Obama Won't 'Back Seat Drive' Illinois Budget Impasse In Springfield Speech

By aaroncynic in News on Feb 9, 2016 6:41PM

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Obama shakes hands with supporters at a campaign rally at the Old State Capitol in August 2008. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images.
On Wednesday, the ninth anniversary of President Barack Obama's 2007 election bid speech, Obama will address the Illinois legislature in Springfield.

He might make some passing mentions to the budget crisis and the need for lawmakers on different sides of the political aisle to come together, but don’t expect him to take the gridlock in the statehouse head on. If anything, Obama’s speech to Illinois lawmakers might end up being more of a “greatest hits” tour.

“There has always sort of been the sense that going back to Springfield on the anniversary of his announcement speech would be fun to do,” said White House press secretary Josh Earnest on Monday, the State Journal-Reigster reports. “And it would serve as the background for a discussion about the kind of potential that the president sees in the country.”

When the White House announced the visit last week, a spokesperson said his speech would be about what we could do to “build a better politics-one that reflects our better selves.” According to the Tribune, Obama won’t “back-seat driver” when it comes to the budget crisis, and won’t have time to sit down and knock back beers with Gov. Bruce Rauner, who invited him over for a drink last week. Earnest did say the two would have time to chat, and the governor said he plans to greet the president when he arrives at the Springfield airport.

Despite the refusal to get down to details about Illinois budget stalemate, a broad-strokes speech that references the need for some sort of bipartisan movement has the potential to strike a chord with some lawmakers, or at least, that’s what those affected by the impasse hope. Among many other backlogged bills, Illinois owes Springfield more than $7 million in utilities. Mayor Jim Langfelder hopes that Obama’s message will be one that urges results, telling NPR:

"Hopefully, his message will be one of coming together, but the other side of that is he does come from the federal government. You can provide influence over individual leaders to come together to find a resolution.”

The President will address the legislature at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday. The event is closed to the general public.