White House spokesman Jay Carney on Thursday downplayed the skirmish over scheduling a presidential speech on jobs and the economy before a joint session of Congress, repeatedly dismissing the communications breakdown between the two branches of government that occurred just the day before as the very type of petty Washington politics the American people disdain.
During a press briefing, Carney was asked why the President and Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) couldn’t seem to get on the same page over something as simple as scheduling a speech before a joint session of Congress and what that portended for the work of Congress’ supercommittee and the must-pass additional debt reduction this fall.Clearly agitated at times by the barrage of questions, Carney stuck to his talking points, insisting that Obama was simply interested in addressing Congress and the American people to outline his job creation plan as soon as possible, and the original day chosen for the speech was merely the first day Congress returned. When Boehner objected to Wednesday and suggested Thursday instead, Carney said the President was happy to oblige.
“When Wednesday wasn’t an option, Thursday was fine with us,” Carney said.
Reporters who had received an earful the day before from both sides about the back-and-forth over the speech, weren’t easily satisfied by Carney’s nonplussed response and pressed on, asking him if Obama is concerned that Congress is disrespecting the office of the presidency by denying him his first choice of a date to speak.
Carney dismissed the speculation as the same type of petty, inside-the-beltway fights that disgusts the American people.
“The problem here is the partisanship and the apparent polarization that sometimes is observed,” Carney said. “It’s not reflective of what’s happening out in the country, it’s not reflective of the [widespread] belief that compromise is necessary…that the far ends of either spectrum” shouldn’t just retreat to their corners and demand to get everything they want.
Carney was also asked why Obama felt the need to address a joint session of Congress rather than appearing before an audience of unemployed workers and perhaps taking questions.
While there are a number of limited measures a president can take in issuing executive orders, most sweeping steps on the economy must be enacted by Congress, Carney replied.
“What we have zero interest in, and what the American people have zero interest in, is petty fights, which are covered quite assiduously” by the Washington press corps, he said.
“They do not have any time for this — the pettiness, the smallness and the posturing,” he continued. “…the issues trump that kind of stuff, so the President will continue to focus on what really matters.”