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President Barack Obama Addresses a Joint Session of Congress

September 08, 2011
President Barack Obama Addresses a Joint Session of Congress Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives President Barack Obama addressed 10 Joint Sessions of Congress during his two terms as President.
On this date, President Barack Obama addressed a Joint Session of Congress to outline the American Jobs Act, a $447 billion omnibus proposal by his administration designed to reduce unemployment and spur the economy amid the lingering effects of the Great Recession. Originally, the White House had requested that the Joint Session be held on Wednesday, September 7. But because of a Republican presidential primary debate that night, Speaker of the House John A. Boehner of Ohio worked with the Obama administration to move the speech to the next night, Thursday, September 8. They also agreed to hold the Joint Session at 7:00 p.m., two hours earlier than the traditional 9:00 p.m. timeslot, to avoid overlapping with the opening kickoff of the National Football League’s new season. During his 33-minute speech, President Obama laid out his plan to invest in critical infrastructure, cut the payroll tax for most American businesses, and extend unemployment insurance, among other provisions. Normally, Republicans and Democrats sit on opposite sides of the chamber during presidential addresses. But in this instance, many lawmakers, some of whom served on the same committee or belonged to the same state delegation, sat with Members of the opposite party, including Illinois Representatives Timothy V. Johnson, a Republican, and Jesse L. Jackson Jr., a Democrat. “The American people are best served when members of Congress put aside partisan differences and engage in open and honest dialogue with one another to address the pressing challenges facing our country,” Johnson said. Amid debate over its cost, the American Jobs Act struggled to gain widespread support in the 112th Congress (2011–2013). The large bill was eventually split into separate pieces of legislation, including the Three Percent Withholding Repeal and Job Creation Act (H.R. 674), and the VOW to Hire Heroes Act, which passed on a bipartisan vote and became law on November 21, 2011 (Public Law 112-56). Another measure derived from Obama’s Joint Session address, the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act, became law on April 5, 2012 (Public Law 112-106).

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