In a high-stakes case of dare and double-dare, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi served notice Wednesday that President Donald Trump won’t be allowed to deliver his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress next week. She took the step after Trump said he planned to show up in spite of Democratic objections to the speech taking place when big swaths of the government are shut down.
Denied that grand venue, Trump promised to come up with some sort of alternative event. But the White House was scrambling to find something matching the gravitas of the traditional address from the dais of the House to lawmakers from both parties, Supreme Court justices, invited guests and a television audience of millions.
“I think that’s a great blotch on the incredible country that we all love,” Trump said. “It’s a great, great horrible mark.”
Fireworks over the speech shot back and forth between the Capitol and the White House as the month-long partial government shutdown showed no signs of ending and with about 800,000 federal workers facing the prospect of going without their second paycheck in a row come Friday. Traditionally the speech, which is scheduled for next Tuesday (US time), is given by the president in the ornate chamber of the House of Representatives, to a joint session of the Senate and House.
This afternoon, I sent @realDonaldTrump a letter informing him that the House will not consider a concurrent resolution authorizing the President’s State of the Union address in the House Chamber until government has opened. https://t.co/r1oad0xEAh pic.twitter.com/kGEbayx95u
— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) January 23, 2019
Mr Trump wrote to Ms Pelosi that 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!”
Ms Pelosi, who has become the face of Democratic opposition to Mr Trump in Congress, has said the president should consider giving the speech elsewhere because the shutdown means that security would be problematic. She also suggested that he deliver the speech to Congress in written form.
BUILD A WALL & CRIME WILL FALL! This is the new theme, for two years until the Wall is finished (under construction now), of the Republican Party. Use it and pray!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 23, 2019
Shortly after Mr Trump’s letter, Ms Pelosi wrote back, informing the president that the House would not authorise the speech in the chamber “until government has opened.”
“Again, I look forward to welcoming you to the House on a mutually agreeable date for this address when government has been opened,” Ms Pelosi said.
Although Ms Pelosi cited practical difficulties caused by the shutdown, the White House sees her move as part of a game of one-upmanship.
Mr Trump’s letter declared that “there are no security concerns.” “I look forward to seeing you,” he wrote to Ms Pelosi.
But the speaker stood firm, rejecting Mr Trump’s demand.
The shutdown, in which some 800,000 federal employees have been left without pay for a month, was triggered by Mr Trump’s refusal to sign funding bills in December.
This was in retaliation for the Democrats’ refusal to approve funds for extending walls along the US-Mexico border.
Mr Trump says he will not reopen government before his wall funding comes through, leaving thousands of people, including FBI agents and airport security workers, waiting for paychecks.