I’ve taken a keen interest lately in whether or not House Republicans will allow President Obama to deliver his State of the Union address from Capitol Hill early next year. A surprising number of Republicans and conservative media figures have been urging GOP leaders to block the president as punishment for his immigration policy.
By way of a follow-up, let’s note that the issue came up at House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) weekly press conference yesterday. According to the transcript, the exchange read as followed:
REPORTER: Two of your members have floated the idea of going after the president’s own White House budget, cutting the budget for Air Force One, maybe not inviting him to the State of the Union. Are those options on the table? Are you planning on inviting him to the State of the Union?BOEHNER: Listen, the more the president talks about his ideas, the more unpopular he becomes. Why would I want to deprive him of that opportunity? (Laughter.)
And with that, the Speaker moved on, seemingly resolving the matter. Indeed, the Washington Post reported last night, “Well, that settles that.”
I suspect that’s correct, though as the speech draws closer, don’t be too surprised if the right returns to the idea of denying the president the House floor.
As for Boehner’s argument that the president’s ideas are unpopular, the first national poll conducted after last month’s midterms asked Americans about their top policy priorities. The five most popular ideas are all items that come directly from Obama’s agenda. Indeed, the Speaker may have gotten laughs with his response, but the president remains far more popular than Congress, the Republican Party, and Boehner himself.
Postscript: Let’s quickly add a little trivia for history buffs. When we talked about this issue the other day, I noted that in 1999, a Republican Congress welcomed President Clinton to deliver a SOTU, even after he’d literally been impeached, despite the fact that the GOP-led Senate was still weighing whether to remove the sitting president from office.
What I’d forgotten, until Robert Sclesinger reminded me, was that officials in the Clinton White House were genuinely concerned at the time that congressional Republicans would simply not allow the Democratic president to deliver his address, to the point that West Wing aides began exploring alternate venues for Clinton’s speech. At the top of the list: the National Archives, home to the original U.S. Constitution and Declaration of Independence, among other treasures.