Long-awaited Obama jobs plan next week
Washington - President Barack Obama will deliver a rare address to a joint session of Congress next week to introduce a long-awaited plan for jobs and economic growth, but not before being forced to yield in a test of wills with House Speaker John Boehner over when he would speak.
Obama agreed to schedule his address on September 8 after Boehner, a Republican, baulked at the president's request for a September 7 speech.
Obama's address still gives him a grand stage to unveil his economic agenda, though it falls on the same evening as the opening game of the National Football League season. White House officials were working on the precise timing of the speech in hopes of avoiding a conflict.
The change will allow a planned September 7 Republican presidential debate in Simi Valley, California, to proceed without Obama upstaging it.
Still, by seeking a rare joint session of Congress as his audience, Obama will get a nationally televised address that puts him face to face with Republican lawmakers who have bitterly opposed his agenda and who have vowed to vote down any new spending he might propose.
People are fed up
"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," Obama wrote on Wednesday in a letter to Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
White House press secretary Jay Carney said on Thursday the dust-up dramatises why "people are fed up" with Washington.
"It is such nonsense. This is what people hate about politics," Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman said on NBC's Today show.
Carney said, "Our intention was merely for the president to address a joint session as soon as possible," to outline his plan for revving up the economy and taking the unemployment problem on head-on.
"Our interest is in not having a political back and forth here at all," Carney told MSNBC in an interview. He said the White House yielded when Boehner insisted the speech be next Thursday, instead of Wednesday.
Sick and tired
"Americans are sick and tired of the partisan bickering in the capital," Carney said. He argued that Obama's aim is to "focus on things we can do" to spur the economy.
In seeking a joint session of Congress to deliver his plan, the president is turning the effort into a public relations campaign.
Emphasising that strategy and illustrating the fine line between governing and political campaigning, Obama issued a plea through his presidential campaign late on Wednesday calling for public support in holding Congress accountable.
In an email, Obama said he would deliver details of his jobs plan to Congress next week. "Whether they will do the job they were elected to do is ultimately up to them," he wrote. "But both you and I can pressure them to do the right thing".
White House officials say not all details of the president's address have been decided, though he is expected to lay out proposals to increase hiring with a blend of tax incentives for business and government spending for public works projects.
At the same time, White House officials say, he will offer long-term deficit reductions to make up for any upfront spending.