GOP Mulls Telling President Obama To STFU And Send His State Of The Union Address In Writing


Republicans may be hatching the latest plan in their continuing effort to demean and undermine President Obama. Steve Benen, writing at MSNBC, says that there is a move afoot to block the president from delivering the annual State of the Union address to congress.

An editorial by Republican operative Gary Hoitsma, in the Washington Times, quoted by Benen, says,

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Here is a modest proposal: The Speaker of the House should declare a state of Constitutional emergency in which the President’s specific unlawful actions … have cumulatively provoked the legislative branch into a bold but measured legislative response. That response will be to cancel – for 2015 – the traditional end-of-January joint session of Congress to which the President is normally invited to deliver his annual State of the Union Address.

That seems to indicate that the notion of disinviting the president to the traditional joint session of congress is about more than just a protest over his immigration actions, at least in the minds of some conservatives.

[Note: As of this writing, that editorial was curiously unavailable at the Washington Times. Their headline link sends the reader back to the opinion home page.]

The New York Times reports that conservative writer Rich Lowry, who is currently the editor of the National Review, said,

If I were John Boehner, I’d say to the president: ‘Send us your State of the Union in writing. You’re not welcome in our chamber.’

The Washington Post says that the idea is to deliver a rebuke to the president for his executive action on immigration, and placate the Tea Party, without going the route of another government shutdown, which wouldn’t play well with voters. Congressman Paul Broun (R-GA) took the idea offered by Lowry and others, and pitched it to John Boehner, suggesting that Boehner tell the president not to come to congress for the annual address. Representative Tim Huelskamp (R-KS) supports that idea, but wants to go even further.

I’d rather defund Air Force One. Congress took a 19 percent cut on its budgets — we should do the same for the White House.

Huelskamp doesn’t want to take time out of his busy schedule to listen to listen to the president.

In the spirit of George Washington, he could send it [the State of the Union address] to us in writing. It’d save some time.

As seems to be typical amongst Tea Party supporters, Huelskamp doesn’t know his history. George Washington delivered his addresses in person. It was Thomas Jefferson who sent his to congress in writing.

Washington Post writer Paul Waldman sees something more nefarious than a protest against executive action in the move to reject the president’s visit for the State of the Union. He writes:

Though it seems like the pettiest of actions, there’s something significant driving it: A fundamental unwillingness to accept that Barack Obama is legitimately the President of the United States.

This would be the first time in years the president did not deliver the SOTU in person

Article II, Section 3, of the Constitution says the president “shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.”

As noted above, the practice of making a speech in person to congress was ended by Thomas Jefferson, and was not revived until Woodrow Wilson in 1913. Since that time, some presidents have given congress the address only in writing, the last being Jimmy Carter, before he left office in 1981. But in the past, the president has generally been received by congress when he has asked to speak. This would apparently be the first time that congress has ever told a president to send his State of the Union address in writing, that he was not welcome. Steve Benen observes that in 1999, President Clinton was even welcomed by the Republican congress while they were in the middle of impeaching him.

This move to deny President Obama the chance to speak before congress is just the latest in a series of moves by Republicans that show their contempt of the president. They think they’re being clever by claiming that they are protesting “lawless” actions by the president. But the unprecedented disrespect shown to President Obama suggests that there is something more to Republicans’ actions than just simple disapproval of the president’s policies. Republicans are walking a fine line that may allow them to curry favor with their Obama hating base, but which may mean that they won’t get a State of the Union address from a Republican president for a long time to come.

Image courtesy of Red River Radio/NPR

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