Pelosi tells Trump to postpone State of the Union over record-long government shutdown

Speaker says that since the Secret Service has not been paid because of the shutdown, it should not be asked to oversee the annual address

Clark Mindock
New York
Wednesday 16 January 2019 19:23 GMT
Pelosi said security issues were ‘completely out of my hands’
Pelosi said security issues were ‘completely out of my hands’ (AP)

The speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, has asked Donald Trump to postpone his annual State of the Union address amid a government shutdown now into its 26th day.

The move could deny the president the grandeur of the annual platform, which he is likely to use to criticise Ms Pelosi and Democrats over the shutdown. Democrats have said they will not sanction $5.7bn (£4.4bn) funding for Mr Trump’s proposed border wall which the president has made a central demand for reopening the government.

Ms Pelosi said that the Secret Service is in charge of security for the event but has not been funded throughout the closure, and agents guarding the president and other top American officials have not been paid.

“Sadly, given the security concerns and unless government reopens this week, I suggest that we work together to determine another suitable date after government has reopened for this address or for you to consider delivering your State of the Union address in writing to the congress on 29 January,” Ms Pelosi said in a letter to the president.

Speaking to reporters, Ms Pelosi said that the security issues are “completely out of my hands” and Mr Trump “can make [the address] from the Oval Office if he wants”.

“We’ll have to have a security evaluation, but that would mean diverting resources,” she said when asked how she would respond if Mr Trump still intended to come. “I don’t know how that could happen.”

Ms Pelosi was backed by the leading Democrat in the Seante, Chuck Schumer. “If it continues to be closed on the 29th, I think it’s a good idea to delay it until the government is open,” Mr Schumer said.

The House and the Senate have to pass resolutions to actually confrm the State of the Union. Neither have done so yet and Ms Pelosi could control whether the house passes one at all.

The White House had no immediate comment on Ms Pelosi’s request and her letter appeared to take aides by surprise. It pointed out that she had invited Mr Trump to make the State of the Union address at the Capitol but said the shutdown complicated the situation.

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said on Twitter her department and the Secret Service were prepared to handle a presidential speech at the Capitol.

Representative Jim Jordan of the House Freedom Caucus, a group of conservative Republicans who are close allies of Mr Trump, said the move by Ms Pelosi shows how far Democrats will go to obstruct Trump.

“It sure sounds like she’s looking to not have the president come and give the State of the Union address, not have the commander-in-chief come and address the nation,” Mr Jordan told Reuters. “I think that just shows that they’re more focused on stopping the president than they are on serving the country.”

Senior Republican Senator John Thune of South Dakota said he was confused by the request.

“I don’t know how they do that,” Mr Thune told reporters. “I can’t imagine telling the president of United States – one, they are not negotiating with him on the shutdown and, two, now they are going to tell him he can’t come to the Capitol to them. That seems pretty far-fetched. I don’t think that’s going to go over very well with the American people.”

The White House hosted what it called a “constructive” meeting with a bipartisan group of legislators, followed by another with group of Republican senators on Wednesday. However, there was a no movement towards a solution to the shutdown.

Democrats have remained steadfast in denying the president, blocking a funding measure in the Senate last year after House Republicans – then in control of the chamber – passed it.

Since Democrats have taken control of the house, a series of funding bills have been passed in the chamber that would reopen most or all of the government while providing a more moderate amount of border security funding.

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In the Senate, which is still controlled by Republicans, majority leader Mitch McConnell has so far refused to allow any of those bills to go to the floor without the funding that Mr Trump has demanded.

The partial shutdown began on 22 December and roughly 800,000 workers have either been furloughed or working without pay for the fourth straight week.

Those who are working face potential discipline if they do not show up to work, even though many have been forced to work long hours and still somehow find a way to fit in second jobs to keep food on the table.

On Wednesday, Mr Trump signed legislation into law affirming that those federal workers who have been going without pay will ultimately be compensated for their lost wages.

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