In a gratuitously and joyously dickish move today, the White House announced that it would address a joint session of Congress next Wednesday at 8 p.m., right when the long-planned NBC/Politico debate for Republican presidential candidates is scheduled to take place. And this afternoon, Speaker John Boehner issued the President his formal invitation to visit Capitol Hill — only for the next night.
If you made an inter-office bet about how long it would take Washington to return to complete dysfunction following the congressional recess (why would you do that, anyway?), then it's time to exchange cash, because the answer appears to be "seven days before the end of the congressional recess." We are now engaged in another wide-open game of chicken being played at the highest level of the United States Government over when to have a speech.
You can read the meat of Boehner's rejection letter below. It cleverly avoids using "but there will be some Republicans on teevee that night!" as the reason for offering a new date, and insteads makes some logistical argument about the timing of security sweeps and so on.
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 House 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.
[Image via AP]