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Political football

Politics | President Obama schedules his prime time speech on jobs opposite the next GOP debate

UPDATE: President Barack Obama has decided to take on the NFL instead of the GOP, agreeing with House Speaker John Boehner's request to delay his address on jobs and the economy to a joint session of Congress until Sept. 8.

OUR EARLIER REPORT: President Obama has a decision to make: Go head-to-head with the GOP or the NFL.

In a bit of political one-upmanship, the president decided Wednesday to schedule his long-awaited speech outlining his jobs plan opposite a Republican presidential debate that had been scheduled for months.

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Obama kicked off the controversy by sending a letter Wednesday to House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid requesting to speak in front of a joint session of Congress on Wednesday, Sept. 7, at 8 p.m., the same time NBC News and Politico had planned to air their debate for GOP hopefuls from the Ronald Reagan National Library in Simi Valley, Calif. It will be the first debate to include Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who has shot to the top of many polls as the Republican frontrunner.

Later in the day, Boehner, passed the ball back to Obama in a letter asking him to delay his speech until Thursday, Sept. 8, which would pit the president against the National Football League season opener between the Green Bay Packers and the New Orleans Saints, also on NBC.

In his response, the speaker pointed out that the president's request requires both House and Senate approval and that the House was not scheduled to return to session until Sept. 7 and would not begin voting until 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," Boehner wrote, "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."

The timing of the president's letter was somewhat unprecedented. Such requests to address Congress are usually routinely granted after the White House consults with congressional leaders.

In this case, the White House notified Boehner's office on the same day it released the letter requesting the session. Boehner spokesman Brendan Buck said no one in the speaker's office signed off on the date and accused the White House of ignoring established protocol of arriving at a mutually agreed date before making public announcements.

In the other chamber, the Senate majority leader had no objection to the president's request. "Sen. Reid welcomes President Obama to address Congress any day of the week," said Reid spokesman Adam Jentleson.

At his daily press briefing, White House spokesman Jay Carney called the scheduling conflict with the GOP debate "coincidental," adding, "Obviously, one debate of many that's on one channel of many was not enough reason not to have the speech at the time that we decided to have it."

The president's decision did not sit well with Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, who tweeted on Twitter, "BarackObama request to give jobs speech the same night as GOP Presidential debate is further proof this WH is all politics all the time."

Whenever the president does give his speech, he is expected to lay out proposals to increase hiring with a combination of tax incentives for business and government spending for public works projects. With July unemployment at 9.1 percent and the economy remaining dangerously sluggish, Obama's plan will have consequences for millions of Americans and for his own political prospects. The president has stated that he will ask for extensions of a payroll tax cut for workers and jobless benefits for the unemployed. Those two elements would cost taxpayers approximately $175 billion.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Mickey McLean
Mickey McLean

Mickey is executive editor of WORLD Digital. He lives in North Carolina with his wife, teenage daughter, and a dog/administrative assistant named Daisy.

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