Trump Backs Down In State Of The Union Standoff
President Trump has backed down in his showdown with Speaker Pelosi over the State of the Union Address, but that does nothing to bring us closer to a resolution of the government shutdown.
As the government shutdown enters day thirty-four, the President and Speaker of the House spent the better part of yesterday re-engaged in their tit-for-tat over the State of the Union Address. The result of all of this is that it appears that there will not be a formal State of the Union address next Tuesday, although the White House apparently has some alternative plan up its sleeve:
WASHINGTON — President Trump said he would look for alternative venues for his State of the Union address on Tuesday, appearing to capitulate after Speaker Nancy Pelosi again told him she would not invite him to deliver it at the House until the government reopens.
The decision came after a tit-for-tat between Mr. Trump and Ms. Pelosi over the State of the Union address. Mr. Trump told Ms. Pelosi on Wednesday that he would deliver the speech in the Capitol next week as originally scheduled. Ms. Pelosi fired back that he was not welcome unless the government was fully open.
It had concluded, at least by late afternoon, with Mr. Trump declaring at the White House, “The State of the Union has been canceled by Nancy Pelosi because she doesn’t want to hear the truth.”
Ms. Pelosi had invited Mr. Trump to deliver the speech in a letter on Jan. 3. But on Jan. 16, she warned that there were security concerns about the president’s coming to Capitol Hill because of the partial government shutdown, which began about a month ago.
On Wednesday, Mr. Trump responded, sending Ms. Pelosi a letter in which he said that he had checked — and that there were no such concerns from the Secret Service
“Therefore, I will be honoring your invitation, and fulfilling my Constitutional duty, to deliver important information to the people and Congress of the United States of America regarding the State of our Union,” the president wrote.
“It would be so very sad for our Country if the State of the Union were not delivered on time, on schedule, and very importantly, on location!” he wrote.
Within hours, Ms. Pelosi fired back with a letter of her own, telling the president she would not pass a resolution authorizing him to come until the government has reopened. “Again, I look forward to welcoming you to the House on a mutually agreeable date for this address when government has been opened,” she wrote.
Back at the White House, Mr. Trump appeared to have gotten the message, saying he would explore alternatives.
“She’s afraid of the super-left Democrats, the radical Democrats. What’s going on in that party is shocking,” he said. He called her refusal “a great blotch on the great country we all love.”
Mr. Trump’s announcement that he would come to the Capitol despite Ms. Pelosi’s concerns seemed meant to put the Democratic leadership on the spot. Republican leaders in Congress piled on. The House Republican leader, Kevin McCarthy of California, released a video on Twitter of him signing the resolution formally inviting the president to the House.
“Retweet if you agree that the State of the Union should proceed as planned,” he wrote.
Retweet if you agree that the State of the Union should proceed as planned. I just signed and submitted a resolution that would permit President Trump to deliver his #SOTU address in the Capitol on January 29th. pic.twitter.com/yPn152cIV9
— Kevin McCarthy (@GOPLeader) January 23, 2019
Before Ms. Pelosi’s response, Democrats had issued somewhat contradictory language on the president’s invitation. Representative Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, the majority leader, appeared Tuesday on Fox News and was asked if he would be willing to host the president. He gave a one-word answer: “Sure.” That led to speculation that he disagreed with Ms. Pelosi.
But on Wednesday, Mr. Hoyer spoke to reporters and said the United States Capitol Police would be fully prepared to provide security in the event that Mr. Trump delivered the address in the Capitol.
“Nancy and I are on the same page. She didn’t disinvite him,” Mr. Hoyer said of Ms. Pelosi. “What she said was she thought it would be appropriate to choose a different date. He has not done so.”
In a closed-door meeting with House Democrats on Wednesday morning, before Mr. Trump sent his letter, Ms. Pelosi made it clear that she still believed the speech should not occur, and advised lawmakers against arranging for their families to be at the Capitol for it.
After Pelosi’s response, the President suggested he’d deliver an address from an ‘alternative location’:
President Trump said Wednesday he may do an “alternative” State of the Union after Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) blocked him from delivering the address in the House chamber while the government is shut down.
“We’ll do something in the alternative,” Trump told reporters at the White House.
He provided no further details about such an event but said they would be revealed “at a later date.”
Speaking at a meeting with conservative leaders, Trump called Pelosi’s decision a “disgrace,” accused her of not wanting “to hear the truth” and bowing to the “super-left” members of her party.
Pelosi informed Trump in a letter earlier Wednesday that the House would not take the legislative steps necessary to host the address inside the House chamber next Tuesday.
The move denies Trump a major, nationally televised platform to deliver his annual message to the country.
It also ups the stakes in the battle of wills between Trump and Pelosi over the prolonged government shutdown, which was caused by an impasse over his demand for wall funding and has stretched into a 33rd day.
But by Wednesday evening, the President had backed down and said he would delay the address in any form until after the shutdown ends:
WASHINGTON — President Trump said late Wednesday that he would deliver his State of the Union address once the federal government reopens, capping a day of brinkmanship with Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who told the president that he was not welcome to deliver the speech in the House chamber while the government is partly closed.
“As the Shutdown was going on, Nancy Pelosi asked me to give the State of the Union Address,” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter shortly after 11 p.m., hours after he had said he would look for another venue for the speech. “I agreed. She then changed her mind because of the Shutdown, suggesting a later date. This is her prerogative – I will do the Address when the Shutdown is over.”
For Mr. Trump, it would have been a moment to command the stage — with television cameras rolling and Ms. Pelosi stuck behind him, trying to figure out whether to grimace or nod. Now, the president is trying to paint Ms. Pelosi as a left-wing radical who canceled the address for political reasons, despite her assertion that she simply wanted to postpone, not cancel, it because of the burden it would impose on Secret Service agents working without pay.
“It’s really a shame what’s happening with the Democrats,” Mr. Trump told reporters at the White House. “They’ve become radicalized.”
In the afternoon, Mr. Trump pledged to “do something in the alternative,” and it was not clear at the time whether he had completely given up on holding the speech in the Capitol. Some lawmakers raised the possibility that he could deliver it in the Senate chamber. But others, as well as some Trump advisers, suggested it would be better for him to issue the speech at the border or during a rally.
But ultimately, the president wrote on Twitter, he decided against an alternative site “because there is no venue that can compete with the history, tradition and importance of the House Chamber.” He added, “I look forward to giving a ‘great’ State of the Union Address in the near future!”
Mr. Trump’s actions during the shutdown have often seemed in response to criticism from allies like the conservative commentator Ann Coulter and the prime-time hosts on Fox News. The network’s first reaction to the president’s decision to delay his speech appeared to indicate trouble ahead: “Trump Blinks” read the headline atop the Fox website.
Here are the President’s tweets:
As the Shutdown was going on, Nancy Pelosi asked me to give the State of the Union Address. I agreed. She then changed her mind because of the Shutdown, suggesting a later date. This is her prerogative – I will do the Address when the Shutdown is over. I am not looking for an….
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 24, 2019
….alternative venue for the SOTU Address because there is no venue that can compete with the history, tradition and importance of the House Chamber. I look forward to giving a “great” State of the Union Address in the near future!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 24, 2019
Which led Nancy Pelosi to respond:
Mr. President, I hope by saying “near future” you mean you will support the House-passed package to #EndTheShutdown that the Senate will vote on tomorrow. Please accept this proposal so we can re-open government, repay our federal workers and then negotiate our differences. https://t.co/57KMATZZTO
— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) January 24, 2019
All of this began just over a week ago, of course, when Speaker Pelosi sent the President a letter regarding the State of the Union Address in which she suggested that the ongoing shutdown, and the fact that Secret Service agents and others who would be charged with providing security for the event are going without pay while being compelled to work created a security risk. Therefore, the Speaker suggested, the State of the Union Address which had been scheduled for January 29th, should be postponed until after the shutdown was resolved. Pelosi stopped short of formally canceling the address or the formal invitation she had issued on January 3rd. While the security issues were largely a pretext, it was clear that Pelosi was looking at the idea of not going forward with the address as long as the shutdown continued, something that Pelosi and other members of the House Democratic Leadership seemed to make clear without explicitly saying so. In the meantime, President Trump responded by canceling military air transport for a Congressional Delegation that Pelosi was leading on a trip to Afghanistan that had, before the President’s letter, been kept secret for obvious reasons. In the meantime, the actual status of the State of the Union remained up in the air since Pelosi had not formally revoked her January 3rd invitation, but also was reportedly not allowing White House personnel access to the House floor for the traditional pre-Address walkthrough and was blocking the consideration of the measure that both the House and Senate would need to pass to formally invite the President to deliver an address to a Joint Session of Congress.
In any case, this somewhat childish exchange puts to rest the question of whether or not there would be an address before Congress next week and whether or not the President would try to deliver a SOTU-like speech at an alternative location, or perhaps to hold one of his campaign-style rallies at a location outside of Washington, during which he would no doubt bash Democrats and misstate facts about the “state of the union.” It was even suggested that the President could seek to address just the Senate, although the logistics and precedent for that are unclear. In any event, it’s clear that Speaker Pelosi has won this little Mexican standoff, which isn’t surprising since she has sole control over access to the House floor and the scheduling of any joint address to Congress in the House of Representatives, which is really the only practical place on Capitol Hill for such a thing. How this helps solve the ongoing shutdown crisis, though, is entirely unclear.
Here are the letters sent by Trump and Pelosi:
Trump And Pelosi Letters On… by on Scribd