Pelosi suggests to Trump that State of the Union address be delayed until government reopens

Win McNamee/Getty Images
Win McNamee/Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has suggested to President Donald Trump that his State of the Union address, scheduled for later this month, be delayed because of the partial government shutdown.

In a letter to the president, Pelosi proposed the delay because the U.S. Secret Service and the Department of Homeland Security, the agencies designated to provide security for the Jan. 29 event, and have not been funded for 26 days.

“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.

Read the letter here.

The second-ranking House Republican, Minority Whip Steve Scalise, tweeted that Pelosi’s move showed “Democrats are only interested in obstructing.”

Hours after Pelosi’s letter became public, there was no response from the White House, but Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen pushed back in a tweet against the implication that the shutdown has harmed the department’s ability to secure the event.

A Pelosi spokesperson said that a furloughed DHS employee – someone not declared ‘essential’ staff and not forced to work through the shutdown – “expressed serious concerns” about the staffing levels to manage the security needs of the SOTU. It’s unclear what sort of visibility or credentials this furloughed employee carries to make that assessment, given that he or she is not classified “essential staff.” Furloughed employees are directed not to participate in any work functions, including reading email, while the lapse in appropriations continues.

Given the letter leaves the invitation on the table for the president to speak on January 29th, Pelosi told ABC News that her letter explains her concerns are “about security.”

“Our letter is clear about what our concerns are. Just read the letter again, okay?” Pelosi, D-Calif., said. “It’s about security.”

Freshmen House Democrats are also clearly frustrated by the shutdown, traversing the Capitol for the second straight day in search of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, this time to deliver a petition to end the shutdown. But for the 2nd time, they ended up speaking with his aides instead.

For the first time, progressive phenom Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez joined the group, attracting a lot of attention from passing tourists in the Capitol rotunda.

“It’s an urge to reopen the government, to send it for a vote,” Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., said. “That’s it.”

Rep. Rashida Tlaib said negotiations can resume “when we get government back up and running.”

Tlaib, known for profanely declaring on her first day as a member of Congress that she was elected to “impeach the motherf-cker” — referring to President Trump of Trump, said she supports Pelosi’s letter to the president today, but that the public must understand that Congress could reopen government without Trump’s support by passing a bill with a veto-proof majority.

“Let’s get people paid,” Tlaib, D-Mich., said. “People don’t like being used as pawns in this so-called debacle. Everyone knows this has nothing to do with the wall. I don’t think anybody wants anything else right now to happen but for government to get back up and running.

Trump’s first State of the Union address in 2018 was viewed by 45.6 million viewers, according to Nielsen, across broadcast and cable.

The last U.S. president to deliver a State of the Union address in writing was Jimmy Carter in 1981, though a written message conveyed to Congress was the historical norm in an era before broadcast radio or television.

Woodrow Wilson was the first president to deliver the State of the Union in person from the House chamber in 1913. In 1922, Warren G. Harding made history as the first to share live audio of the address on the radio, though it the broadcast was not widely distributed. A year later, Calvin Coolidge’s address was broadcast on the radio nationally. Harry Truman was first to deliver a televised address in 1947.

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