President Donald Trump early on Wednesday indicated he was charging ahead with plans to deliver his annual State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress despite the ongoing partial government shutdown and growing political tensions.
“There are no security concerns regarding the State of the Union Address,” Trump wrote in a letter to the Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
“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.”
But Pelosi rebuffed that later in the day.
She had cited security concerns in a previous letter when suggesting the scheduled January 29 address be postponed. The U.S. Secret Service would be responsible for overseeing the event despite it’s not being funded during the shutdown. Trump said he discussed the event with the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Secret Service to ensure there were no security risks.
The partial government shutdown began with a dispute about border security funding on December 22.
After Pelosi suggested last week that the president postpone his State of the Union address over security concerns connected to delivering it, Trump dismissed those concerns — and stated his intention to give the speech in a letter.
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“I look forward to seeing you on the evening on January 29th in the Chamber of the House of Representatives,” Trump 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!”
The State of the Union, as such, has been in limbo in terms of its originally scheduled date of January 29. Pelosi would have to bring up a vote to hold a joint session for the address. And even if she did so, the motion would still have to pass a Democratic majority. She responded to the letter the president sent by informing him that he will not be invited until the shutdown is over.
“I am writing to inform you that the House of Representatives will not consider a concurrent resolution authorizing the president’s State of the Union address in the House Chamber until government has opened,” Pelosi said in her own letter. “I look forward to welcoming you to the House on a mutually agreeable date for this address when government has been opened.”
Pelosi’s suggestion that the address be postponed came amid mount political tensions over the shutdown. Trump decided to cancel a diplomatic trip Democratic leaders were planning to take to Afghanistan last week; he pointed to the hundreds of thousands of federal employees furloughed or working without pay as his reasons for canceling the overseas trip.
Pelosi responded the next morning by accusing the president of endangering the troops by revealing information about their trip. Democratic leaders were preparing to fly commercially in the absence of a government aircraft — but were later told information about that trip had been leaked by the administration. They decided to postpone the trip.
“It’s absolutely not clear about what this president’s intention is,” Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) told reporters on Wednesday around the U.S. Capitol, according to The Washington Free Beacon. “But I can say that unless the government is reopened, it’s highly unlikely that the State of the Union is going to take place on the floor of the United States House of Representatives.”
The inability of Democratic leaders and the president to negotiate a funding deal has led to a record-long partial government shutdown. Trump pledged late last year that he wouldn’t sign any more spending bills that did not include $5.7 billion for the border security wall.
Democratic leaders have opposed providing any funding for the wall.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Pelosi have since said they won’t negotiate on the border wall until the president reopens the government. In the lead-up to the shutdown, Schumer only offered to provide $1.3 billion for additional border security funding. But those funds couldn’t be used for the border wall.
Trump and congressional leaders from both parties have continued discussions to overcome the stalemate; despite those meetings, the two sides have been unable to overcome the impasse. The shutdown stalemate has seemed to become more bitter over time.
Both sides have accused the other of holding furloughed government workers “hostage.” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) claimed that Democrats have flip-flopped on the issue since they used to support funding a border wall. Trump walked out of a meeting on January with Democratic leaders to resolve the shutdown.
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This piece has been updated to reflect the latest news.