WASHINGTON — US President Barack Obama Wednesday requested the spotlight of a joint session of Congress on September 7 to unveil his new jobs plan at the exact time of a Republican 2012 candidates debate.
Obama’s decision to debut his initiative — possibly his last chance to revive the staggering economy before election year — in such a prominent venue in prime time, reflected his need to replenish dwindled political capital.
It will also raise expectations for the plan, as Obama has repeatedly unveiled new jobs plans and economic measures only to see the unemployment rate stubbornly stuck at 9.1 percent and the recovery apparently stalling.
“It is my intention to lay out a series of bipartisan proposals that the Congress can take immediately to continue to rebuild the American economy,” said Obama in a letter to top congressional leaders.
There was no immediate answer to Obama’s request from Republican House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner. The House and the Democratic-led Senate must both agree for a rare joint session to be scheduled.
Obama’s speech will likely ignite a new political showdown with House Republicans who refuse to accept new spending proposals and tax rises and want steep expenditure cuts to programs dear to Democrats.
“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,” Obama said.
“We must answer this call.”
“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.”
Though many will see a political motive in scheduling the speech opposite a presidential debate at the Ronald Reagan Library in California, the White House insisted the timing at 8 pm (0000 GMT) Wednesday was “coincidental.”
“This is about the president addressing the American economy, the need to grow the economy, the need to create jobs. This is the right time to do it, the right day to do it,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said.
Carney said that it would be up to the NBC News and Politico to decide whether to delay or reschedule the Republican debate, as the president’s speech will likely get blanket coverage from all US television networks.
Obama’s plan is expected to consist of a mix of old and new proposals, including a call for tax rises on the richest Americans, more spending on job creating infrastructure projects and an extension to a payroll tax cut.
Carney said it would primarily contain proposals for creating jobs, but take place in the broader context of high-stakes efforts by a congressional super committee to agree to $1.5 billion in deficit reduction cuts.
Significantly, Carney also said that all the jobs initiatives in the plan would be paid for — offset by cuts in other spending — a factor that might be designed to make it more difficult for Republican deficit hawks to block.
House Republicans, however, have already signaled that they oppose some of Obama’s likely policy prescriptions and believe the best way to stimulate growth would be to loosen government control over the economy.
Eric Cantor, the Republican majority leader in the House, on Monday pledged to push for the repeal of “job destroying regulations” that he said had tied the hands of small business owners.