Obama Schedules Speech Same Time as GOP Debate, WH Says GOP Can Reschedule

By Fred Lucas | August 31, 2011 | 4:23 PM EDT

(CNSNews.com) – After the White House scheduled a presidential speech to a joint session of Congress to coincide with a GOP presidential debate, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said he personally, and he believed President Obama, would be glad to see the candidates reschedule.

President Barack Obama at his 7/11/2011 press conference (AP Photo)

Carney also jokingly compared the Republican candidates seeking to unseat the president in next year’s election to the "wildlife channel," prompting laughter from the press corps. He further stressed that the Republican debate was not a consideration in planning the president’s speech.

"I would personally, and I’m sure the President feels the same way, welcome -- if the sponsors so chose, and the candidates so chose to adjust the timing of their debate so that it didn’t conflict, that would be completely fine with us in the spirit of democracy and that," Carney told reporters.

"But, again, I think that we live in such a world of choices in terms of getting information and watching media, that there will be ample opportunity for Americans to hear and see the President, ample opportunity for Americans to hear and see candidates for office," Carney continued. "And so we’ll just carry forward with our plan."

The Republican presidential candidates’ debate is sponsored by NBC News and Politico scheduled for 8 p.m. eastern daylight time on Sept. 7, at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California. The debate has been scheduled for several weeks.

The White House announced Wednesday that Obama would deliver a jobs speech to a joint session of Congress on the same time and date.

A reporter asked if the president was depriving the American people of hearing a public debate, which Carney said was not the case.

"As his press secretary and somebody involved in his communications -- putting aside what else, whatever the competing opportunities on television are, whether it’s the wildlife channel or the cooking channel or political -- but I would be -- I wish that I could say --" before he finished the answer, a reporter asked, "Are you comparing Republicans to --"

Carney said, "Maybe the wildlife"

"What I mean is that would it were so that I could be sure simply by having the president of the United States speak at a certain hour that every American who is watching TV would be watching him," Carney said. "I wish that were the case. Certainly, a substantial number of Americans will."

Generally, when the president addresses the nation, it is carried by all major networks and cable news stations.

The scheduled GOP debate was not a factor in scheduling the president’s address to Congress.

"No, of course not," Carney said. "There were a lot of considerations that once you decide you want to do a speech to Congress, and you have to deal with congressional schedules and there are many other factors here. And 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."

One reporter asked, "As you know, it’s at the Reagan facility. Any concern of potentially upsetting Nancy Reagan by stepping on this?"

Carney responded, "I think that the -- the sponsors of the debate control the timing of it; they can make a decision based on how they want to handle this. There are many channels, there are many opportunities for the public to hear the president speak, to watch this debate -- one of many -- and we'll let that sort itself out."

Generally, if presidents want to address a joint session of Congress, the leaders of the House and Senate must invite him.