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Rep. Paul Broun, who made headlines when he skipped the State of the Union address in January but tweeted about it, is planning a repeat performance Thursday.
President Barack Obama will talk about job creation before a joint session of Congress at 7 p.m., but Broun and several other Members won’t be part of the audience sitting in the House chamber, whether for political or personal reasons.
The Georgia Republican plans to watch the speech from his office, as he did for the president’s address in January, and host a live town hall via Twitter.
“He wants to be readily available to answer any questions they might have about the address, as well as be open to hearing his constituents’ thoughts and ideas for spurring job creation,” said Meredith Griffanti, Broun’s press secretary.
Rep. Joe Walsh announced last week that he would host a small-business jobs forum in his Illinois district instead of attending the speech. According to a news release from the Republican’s office, he will fly to his district after votes are finished Thursday to talk to “the real job creators about creating real jobs.”
“I don’t see the point in being a prop for another of the President’s speeches asking for more failed stimulus spending and more subsidies for his pet projects,” he said in the release.
Walsh has called on Obama before to speak to his constituents. In August, he invited the president to host a joint town hall meeting during the president’s Midwest bus tour, but Obama didn’t take him up on the offer.
Sen. Jim DeMint told ABC News on Monday morning that he is unlikely to hear Obama live on Thursday. “If he sent a written proposal over first, I would go hear him explain it, but frankly, right now I’m so frustrated I don’t think I’m going to go,” the South Carolina Republican said.
Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), who is undergoing rehabilitation in Texas for a gunshot injury, won’t be on Capitol Hill this week, according to the Hill newspaper. She made a surprise appearance in the Capitol for August’s debt ceiling vote.
It’s not unusual for Members to miss joint sessions, Senate Historian Don Ritchie said. Attendance isn’t mandatory, so Members skip for a variety of reasons, whether they be personal or political.
“No one takes attendance and there’s no way to tell who is there, especially since there aren’t enough seats for everyone on the floor,” he said.
On the flip side are the Members who have reworked their schedules to fit in the joint session. Reps. Patrick Meehan (R-Pa.) and Brian Higgins (D-N.Y.) had been planning to play in a 7 p.m. charity hockey game against the Wounded Warriors, a group of veterans who were injured while on active duty. The game will go on, and Meehan, a former NHL referee, intends to show up after the president’s address.
Fundraisers will go on, too. Three were scheduled for that evening, according to the Sunlight Foundation’s Party Time project: a barbecue for Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), a cookout for Rep. Laura Richardson (D-Calif.) and a birthday reception for Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.). Spokesmen from McCaul's and Hastings' offices confirmed that their events would go on as planned and that the lawmakers might appear at their own events, but only if there's enough time. Richardson's cookout had been rescheduled for Sept. 14 before Obama's speech was announced.
“The job comes first,” McCaul spokesman Mike Rosen said.
Although Hastings’ reception will celebrate his 75th year, the speech won’t overlap with his actual birthday. But it will for two others: Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) will turn 61 and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) will turn 70, and both will be present for Obama’s speech.
Correction: Sept. 7, 2011
A spokesman from the office of Rep. Laura Richardson (D-Calif.) provided incorrect information about the date of a fundraiser for the Congresswoman. The event was originally scheduled for Sept. 8, but it has been moved to Sept. 14.