WASHINGTON — Rep. Jeff Landry knew not to yell at President Barack Obama during his jobs address Thursday night to Congress. That move made Rep. Joe Wilson famous a couple of years ago, and not necessarily for the better. Instead, Republican leaders urged their members to show up, keep an open mind and be polite — voters were anxious and Congress’ bickering had angered large majorities of them.
So Landry, R-La., instead printed out a small white sign to raise when Obama mentioned how, exactly, he planned to put more Americans to work.
“Drilling(equals)jobs,” it read in big black letters. Seated two rows behind the well-mannered Wilson, R-S.C., Landry held it up when Obama acknowledged that Republicans might have ideas different from his $447 billion jobs package.
It was only a modest departure from decorum, but a sure signal that more than policy disagreements remain between Obama and congressional Republicans whose standoff over raising the debt ceiling last month brought the country to the brink of default. The markets and recession-weary Americans didn’t appreciate the suspense. The nation’s credit rating suffered for the bickering, and Congress’ favorable ratings dropped to around 12 percent.
Aware that some conservatives planned to boycott Thursday’s speech, Republican leaders urged lawmakers returning to Washington this week to be cool. They said that they were listening for ideas they could agree upon to put some of the 14 million unemployed Americans back to work. And they declined to issue a formal, televised response.