In an act of defiance, several Republican members of Congress have announced that they will not attend President Barack Obama’s address to the joint session tonight, despite Speaker John Boehner’s request that they come.
“He is the president of the United States and I believe that all members ought to be here to do this,” Boehner said Thursday morning. “Doesn’t mean they’re going to. Remember, I’m just the speaker. There are 434 colleagues who have their own opinions and they’re entitled to them. But as an institution, the president is coming at our invitation. We ought to be respectful, and we ought to welcome him.”
Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL) tweeted last week shortly after the speech was announced that he would “fly home to IL to talk to real job creators” instead of being a “prop” at the president’s address. (Walsh also has other business to attend to in his home state. The lawmaker is currently embroiled in a lawsuit; his ex-wife is suing him for more than $100,000 in unpaid child support.)
Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) said earlier this week that he would host a kickoff and viewing party at his home in Louisiana for the Saints-Packers NFL game.
“I have a Saints party…and I am absolutely going to be there for the big game, kick-off of the Saints and the whole NFL,” he said.
“As a fanatic, I have my priorities.”
Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA) will watch the address from his office while holding a Twitter town hall, just as he does during the State of the Union.
In January, during the most recent State of the Union address, Broun tweeted, “Mr. President, you don’t believe in the Constitution. You believe in socialism.”
Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) said in an ABC News interview Thursday morning that he wasn’t planning on attending.
“If he sent a written proposal over first, I would go hear him explain it, but frankly right now I’m so frustrated I don’t think I’m going to go,” DeMint said. “I can’t imagine too many Americans wanting to hear another speech with no real plan attached.”
A spokesman for Republican presidential candidate Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) told Yahoo News Thursday that Paul simply “doesn’t plan on going.”
Fellow House member and presidential hopeful Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), however, is not only going but will also deliver her own rebuttal after the speech.
Boehner has faced criticism for the Republicans’ decision not to deliver an immediate response to Obama’s speech and to instead open Statuary Hall for lawmakers to speak to the media.
“Listen, this is not a State of the Union address,” Boehner said. ”The American people shouldn’t be forced to watch some politician they don’t want to listen to and frankly, most of them would rather watch a football game.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) called the decision disrespectful.
“The Republicans’ refusal to respond to the president’s proposal on jobs is not only disrespectful to him, but to the American people,” she said.
Norm Ornstein, a political analyst with the American Enterprise Institute, told The Times-Picayune that the current climate of partisanship is unprecedented.
“I simply cannot recall a time in the past when lawmakers openly gave the finger to the president of the United States on a huge issue like jobs,” Ornstein said. “It is frankly depressing.”