetstown, IL. Hurt by a stream of harmful federal regulations, Katschnig appealed to President Obama at an Atkinson, IL town hall last month, pleading, “Please don’t challenge us with more rules and regulations from Washington D.C. that hinder us.” The president replied, “Don’t always believe what you hear.” Despite President Obama’s statement, one proposed regulation on “particulate matter” (dust) would devastate Katschnig’s industry and destroy many farming jobs. The obstacles encountered by Mr. Katschnig are on the list of “Top 10 Job-Destroying Regulations” identified in Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s (R-VA) August 29 memo outlining the legislative agenda for the remainder of the year.
Eric Treiber is the CEO of Chicago White Metal Casting, a third-generation family-owned die casting company employing 250 workers in suburban Chicago. Jobs at White Metal Casting are being threatened by increased costs associated with excessive federal regulations, in particular Clean Air Act and utility MACT regulations. White Metal Casting has also been forced to dedicate multiple employees to the task of complying with existing federal regulations.
Lisa Ingram is the COO of White Castle, a 90-year old family-run company that serves signature “slider” hamburgers. Excessive federal regulations – current and proposed – have put a strain on White Castle, contributing to a plant closure in New Jersey and slowing the company’s ability to create new jobs. The new health care law, for example, has not only jeopardized White Castle’s ability to provide health benefits to its employees, but one provision alone could increase costs so dramatically that it would destroy hundreds of jobs.
Jim Plante is CEO of Pathway Genomics, a 100-person San Diego-based biotech startup that developed a genetic testing product for consumers. Last year, Pathway partnered with a major drugstore chain to help market their product – a move that would have enabled Pathway to hire 100 additional workers. Despite being in compliance with all available FDA regulations, the FDA attacked Pathway in the media following the announcement of the partnership. The drugstore chain consequently backed out, and Pathway was unable to create those 100 new high-paying jobs.
Ignacio Urrabazo is president of Commerce Bank of Laredo, Texas, a small community bank with $450 million in assets. Urrabazo would like to lend more money to local businesses to help create more jobs in Laredo, a border community with an unemployment rate nearly 10 percent higher than the state of Texas as a whole. Unfortunately, current FDIC regulations have kept him from lending to qualified businesses. Urrabazo believes excessive federal regulations will soon put community banks out of business.
John “Jack” Earle is the Managing Partner of Earle Enterprises LP and is a multi-unit franchisee of McDonald’s restaurants in Southeastern Pennsylvania and Southern New Jersey. Mr. Earle also serves as the Chairman of the International Franchise Association. Excessive regulations imposed by the health care law and Dodd-Frank, the ongoing threat of tax hikes, and regulatory overreach by agencies like NLRB, have hamstrung Earle and other franchisers with uncertainty and stifled their ability to create new jobs.
Glenn Rieger is a General Partner at NewSpring Capital, a private equity fund in suburban Philadelphia that provides capital for growth and expansion-stage businesses. A lead investor in more than 50 mid-Atlantic businesses of all sizes, NewSpring’s ability to support job creators is being hampered by excessive regulations from Sarbanes-Oxley, which is costing them millions of dollars annually.
Safi Bahcall is the CEO of Synta, a biopharmaceutical company focused on creating new drugs for treating cancer. Hampered by an increasingly uncompetitive American business environment, Bahcall is advocating for the research and development tax credit to be made permanent. More favorable tax incentives in France and Canada have encouraged Synta to out-source work to Canada and the company is currently weighing the potential of moving American jobs to France.
Kaleil Isaza Tuzman is the CEO of KIT Digital, a 1,200-employee publicly traded video technology company. KIT faces considerable costs as a result of Sarbanes-Oxley compliance regulations. A first generation American with Colombian heritage and fluent in Spanish, Isaza Tuzman was a U.S. special trade representative in Colombia and Mexico under the Clinton and Bush administrations, and is a strong proponent of passing the U.S. -Colombian Free Trade Agreement that the president has yet to submit to Congress.
Chris George is the CEO of CMG Finance, a mortgage company in the San Francisco Bay area employing 370 people. Hurt by increased health care costs and higher taxes from the new health care law, CMG Finance says the uncertain business environment created by the Obama Administration is preventing them from hiring an additional 15 to 20 workers.
Henry Juszkiewicz is CEO of the Gibson Guitar Company. Armed federal agents have twice raided Gibson Guitar’s facilities. Why? Unelected Washington bureaucrats won’t say. No charges have been filed and federal regulators have not explained to the company what may have been done wrong or how to rectify the situation.
Gordon Logan is CEO of Sport Clips, a hair salon chain with over 800 stores. If not for the environment of uncertainty created by Washington, Logan estimates he would have opened 50-100 new stores over the past three years. Instead of hiring new workers, Sports Clips franchise owners are struggling with the new health care law’s burdensome costs and mandates, and considering canceling existing health coverage for current employees. Logan also struggles with access to capital, complicated by government-created uncertainty.”