President Trump has rejected an invitation to attend a St. Patrick’s Day lunch at the U.S. Capitol, proffered by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), saying “she has torn this nation apart.”
Presidents routinely make the 16-block trek down Pennsylvania Avenue to join in the Irish festivities. But Trump’s had enough.
“Since the Speaker has chosen to tear this Nation apart with her actions and her rhetoric, the president will not participate in moments where she so often chooses to drive discord and disunity, and will instead celebrate the rich history and strong ties between the United States and Ireland at the White House on March 12,” White House spokesman Judd Deere told Politico.
“This is the first time a president has skipped the lunch since 2003, when George W. Bush sat it out days before the United States invaded Iraq,” the political website said.
The annual Capitol luncheon began in 1983, when then-House Speaker Tip O’Neill (D-MA), a Democrat, had Republican President Ronald Reagan to the Capitol for the lunch. Presidents have missed the lunch only four times since then. The luncheon – formally called the Friends of Ireland Luncheon – is hosted by the Speaker of the House, who is Pelosi. It honors the taoiseach of Ireland, who travels to Washington, D.C., each year in a visit that culminates with the Irish leader giving the U.S. president a bowl of shamrocks.
Pelosi’s team fired back at Trump’s rejection of the invite.
“There has never been stronger support in the Congress and in the country for the U.S.-Ireland bilateral relationship,” Pelosi’s deputy chief of staff Drew Hammill told Politico. “One would think that the White House could set petty, partisan politics aside for this historic occasion.”
But Pelosi has often been petty in her own dealings with the president. After his State of the Union address, Pelosi ripped up a copy of his speech. At that same event, she broke congressional tradition by introducing Trump as only “the president of the United States.” Previous House speakers introduced the president at the annual address to the nation by saying they had the “high privilege and distinct honor of presenting to you the president of the United States.”
For his part, Trump refused to shake Pelosi’s hand when he arrived in the House chamber for the address.
Before that, Trump and congressional leaders, including Pelosi, met in October at the White House to discuss the situation in Syria. The Democrats walked out.
And in December 2018, Pelosi met with Trump in the Oval Office to talk about a pending government shutdown amid debate over funding for Trump’s southern border wall. The two had a heated exchange in front of TV cameras during the meeting, which aired live.
“Mr. President,” Pelosi said at one point, “please don’t characterize the strength that I bring to this meeting as the leader of the House Democrats, who just won a big victory.”
After Trump was cleared in the Senate on two articles of impeachment passed by the Pelosi-controlled House, the two crossed paths again. Trump mocked Pelosi’s faith at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington D.C. in February.
“I don’t like people who use their faith as justification for doing what they know is wrong. Nor do I like people who say I pray for you when they know that’s not so. So many people have been hurt, and we can’t let that go on,” he said.