Speaker of the House Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) demanded Wednesday that the White House delay the president’s annual State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress until the partial government shutdown comes to an end.
In a letter to President Donald Trump, made public Wednesday morning, Pelosi admonished the president for planning to hold the annual address, claiming that a “State of the Union Address has never been delivered during a government shutdown” since the inception of modern Congressional budgeting processes in 1977.
Pelosi wants to reschedule Trump’s SOTU this year until after the government is re-opened pic.twitter.com/ab2ludmxj5
— Seung Min Kim (@seungminkim) January 16, 2019
The Speaker of the House added that since the Secret Service is included in the government furlough, Congress lacks the security necessary to hold the event, even though critical staff members are still on the job, just not receiving paychecks.
“Sadly, given the security concerns and unless government re-opens this week, I suggest that we work together to determine another suitable date after government has re-opened for this address or for you to consider delivering your State of the Union address in writing to the Congress on January 29th,” Pelosi wrote.
The letter is likely no surprise to the White House; Democrats and Republicans have failed to pass a joint resolution setting the date for the State of the Union, even though the speech should come around the president’s inauguration anniversary, January 20, and House Democrats have shown little interest in actively legislating since taking office.
Rep. Pelosi might see canceling the over-the-top, overly-long annual speech, where Republicans and Democrats compete to demonstrate their public admiration (or lack thereof) for the president’s agenda, as a problem, but it’s just as likely the Trump White House sees forgoing the State of the Union as a feature, not a bug, of the ongoing government shutdown.
The president has a few options: he can agree to cancel the address and simply send a “State of the Union” update in writing to Congress — the way it was done for the first century of American government (and the way, no doubt, most Americans would prefer it be done), or he can deliver the speech from a different location, like the Oval Office, a Trump rally in middle America, or, as one Twitter user suggested, the floor of the World Wrestling Entertainment’s Monday Night Raw … the possibilities are really endless.
He could also force Pelosi to honor her original invitation, extended, by default, by her office, at the beginning of the latest Congressional session.
But there’s at least one reason Trump may want to ignore Pelosi and deliver the speech, even if Democrats refuse to attend or make some sort of public protest during the event. According to Politico, the Democrats and their staffers have been planning to deny Trump the State of the Union address for months, even before the government shutdown began, over fears Trump will successfully use the platform to blame Democrats for the current lack of compromise.
“Privately, some Democrats also don’t want to give Trump a major platform to slam them for the shutdown when Trump’s demand for billions in wall funding has been the main driver. Trump has tried to pin the blame on the shutdown on Pelosi and Schumer, but polls shows the public largely blames the president,” Politico reports.
“Given the megaphone of a State of the Union address, Trump would ‘blame immigrants for everything, he would blame Democrats for everything,'” one aide interviewed by the outlet added. “He would have so many lies that the fact-checkers would go all night.“