Pelosi Suggests Trump Delay State of the Union Address
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi suggested Wednesday that President Donald Trump delay his State of the Union address later this month unless the record-setting partial government shutdown ends this week, or present the speech in writing.
Pelosi, the leader of the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives, cited security preparations needed for the annual high-profile event before Congress, which is scheduled for Jan. 29.
In a letter to Trump, she noted the U.S. Secret Service, which guards Trump and his family, and the Homeland Security agency have not been funded during the 26-day shutdown, "with critical departments hamstrung by furloughs." Trump's security detail has been working without pay.
But Homeland Security secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said the agencies "are fully prepared to support and secure the State of the Union. We thank the Service for their mission focus and dedication and for all they do each day to secure our homeland."
In asking Trump to delay his State of the Union address, Pelosi, a staunch opponent of his call for taxpayer funding of a wall at the U.S.-Mexican border to thwart illegal migrants, said she would work with him to find a suitable date for the speech after the government is reopened or he could hand the speech in writing to Congress on Jan. 29.
The U.S. Constitution calls for presidents from "time to time give to the Congress information of the State of the Union." Throughout the 19th century and until about a hundred years ago, the messages were delivered in writing. In recent years, both Republican and Democratic presidents have used the nationally televised speeches to outline their legislative agendas, often leaving one party's lawmakers cheering and applauding while the other's sits silently.
Postponing the speech beyond the shutdown would deny the president a highly visible platform in which he could continue to pressure Democrats to meet his demand for more than $5 billion in taxpayer funding for the wall. Democrats have offered $1.3 billion in new border security funding, but none specifically for a wall.
Meeting with lawmakers
Trump and aides met Wednesday at the White House with Democratic and Republican lawmakers from a group that calls itself the Problem Solvers Caucus about the shutdown and his call for a wall. Later, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders called it a "constructive meeting. …They listened to one another and now both have a good understanding of what the other wants. We look forward to more conversations like this."
But there was no immediate end in sight for the shutdown, the longest in American history.
On Tuesday, Kevin Hassett, the chairman of Trump's Council of Economic Advisers, doubled the previous estimate of the cost of the shutdown, saying the country's robust economy has already lost a half percentage point from the government closures, during which 800,000 government workers have been furloughed or forced to work without pay. He said quarterly economic growth is being reduced by .13 of a percent each week the shutdown continues.
Trump is set Wednesday to sign a bill to guarantee that federal workers, regardless of whether they were forced to work or furloughed during the shutdown, eventually get paid their lost wages, as has been done during previous shutdowns during the past several decades. Workers for private contract companies hired by the government, however, are unlikely to recoup lost wages. If the shutdown lasts another week, government workers will miss their second paycheck this month.
While Trump and Democratic leaders blame each other for the situation dragging on, a number of recent polls have put more of the responsibility on the president.
A Reuters/Ipsos poll released Tuesday indicated 51 percent of respondents blame Trump and 34 percent blame congressional Democrats. In the same poll, 62 percent of people said they support adding more border patrol agents, and there was a roughly even split of 43 percent of people both supporting and opposing additional fencing at the border.
The Senate and House are to be in recess next week, but leaders in both chambers have said that break will be canceled if the shutdown is still in effect.