GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN | GOP dismisses postponing State of Union
WASHINGTON (AP) — A grand Washington ritual became a potential casualty of the partial government shutdown as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi asked President Donald Trump to postpone his Jan. 29 State of the Union speech. She cited concerns about whether the hobbled government can provide adequate security, but Republicans cast her move as a ploy to deny Trump the stage.
In a letter to Trump, Pelosi said that with both the Secret Service and the Homeland Security Department entangled in the shutdown, the president should speak to Congress another time or he should deliver the address in writing.
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen denied anyone’s safety is compromised, saying Wednesday that both agencies “are fully prepared to support and secure the State of the Union.”
Trump did not immediately respond to the request, and the White House, thrown off guard by the move, didn’t immediately offer any official response. But GOP allies accused Pelosi of playing politics, with Republican Rep. Steve Scalise tweeting that Democrats are “only interested in obstructing (at)realDonaldTrump, not governing.”
Pelosi, who issued the customary invitation to Trump weeks ago, hit the president in a vulnerable place, as he delights in taking his message to the public and has been preparing for the address for weeks.
The uncertainty surrounding the speech also underscored the unraveling of ceremonial norms and niceties in Trump’s Washington, with the shutdown in its fourth week, the White House and Democrats in a stalemate and the impasse draining the finances of hundreds of thousands of federal employees.
Pelosi left unclear what would happen if Trump insisted on coming despite the welcome mat being pulled away. It takes a joint resolution of the House and Senate to extend the official invitation and set the stage.
“We’ll have to have a security evaluation, but that would mean diverting resources,” she told reporters when asked how she would respond if Trump still intended to come. “I don’t know how that could happen.”
Trump stayed quiet on the request throughout the day. During an Oval Office visit, Sen. Rand Paul said they discussed the shutdown but the president did not offer any reaction to Pelosi’s suggestion to put off the speech.