Updated 9:50 p.m.
President Obama will address a joint session of Congress on Sept. 8 to lay out his plan for jobs and the economy, the White House announced Wednesday night.
The date is one day later than the president requested earlier Wednesday, but that date conflicted with a scheduled debate of Republican presidential candidates in California, drawing objections from GOP lawmakers.
House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) responded by suggesting that Obama come to Capitol Hill on Thursday night, citing the need for the House to conduct a “security sweep” in its first day back in session.
“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,” Boehner wrote in his response letter to Obama.
The White House said the president intends to lay out new jobs proposals aimed at boosting the economy.
“The president is focused on the urgent need to create jobs and grow our economy, so he welcomes the opportunity to address a Joint Session of Congress on Thursday, September 8th, and challenge our nation’s leaders to start focusing 100 percent of their attention on doing whatever they can to help the American people,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said in a statement late Wednesday.
Though Obama would need both chambers of Congress to adopt a concurrent resolution in order to be allowed to speak, it is highly unusual for Congress to reject a president’s request.
The agreement followed an afternoon full of political maneuvering, injecting still more ill will into the ongoing fight between the White House and Congressional Republicans in their attempts to gain the upperhand in the debate over how to solve the nation’s ongoing economic problems. And both sides quickly pointed fingers at one another for the scheduling problem.
Both White House sources and an aide to Boehner agreed earlier Wednesday that the administration had alerted the speaker’s office that Obama would be requesting a joint session of Congress. But the two camps differed on whether Obama had cleared the date and time of his address with Boehner before sending the letter.
“No one in the Speaker’s office — not the Speaker, not any staff — signed off on the date the White House announced today,” said Brendan Buck, a Boehner spokesman. “Unfortunately we weren’t even asked if that date worked for the House. Shortly before it arrived this morning, we were simply informed that a letter was coming. It’s unfortunate the White House ignored decades — if not centuries — of the protocol of working out a mutually agreeable date and time before making any public announcement.”
At his daily briefing, before Boehner had responded, Carney repeatedly denied that the president was attempting to overshadow his rivals with the speech’s timing.
“It is coincidental,” Carney said. “There are a lot of factors that go into scheduling a joint session of Congress for a speech. You can never find a perfect time.”
Carney added: “There are many channels to watch the president and to watch the debate.”
Both Politico and MSNBC said in statements Wednesday afternoon that the debate would occur on Sept. 7 as planned.
“The Reagan Centennial GOP Candidates Debate with NBC News and POLITICO, hosted by the Reagan Foundation, will continue to take place on September 7th,” said Lauren E. Kapp, senior vice president of communications for NBC News Marketing and Communications.
“We are thrilled that we now have a terrific opportunity to hear from national leaders of both major parties about the most pressing domestic issues facing the country.”
Boehner’s move to postpone Obama’s address one day garnered the approval of at least one prominent Republican presidential candidate on Wednesday evening.
“From one Speaker to another ... nicely done John,” former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.) tweeted shortly after Boehner released his letter.
Three of the GOP White House hopefuls are sitting House members — Reps. Michele Bachmann (Minn.), Ron Paul (Tex.) and Thaddeus McCotter (Mich.).
Jesse Benton, Paul’s campaign manager, criticized the White House announcement as a political move.
“It is undignified that the president of the United States would resort to such transparent tactics to step on our Republican debate,” Benton said.
The new date for the prime-time speech means Obama will face TV competition not from Republican presidential candidates but from a stiffer foe: the National Football League. The NFL kicks off its season with an 8:30 p.m. game between the New Orleans Saints and the defending champion Green Bay Packers.
The rare joint-session address — not counting State of the Union addresses, Obama has used the forum only once before, to talk about health care in 2009 — comes at a critical moment for the president.
His approval ratings in recent polls have dropped below 40 percent, an all-time low for him. Unemployment remains high at 9.1 percent and the stock market remains volatile. A Wall Street ratings agency downgraded the nation’s credit rating one notch from AAA to AA+ last month after a bruising fight between Obama and Congress over a plan to raise the debt ceiling and reduce the deficit.
In his letter, Obama wrote: “It is my intention to lay out a series of bipartisan proposals that the Congress can take immediately to continue to rebuild the American economy by strengthening small businesses, helping Americans get back to work, and putting more money in the paychecks of the middle class and working Americans, while still reducing our deficit and getting our fiscal house in order.”
According to administration officials and others familiar with the matter, Obama is considering a tax cut that would directly reward companies for hiring new workers, new spending for environmentally friendly construction and for rehabilitating schools, and clean-energy tax cuts.
He is also developing programs to target long-term unemployment, potentially including a version of a Georgia unemployment insurance program that pays employers to hire workers who have been unemployed and provides funding for training.
At the same time, Obama may announce new programs to lift the housing market, such as a refinancing initiative that could pump tens of billions of dollars into the economy.
Obama also is likely to repeat calls for renewing — and potentially expanding — ongoing efforts, such as a two-percentage-point cut in the payroll tax.
House Republicans have vowed to oppose any new spending and say they will come up with their own plans.
One Republican congressman responded to the White House’s announcement by criticizing Senate Democrats for not passing a fiscal 2012 budget.
“President shouldn’t get a joint session until his senate passes a budget,” Rep. Dennis Ross (R-Fla.) said via Twitter. “More PR from this president is not going to create a job.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said that Obama’s announcement represented “a clear, strong statement today about America’s top priorities: creating jobs and strengthening our economy.”
“And with an address before a Joint Session of Congress next week, the president will give renewed urgency to the jobs crisis facing our nation,” she continued. “We will work with President Obama to create jobs rebuilding America’s roads, bridges, rail lines, and airports, and to establish an infrastructure bank to finance these projects.”
Carney said that Obama believes Congress, during its recess, heard the same frustration from ordinary Americans as the president did during his recent three-day Midwest bus tour. Americans are “fed up with Washington not working.”
In his letter to Congress, the president wrote: “It is our responsibility to find bipartisan solutions to help grow our economy, and if we are willing to put country before party, I am confident we can do just that.”
This post has been updated since it was first published. Staff writers Rosalind S. Helderman and Paul Kane contributed to this report.