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Obama accepts GOP request to push back speech to Congress

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Obama moves jobs speech to September 8
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: White House agrees to move speech back one day, to September 8
  • NEW: White House says it "welcomes the opportunity" for a speech that night
  • NEW: Speech is "about the need for urgent action" on economy, White House says
  • Obama's request for September 7 produced outcry over scheduling, notification

Washington (CNN) -- President Barack Obama on Wednesday agreed to move his scheduled special address to a joint session of Congress back one day -- from September 7 to September 8 -- after consultations with House Speaker John Boehner, the White House said Wednesday night.

"Today, the President asked to address the Congress about the need for urgent action on the economic situation facing the American people as soon as Congress returned from recess," the White House said in a statement Wednesday night. "Both Houses will be back in session after their August recess on Wednesday, September 7th, so that was the date that was requested. We consulted with the Speaker about that date before the letter was released, but he determined Thursday would work better. 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% of their attention on doing whatever they can to help the American people."

A political showdown had erupted earlier Wednesday over Obama's sudden request. Boehner, in a letter to Obama, said the 8 p.m. speech would come less than two hours after the House is scheduled to complete legislative business, and the speaker recommended moving it back a day.

Boehner's letter noted that security sweeps of the chamber usually take more than three hours.

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"There are considerations about the congressional calendar that must be made prior to scheduling such an extraordinary event," Boehner wrote. "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."

One senior GOP aide told CNN that "arranging a joint session of Congress isn't as simple as snapping our fingers."

Obama's requested date conflicted with a Republican presidential debate to be held at the Reagan Library in California. When asked about that conflict, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney brushed it off.

"This is the right time to do it (and) the right day to do it," Carney said in reference to Obama's speech. If the Republicans want to "adjust the timing of their debate ... that would be completely fine with us."

Numerous observers noted that the September speech will conflict with the opening game of the National Football League's regular season.

The dispute had touched off accusations by people on each side -- all on condition of not identifying who made them -- of high-handed behavior by the other, as well as the White House.

One Democratic source said the White House provided little advance notice of the speech request to congressional Democrats, while the GOP aide stressed that Republicans were not consulted at all. The aide added that Republicans were notified only 15 minutes before the public release of Obama's request.

Events like the president's State of the Union address typically involve as much as four to six weeks of lead time and consultation, involving a series of meetings among police, Secret Service officials and others, the Republican aide noted.

However, a White House official said Boehner's office was consulted and raised no objection.

That prompted Boehner spokesman Brendan Buck to insist that "no one in the speaker's office -- not the speaker, not any staff -- signed off on the date the White House announced today."

"Unfortunately, we weren't even asked if that date worked for the House," Buck said. "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."

A senior Democratic aide familiar with scheduling such events in previous administrations said "the childish behavior coming out of the speaker's office today is truly historic."

"It is unprecedented to reject the date that a president wants to address a joint session of the Congress," the senior Democratic aide said. "People die and state funerals are held with less fuss, so the logistics excuse by the speaker's office is laughable. Yes, consultation always occurs, but the president always gets the date he wants."

Meanwhile, an aide to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Boehner didn't consult with House Democratic leaders about seeking a new date for Obama's speech.

Obama's request for a Wednesday evening speech was accepted by the leadership of the Democratic-controlled Senate, according to a Democratic Senate leadership aide.

The approval of leaders from both chambers of Congress, however, is required for such a presidential request to be accepted.

Obama's speech is intended to provide a prime-time platform for the rollout of his highly anticipated job growth plan.

"Our nation faces unprecedented economic challenges, and millions of hard-working Americans continue to look for jobs," Obama said in a letter sent earlier Wednesday to Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada.

"As I have traveled across our country this summer and spoken with our fellow Americans, I have heard a consistent message: Washington needs to put aside politics and start making decisions based on what is best for our country and not what is best for each of our parties in order to grow the economy and create jobs. We must answer this call."

The national unemployment rate currently stands at 9.1% -- a figure all but ensuring that the state of the fragile economy will remain the dominant issue of the 2012 presidential campaign.

CNN's Brianna Keilar, Deirdre Walsh, Kate Bolduan, Jessica Yellin and Alan Silverleib contributed to this report.

 
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