For the first time in history, a U.S. House Speaker has publicly rebuffed — or at least moved to rebuff — a request from the President of the United States to address a joint session of Congress.
The unexpected request, and unprecedented diss, have touched off a round of public partisan sniping so bitter, it’s been at least since debt limit negotiations broke down waaaaay back in July that we’ve seen anything like it.
The White House confirms to TPM that it gave Congressional leadership the heads up before announcing its request publicly and no objections were raised at the time. Republicans say they never signed off, and were never asked to sign off.
“No one in the Speaker’s office – not the Speaker, not any staff – signed off on the date the White House announced today,” said Brendan Buck, a spokesman for Speaker John Boehner. “Unfortunately we weren’t even asked if that date worked for the House. 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, granted anonymity to explain the sequence of events honestly, does not dispute that the White House acted hastily.“I would acknowledge that,” the source said. But the broader point, according to the same source, and as confirmed by both House and Senate historians, is that the President has always been allowed to convene a joint session at his pleasure.
“Both sides are citing precedent and protocol. I think both arguments have point,” the source said. “When the President requests to address Congress, Congress accommodates — that’s the most important precedent point. Does Boehner know whether or how President Coolidge consulted Speaker Longworth?”
The offices of both Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) confirm that Boehner did not ask them to sign off on the delay.
“The childish behavior coming out of the Speaker’s office today is truly historic,” said another senior Dem aide. “It is unprecedented to reject the date that a President wants to address a Joint Session of the Congress. 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.”
TPM’s Evan McMorris-Santoro contributed to this report.