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Obama, Boehner spar on timing of big jobs speech

By Jim Kuhnhenn

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, Aug. 31 2011 3:55 p.m. MDT

Among those that are under consideration are tax credits for businesses that expand their payrolls. The president has proposed a similar effort totaling $33 billion before. The White House also is looking at a school construction and renovation plan of up to $50 billion.

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus criticized Obama for seeking to schedule his address at the same time as a Republican presidential debate in the Reagan Library in California.

In a message posted on the Twitter social network, Priebus said: "BarackObama request to give jobs speech the same night as GOP Presidential debate is further proof this WH is all politics all the time."

White House spokesman Jay Carney said the overlapping was a coincidence.

"Obviously, one debate of many that's on one channel of many was not enough reason not to have the speech at the time that we decided to have it," Carney said.

The one-upmanship has possible benefits for the president, overshadowing a debate that is to serve as the first test for Republican front-runner Rick Perry, the Texas governor, alongside his GOP opponents.

"The most immediate gain is he deflates a very big Republican balloon, which is that debate," said Ross Baker, a congressional expert at Rutgers University. "It also imprints this with the kind of gravity that even a prime speech would not have. There is a ceremonial aspect to it that underscores the symbolic power of the presidency."

Joint sessions of Congress are typically reserved for presidential State of the Union addresses. But Obama also spoke to a joint session in September 2009 to press Congress to pass health care legislation. That speech, however, did not prompt quick action. A final bill did not pass Congress until March of 2010.

Using a joint session of Congress as a forum also places a hot spotlight on Obama's address and sets high and risky expectations for his jobs plan.

"The risks are you are upping the ante, and it's going to invite the response," said Patrick Griffin, former White House legislative director under President Bill Clinton. "All the action is in the reaction."

Or, as Baker said: "If you're going to set a table for a state banquet, you better have a pretty elaborate meal."

Obama and White House officials say he intends to propose measures that should receive bipartisan support because they contain ideas embraced by both parties. He has also issued an overt threat to take his case directly to the public if Congress does not act.

"If they see one side not willing to work with the other to move the country forward, then that's what elections are all about," Obama said in an interview with talk radio host Tom Joyner this week. "So we're going to be in a struggle for probably the next 16, 17 months."

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