Showdown: Trump pledges ‘alternative’ event after Pelosi blocks State of the Union
Democrats will block President Donald Trump from giving his State of the Union address in the House chamber until the partial government shutdown ends, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Wednesday.
After Pelosi’s announcement, the president appeared to give up on his earlier promise to go on with his speech as planned. He quickly said he would hold an unspecified “alternative” event and contended that the California Democrat is “afraid of the truth.” He called Pelosi’s move “a great blotch on the incredible country that we all love.”
In a letter to Trump Wednesday, Pelosi escalated a standoff over the annual address hours after the president said he would give the speech in the House chamber next week. Earlier this month, Pelosi urged him to reschedule the remarks or deliver them elsewhere during a partial government shutdown.
Pelosi wrote that the Democratic-held House would not pass the resolution needed to approve the joint session of Congress where he would deliver the address. She said lawmakers “will not consider a concurrent resolution authorizing the President’s State of the Union address in the House 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,” Pelosi wrote. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said he introduced a resolution Wednesday to allow Trump to deliver the address, but it is unlikely to pass without Pelosi’s support.
Responding to Pelosi on Wednesday afternoon, Trump told reporters: “I’m not surprised. It’s really a shame what’s happening with the Democrats. They have become radicalized.”
In an earlier letter to Pelosi dated Wednesday, Trump wrote that he will be “honoring your invitation” to speak on Jan. 29. The president said 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!”
In a letter to Trump dated Jan. 16, Pelosi requested that the president move the date or location of his address. She cited “security concerns” related to the Secret Service’s ability to protect the president during the lapse in funding. The longest shutdown ever is now in its 33rd day.
In his response Wednesday, Trump said the Department of Homeland Security and Secret Service contacted him and said “there would be absolutely no problem regarding security with respect to the event.”
A day after Pelosi’s letter, Trump grounded the speaker’s planned government flight to visit U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Pelosi’s office then said she would not use commercial travel for the trip and accused the Trump administration of leaking details of the trip that could endanger the Democrat’s delegation or the troops she was visiting.
The White House denied leaking Pelosi’s plans.
The partial government shutdown, caused by an impasse over Trump’s demand for $5.7 billion to build his proposed border wall, is the longest U.S. funding lapse ever. On Friday, about 800,000 federal workers will start missing their second paychecks since the closure began Dec. 22.
The GOP-held Senate will hold procedural votes Thursday on dueling Republican and Democratic plans to end the shutdown. The first proposal it will take up reflects Trump’s offer to put $5.7 billion toward the wall in exchange for three-year extensions of legal protections for more than 700,000 immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children and migrants fleeing humanitarian crises. Democrats have called that plan inadequate, and it likely will not get through the Senate.
If the GOP plan fails Thursday, the Senate will take up a Democratic-backed proposal to reopen the government into February while lawmakers negotiate a broader deal. It is similar to bills already passed by the Democratic-controlled House. The measure will likely fail, as well.
Democrats are preparing a counteroffer to give to Trump that would “meet or exceed” $5.7 billion in spending on border security. The measures would not include funding for a border wall.
As the shutdown continues, it is affecting government services from food inspection to airport security and housing and food assistance programs. The closure is also expected to take a chunk out of U.S. economic growth.
Read the full text of Pelosi’s response to Trump:
Dear Mr. President:
When I extended an invitation on January 3rd for you to deliver the State of the Union address, it was on the mutually agreed upon date, January 29th. At that time, there was no thought that the government would still be shut down.
In my further correspondence of January 16th, I said we should work together to find a mutually agreeable date when government has re-opened and I hope that we can still do that.
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.
Again, I look forward to welcoming you to the House on a mutually agreeable date for this address when government has been opened.
Read the full text of Trump’s Wednesday letter to Pelosi:
Dear Madam Speaker:
Thank you for your letter of January 3, 2019, sent to me long after the Shutdown began, inviting me to address the Nation on January 29th as to the State of the Union. As you know, I had already accepted your kind invitation, however, I then received another letter from you dated January 16, 2019, wherein you expressed concerns regarding security during the State of the Union Address due to the Shutdown. Even prior to asking, I was contacted by the Department of Homeland Security and the United States Secret Service to explain that there would be absolutely no problem regarding security with respect to the event. They have since confirmed this publicly.
Accordingly, there are no security concerns regarding the State of the Union Address. 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.
I look forward to seeing you on the evening on January 29th in the Chamber of the House of Representatives. 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!
Donald J. Trump