President Barack Obama’s visit to Congress for a joint session to discuss health care is scheduled for 8:00 PM Eastern. If the networks carrying the event – so far, ABC, CBS & NBC — are lucky, the President’s remarks will be tightly written and briskly delivered, and the Democratic applause breaks (and those breaks in which Republicans join in, which we suspect will be less frequent) will be judiciously brief. But then they will likely have to contend with a Republican response, if House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) gets his way.
The Boehner request was first reported by ABC’s George Stephanopoulos and picked up by Capitol Hill news outlet Politico, which got a copy of Boehner’s letter to ABC.
“I respectfully write to request time for a Republican response on ABC and the other television networks immediately following the President’s address to a Joint Session of Congress next Wednesday, September 9,” wrote Boehner. “Given the importance of the health care debate, the American people should be presented with a balanced perspective, and that can only be achieved with a response on network television from a representative of the Republican Party.”
“The opposing party has typically been granted this opportunity not only in the case of the annual Presidential State of the Union Address to Congress, but at other times when the President has come before Congress as well,” he continued. “For example, in 1993 when President Bill Clinton spoke to Congress on health care, the networks carried a Republican response from then-Governor Carroll Campbell of South Carolina.”
RBR/TVBR observation: Obama has already lost virtually the entire Republican caucus on this matter. And he faces the distinct possibility of civil war within his own caucus between progressives and Blue Dogs. So he’s liable to invest some time into this address. Add in Boehner’s speaker and the prospects for containing the event within one nice clean 60 minute time frame seem remote.