Republicans to skip Obama speech for NFL, Twitter

Washington Bureau

Are you ready for some football?!? David Vitter sure is.

Vitter, a senator from Louisiana, is one of several Republicans planning on skipping President Obama’s address to a joint session of Congress this evening.

His hometown New Orleans Saints kick off tonight against the Green Bay Packers and to Vitter, it’s no contest. He’ll be watching the game with family and friends in Metarie, La., according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

(Update: Vitter has since said on Facebook than he may be staying in Washington, not because of Obama’s speech, but because the Senate has scheduled votes before and after it.)

Vitter told Fox News that he expected the president’s speech would be “more political than substantive.” His loyalties, he said, are to the Saints.


Other no-shows are expected to include Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina, Reps. Joe Walsh of Illinois, Paul Broun of Georgia, and presidential candidate Rep. Ron Paul of Texas.

House Speaker John Boehner told reporters Thursday morning that all Republicans in his caucus should attend the president’s speech, but he conceded that he can’t force them to show up.

“He is the president of the United States, and I believe that all members ought to be here,” Boehner said, according to The Hill. “It doesn’t mean they’re going to. Remember, I’m just the speaker. I’ve got 434 colleagues who have their own opinions, and they’re entitled to them. But as an institution, the president is coming at our invitation. We ought to be respectful, and we ought to welcome him.”

Broun will be holding a Twitter town hall in his office instead of making the trip across the street to the House chamber. On CNN Thursday, he denied he was disrespecting Obama. (Watch video below.)

“This is just another campaign speech. This is -- he’s focusing on 2012 election. And that’s what this is all about,” Broun said. “We’re seeing these same proposals of big government, big government spending. It’s failed over and over again. I want to hear from my constituents, what they say. And so, it’s not being disrespectful to the president. It’s being respectful for my -- towards my constituents. And I’m eager to work with the president.”

Although it may be easy to make light of Vitter’s reasons for his no-show, it underscores on one level what a huge headache Obama’s speech has become. Originally set for Wednesday, a conflict with the GOP presidential debate in California and a request from Boehner knocked it to Thursday, where it was set to collide with the NFL’s opening day.

The White House bumped it up to 7 p.m. EDT as a result, pulling it out of prime time and into what is known generally nationwide as the “‘Wheel of Fortune’/’Jeopardy’ hour.”

The move had some lamenting that the president had been reduced to hosting his own pregame show.

And the decision by Vitter, Broun and the other Republicans to skip the president’s speech is likely to provide more fodder for critics who say the GOP doesn’t afford Obama the respect of his office.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney has been repeatedly pressed during briefings as to whether Republicans pay the president enough deference. Last week, Carney dismissed the chatter, saying the administration spent “zero” time worrying about it.

“You guys care much more about this than we do,” he said then.

This week, Carney continued to change the subject.

“It’s for you guys to decide and to judge Congress as to whether or not -- how they respond to this and what they’re going to do,” he said Wednesday. “because I can guarantee you, come December, if Congress hasn’t acted and members go back for that recess, they’re going to get an earful, because of the expectations I think that are out there that people -- this is an anxious time.”