The Constitution of the United States says the President “shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union”. Traditionally, this address was given twelve months after the President takes office, around January 20th. Our first President, George Washington, gave the first State of the Union address on January 8, 1790. Since 1934, every address has been given in January except when a President takes office from incidences other than the electoral process. In those incidences, the Address is given on the first February following taking office. Ronald Reagan was the only President to postpone his address set for January 28, 1981. Following the Challenger disaster, Reagan postponed the address for a week as the nation mourned the tragic event.
This year, President Obama may not give the State of the Union address until sometime after February 2, 2010. Any idea why, anyone, anyone, Bueller? The answer, President Obama wants to be able to tout a health care reform victory. Selected congressional representatives have returned to Washington early to work on reconciliation of the health care reform bill (less any Republicans) so they can get the process done before the end of the month self inflicted deadline. Critics say the fastest the bill could come out of the reconciliation process and get to both houses of Congress for a vote would be the end of January. Therefore, the White House is working on an early February date to give the address.
Consequently, the CEO of C-SPAN sent a letter to Congressional leaders asking to broadcast the health care reform reconciliation process. President Obama had campaigned that the whole process would be broadcasted on C-SPAN, but up to this point, only the votes have been public, and those votes have came when most Americans were in beds sleeping. My bet is that Congress will not take C-SPAN up on the offer, as this would slow down the deal making that is typical of the process. This new era of transparency, has done nothing more than caused those who cover politics to see right through the process?
Other things are brewing that could delay health care reform. When Senator Nelson of Nebraska accepted a special exception to Medicare payments for his state, Cash for Cloture or the Cornhusker Kickback
As it has been called became an issue for South Carolina Senators Jim DeMint and Lindsey Graham asked their Attorney General, Henry McMaster, to look into the constitutionality of the deal. DeMint and Graham contends that the Federal government cannot legislate preference of one state over another. McMaster related to reporters that health care reform legislation with incentives for certain states to get a yea vote may be unconstitutional. In the last two days, reports have come out that Senator Nelson has asked McMaster and the other 12 states attorneys’ general to, “back off” from going forward on any type of lawsuit on the constitutional issue. McMaster intends to pursue the question.
The Christmas bomber incident has knocked the White House off its steam rolling legislative agenda. The White House intended to complete all its goals before the mid-term elections in 2010. The terror issue may delay the president for a time, but since he claims no personal responsibility for the ‘systemic failure’, he will be back on the stump promoting his agenda in no time. As he announces that he has taken measures to correct the failure, he will move on to push politics to get health care reform through reconciliation and on his desk before his self-imposed February 2nd dead line.
I expect that the White House will not set a date certain until it has some concrete idea when the health care reform bill will hit the Presidents desk for signature