WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama will deliver the State of the Union speech to a joint session of Congress on Jan. 25, his first opportunity to address the full assembly of lawmakers under the new divided government.
House Speaker John Boehner sent a letter to Obama on Tuesday inviting him to speak in two weeks. The White House promptly accepted.
The address is an opportunity for the president to lay out an agenda for the year, charting a course for domestic and foreign policy. This year's address is being closely watched for signs of how far Obama will go to work with Republicans, particularly on economic policies and on efforts to reduce the nation's long-term debt.
In a letter to Obama, Boehner acknowledged last weekend's Arizona shooting that left six dead and 14 injured, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., who was critically wounded.
"Even in the wake of tragedy," Boehner wrote, "we must never waver from our obligation to carry out their will and provide solutions to keep moving our nation forward."
The date for the speech was reached in discussions between the speaker's office and the White House.
The address will be Obama's second State of the Union speech but his fourth address to a joint session of the House and Senate.
Obama's appearances before Congress have not been without drama. His speech to Congress on health care in September 2009 prompted Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., to shout "You lie!" at the president. During his State of the Union address last year, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito caused a stir by mouthing the words "Not true" when Obama described a court decision on campaign finance.
This year's speech will be before a divided Congress, the result of midterm elections that gave Republicans control of the House. The Senate remains in the hands of Democrats, but they have a smaller majority.
In his letter, Boehner said the new Congress provides "a renewed opportunity to find common ground and address the priorities of the American people."
"Our actions must be driven by their desire for freedom, economic recovery and fiscal sensibility, as well as a need to rebuild the broken bonds of trust between the people and their government," he wrote.