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Obama gives in on speech timing, moves to Sept. 8

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WASHINGTON (AP, ABC7) - President Barack Obama will change the day of his address to Congress to Sept. 8, the date suggested by House Speaker John Boehner, the White House announced Wednesday.

Obama had asked Congress to convene an extraordinary joint session next Wednesday to hear his proposals to put jobless Americans back to work but House Speaker John Boehner balked and told the president he ought to wait and speak a day later, CBS Correspondent Mark Knoller and the AP report.

Wednesday is also the day of a debate between the Republican presidential contenders, a scheduling conflict the White House said was pure coincidence. It appears Obama gave in to Boehner's request and will now speak a day later.

Usually, presidential requests to address Congress are routinely granted after discussions between the White House and lawmakers. But Boehner, in his formal reply, said that the House would not return until the day Obama wanted to speak and that logistical and parliamentary issues might be an obstacle. The House and the Senate each would have to adopt a resolution to allow a joint session for the president.

Boehner's letter did not mention the Republican debate on Wednesday or Thursday night's televised opening NFL game between the New Orleans Saints and the Green Bay Packers. But the political gamesmanship was clear.

Tweeted GOP presidential contender Newt Gingrich: "From one Speaker to another...nicely done John. "

Harry Reid, the Democratic Senate majority leader, had no objection to Obama's request. "Senator Reid welcomes President Obama to address Congress any day of the week," said Adam Jentleson, a spokesman.

Obama is expected to lay out proposals to increase hiring with a blend of tax incentives for business and government spending for public works projects. With July unemployment at 9.1 percent and the economy in a dangerously sluggish recovery, Obama's plan has consequences for millions of Americans and for his own political prospects. The president has made clear he will ask for extensions of a payroll tax cut for workers and jobless benefits for the unemployed. Those two elements would cost about $175 billion.

"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 Wednesday in a letter to Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

The high-profile address illustrates how, in a divided, highly partisan Washington atmosphere, Obama wants to portray himself as the pacesetter for the national agenda.

The White House request came on the same day Obama issued an appeal to Congress to renew legislation to fund highways and air travel that he said would protect a million jobs. The law at issue expires Sept. 30. A Senate proposal would last two years and cost $109 billion, while the House is considering a six-year bill that could cut spending from current levels.
White House officials say all details of the president's address have not been decided.

Joint sessions of Congress are typically reserved for presidential State of the Union addresses. But Obama also spoke to a joint session in September 2009 to press Congress to pass health care legislation. That speech, however, did not prompt quick action. A final bill did not pass Congress until March of 2010.

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